Mensur Suljovic and Jamie Caven cruised through to the second round of the World Championships, whilst debutant Joe Murnan dumped out former World finalist Andy Hamilton in a gruelling battle, on Sunday afternoon at Alexandra Palace.
The performance of the afternoon was unquestionably produced by Suljovic, who averaged over 99 in defeating Jermaine Wattimena. The Austrian grew in confidence as the game progressed, winning 7 of the remaining 8 legs to secure his second-round spot.
Despite this, the first set was extremely hard-fought. Mensur struggled for fluency in the scoring department, and squandered four set darts in the fifth leg. Wattimena, despite busting 64 in the previous visit, returned to clinch the set.
Any inclinations that Suljovic would stroll to victory over the Dutchman appeared misplaced, as Wattimena forced another fifth and deciding leg in the set. Nevertheless, Mensur held his nerve, converting 76 for a solid 15-darter to level up proceedings.
The Austrian wasn’t firing on all cylinders at this point, but after the second interval, he emerged with renewed vigour and produced a quite breath-taking 25 minutes of darts to completely overwhelm Wattimena. His last six winning legs were 13, 13,12,12,15 and 14, which is absolutely outstanding!
In the afternoon’s opening first-round tie, Murnan and Hamilton contested an epic five-set battle which lasted over 90 minutes.
Hamilton prevailed in a patchy opening set that went the distance. The first two legs went against throw, before Murnan suddenly sprung to life, posting 6 perfect darts in leg three, before cleaning up the leg in 12 darts. However, Hamilton rallied, taking out 64 and then 70 to claim the advantage.
Murnan responded by winning an attritional second-set, after Hamilton missed five darts at double to throw for a 2-0 advantage, but ‘The Hammer’ regained the lead in the following set, this time after Murnan squandered five set darts.
The 2012 World finalist moved to the cusp of victory by taking out 73 and 63 in successive legs, but the Bolton star reeled off three consecutive legs to force an unlikely deciding set. There were so many shifts in momentum. Hamilton threw for the match at one stage, before ‘Shaggy’ pegged him back.
Murnan mistakenly thought he’d won the match when he edged 5-4 ahead in the fifth set, but he did manage to seal his progress in the following leg, breaking Hamilton with a 16-dart leg. This defeat could see Hamilton slip outside the Top 32 following the conclusion of this tournament.
Murnan was proud of the character he showed to fightback from an extremely precarious position. He claimed: “You’ve got to believe in yourself. I just kept plugging away, and Andy faltered when he missed those 3 match darts, and I took advantage.”
Elsewhere, Jamie Caven cruised through to round-two with a comprehensive 3-0 victory over New Zealand’s Number One Rob Szabo.
Szabo defeated Michael Rasztovits in a scrappy preliminary tie to open the afternoon session. There were moments of quality, with the Austrian Rasztovits producing two ton-plus finishes; although Szabo’s experience ultimately proved decisive.
Nevertheless, Szabo, who took a set off Phil Taylor at the World Championships two years ago, was unable to test the 23rd seed.
Caven edged a nervous first-set with the darts. Szabo competed well for the most part, although ‘Jabba’ illustrated his class in the fifth leg, leaving D8 after just 9 darts, eventually cleaning up the set with a 13-darter.
Jamie grew in confidence from this point onwards and romped to the second set in double-quick time, as the Kiwi was unable to match Caven’s consistent scoring power.
Caven’s third set performance was even more impressive. He won seven consecutive legs to seal his progression, and converted 99 and 116 finishes in the last two legs. His average was an impressive 96.55 and he will look forward to facing Simon Whitlock’s conqueror Ricky Evans, after Christmas.
William Hill World Darts Championship
Sunday December 20
Michael Rasztovits 0-2 Rob Szabo (P)
Andy Hamilton 2-3 Joe Murnan
Mensur Suljovic 3-1 Jermaine Wattimena
Jamie Caven 3-0 Rob Szabo