Defending champion Michael van Gerwen survived a match dart in a thrilling tie against Simon Whitlock, as world champion Gary Anderson was whitewashed by James Wade in the opening-round of the European Championship in Hasselt, Belgium, on Friday evening.
However, the match of the night saw Michael van Gerwen come back from 5-3 down to edge out the rejuvenated Australian in a barnstormer. Van Gerwen endured a nightmare in the finishing department in the early stages, hitting just two of his 19 double attempts as Whitlock took out a stunning 170 outshot to lead 4-2.
Nevertheless, the world number one showed his class, landing four maximums, two 177’s and a 171 to instigate the fightback. MvG then spurned two match darts with Whitlock sat on 150 and ‘The Wizard’ found the requisite trebles, before wiring his match dart at D15. MvG returned to pin D8 to avoid a shock first-round exit.
Elsewhere, world champion Gary Anderson endured a horror show in Hasselt, as he was whitewashed 6-0 by James Wade. ‘The Machine’ averaged 94.93 and converted 75% of his doubles to secure his first ranking TV victory for ten months, after the world champion averaged a miserly 77 and had just two shots at double in the entire match.
Four-time European Champion Phil Taylor produced the performance of the first-round to defeat seventh seed Alan Norris 6-3. Norris performed impressively; averaging almost 97, but Taylor was in dazzling form, averaging 109.28 and recording an astonishing 16 scores of 140+ to book a spot in round-two.
Mensur Suljovic delivered a masterclass in finishing as he breezed past Jermaine Wattimena to storm into the last 16 in Belgium. ‘The Gentle’ averaged 104.26, landed two maximums and converted 75% of his attempts at double to complete a 6-1 triumph, despite Wattimena doing very little wrong.
Peter Wright survived a major scare as he overcame Justin Pipe in an emotionally charged contest. Wright led 4-1 at the interval, but his game suddenly disintegrated and Pipe reeled off four straight legs to seize command.
However, ‘The Force’ missed a match dart at D15 to record a 6-4 victory, and Wright eventually pinned D10 to force a dramatic deciding leg. Snakebite failed to register a treble in his first 11 darts, but somehow recovered to take out 98 to seal victory, sparking very emotional scenes from the world number five.
Eighth seed Jelle Klaasen survived a valiant fightback from Steve West to progress to round-two. The Dutchman raced to a 5-0 lead at the interval with a 106 average. However, West reeled off three consecutive legs after Klaasen squandered match darts, only for ‘The Cobra’ to complete a 6-3 win, with four maximums and a 97 average.
Kim Huybrechts endured a disappointing homecoming as he was beaten by tournament debutant James Wilson. Wilson was hugely impressive, overcoming ‘The Hurricane’ and a partisan Belgian crowd to record a 6-3 triumph, averaging 98.84 and converting 55% of his attempts at double.
Kyle Anderson completed a wonderful comeback from 2-1 down to dump out sixth seed Dave Chisnall. The Australian was averaging below 80 after the first three legs, but a 102 checkout sparked him into life and ‘The Original’ won five of the remaining six legs to defeat the three-time major finalist, hitting six of his nine double attempts.
Stephen Bunting survived one match dart as he edged out his St Helen’s compatriot Michael Smith in a thrilling tussle. Bunting averaged 99.55 and controlled the majority of the contest, but Smith broke back and had the throw in the decider, only to spurn one match dart at tops. ‘The Bullet’ took advantage, pinning D16 to sneak through.
Cristo Reyes produced a fantastic display to dump out 2015 World Grand Prix champion Robert Thornton 6-4. ‘The Thorn’, ranked seventh in the world, landed five maximums and a 174, but Reyes’ consistency proved decisive. The Spaniard registered 10 scores of 140+ and converted 50% of his double attempts to reach round-two.
Ian White fired in three maximums as he eased past former European Championship finalist Terry Jenkins. ‘The Diamond’ averaged 92.37 en route to an emphatic 6-2 triumph, as he punished Jenkins’ miserly 14% checkout ratio.
Gerwyn Price set up a second-round showdown with Michael van Gerwen after edging out Daryl Gurney in a tense affair. The Welshman stormed into a 5-2 lead but Gurney fought back impressively to reduce the arrears to 5-4, missing the bull to force a deciding leg, before Price sealed his progression with a 91.26 average and 55% on the doubles.
Former European Championship semi-finalist Mervyn King edged out South African star Devon Petersen in a scrappy affair. Petersen fired in three maximums but converted just 33% of his attempts at double, whereas King was more clinical and sealed a 6-4 victory with a magnificent 11-darter in the tenth leg.
Benito van de Pas endured a nightmare afternoon on the doubles as he was beaten 6-4 by World Youth champion Max Hopp. ‘Big Ben’ averaged 90.08 and fired in three maximums, but hit just four of his 26 attempts at double, and Hopp, who hit four 180’s himself, capitalised to reach round-two in Hasselt for the very first time.
Joe Cullen produced a fine display to defeat Chris Dobey. Dobey’s luggage didn’t arrive in Hasselt therefore he was forced to use spare darts belonging to Michael Smith, yet he kicked off proceedings with a classy 117 checkout. However, Cullen won six of the next seven legs to seal a convincing 6-2 victory with an impressive 95.21 average.
Finally, James Richardson condemned Jamie Caven to yet another first-round exit in a major televised event, recording a scrappy 6-3 win in the tournament’s opener. Richardson, making his first TV appearance for over four years, took out a stunning 158 finish in a match low on quality, as ‘Jabba’ averaged a miserly 77.
Photo Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC
Unibet European Championship
Friday October 28
Jamie Caven 3-6 James Richardson
Daryl Gurney 4-6 Gerwyn Price
Chris Dobey 2-6 Joe Cullen
Ian White 6-2 Terry Jenkins
Cristo Reyes 6-4 Robert Thornton
Mervyn King 6-4 Devon Petersen
Michael Smith 5-6 Stephen Bunting
Max Hopp 6-4 Benito van de Pas
Jelle Klaasen (8) 6-3 Steve West
Kim Huybrechts (5) 3-6 James Wilson
Dave Chisnall (6) 3-6 Kyle Anderson
Mensur Suljovic (2) 6-1 Jermaine Wattimena
Peter Wright (3) 6-5 Justin Pipe
Alan Norris (7) 3-6 Phil Taylor
Michael van Gerwen (1) 6-5 Simon Whitlock
James Wade (4) 6-0 Gary Anderson