Michael van Gerwen began his World Championship assault with an emphatic victory over Finnish qualifier Kim Viljanen, as Darren Webster and Cristo Reyes prevailed in thrilling last-set deciders against Stephen Bunting and Dimitri van den Bergh respectively in an incredible session of darts at the Alexandra Palace on Saturday evening.
Van Gerwen posted the highest average of the tournament thus far as he dropped just one leg en route to dismantling Viljanen. Viljanen set up his showdown with MvG after overcoming Canadian debutant Ross Snook in straight sets. The Finnish ace dropped just two legs; averaging 83.57 and converting 60% of his double attempts to progress.
However, the world number one was in merciless mood as he began his campaign in confident fashion. Van Gerwen averaged 103.34, landed five maximums and converted 45% of his doubles to breeze through to round-two, hitting two ton-plus finishes in the process.
Van Gerwen stormed to the opening set without reply, landing three maximums and averaging 110, as Viljanen failed to register a dart at double after posting just one score of over 100.
‘The Green Machine’ secured his fourth straight leg with a clinical 76 finish but Viljanen opened his account on D10 having narrowly missed a 160 outshot in the preceding visit. MvG was unphased however; he hit his fourth 180 and took out 101 to regain the lead, before sealing the second set on D4 after overcoming some double-trouble.
The world number one continued his procession to the finishing line with a classy 78 checkout, before moving to the cusp of victory with an impressive 118 finish. Viljanen posted his second maximum as he attempted to double his tally, but Van Gerwen responded with his fifth 180, before pinning D10 to complete a comprehensive triumph.
Darren Webster survived SEVEN match darts as he dumped out former Lakeside world champion Stephen Bunting in another five-set thriller at the Ally Pally. Bunting led throughout but failed to cross the finishing line, as Webster prevailed with a 94.46 average, eight maximums and 43% on doubles.
Bunting edged a cracking first-set which saw Webster average almost 100. The opening two legs went against throw, before ‘The Bullet’ fired in a 118 finish to hold. Webster responded with a stunning 140 outshot of his own, but he was left to rue one missed set dart in the following leg, as Bunting converted 79 on tops to secure the lead.
The topsy-turvy nature of this contest continued as the first three legs of set two all went against throw. ‘The Demolition Man’ had chances in all three legs but was left to rue a multitude of missed doubles, yet he recovered to pin D8 for the fourth consecutive break, before clinching the set on D9 to draw level at one set apiece.
Bunting seized control by winning the opening two legs in set three, but Webster landed his third maximum and crashed in a stunning 157 checkout before defying Bunting’s second maximum to land tops and stay alive. However, Bunting had the throw in the set decider and maintained his composure by taking out 84 on the bull to regain his lead.
Webster remained undeterred and responded magnificently to clinch the fourth set without reply. He kicked off the set with a 14-dart leg, before converting an 81 finish to round-off a 12-darter after the pair had exchanged maximums. ‘The Bullet’ threatened a break back, but the Norfolk ace cleaned up the set by virtue of a majestic 147 checkout.
Bunting seized the initiative in the final set by holding throw, before breaking Webster with a stunning 11-darter. However, the former world champion then fired in a poor leg as Webster broke back on D16, before Bunting spurned two match darts on D16. Webster gratefully capitalised on this reprieve by taking out a classy two-dart 75 combination.
The sixteenth seed hit D10 with his last dart in hand to regain the lead, before leaving D8 after just 9 darts to close in on victory. However incredibly, Bunting missed a further five match darts and ‘The Bullet’ was unable to recover from this setback, as the Norfolk ace wrapped up a stunning triumph with an 11-dart break followed by a fine 66 finish.
Webster has enjoyed a fine run of form over recent months but admitted he’s been working to address some technical flaws in his game. “I’ve been practicing for the last two weeks and watching videos from the Grand Slam and Players Championship. I noticed I was rushing my last dart, so I’ve been working in the last two weeks on composure and control.
“I know I can beat these people; I do it on tour. It’s about self-control and I’m now learning on that big stage to control myself, and when I do I’m up there with the rest of them. I’m like a dog with a bone me, and when they’re up there, I’m after them,” the 48-year-old added.
Cristo Reyes defied NINE maximums from Belgian starlet Dimitri van den Bergh to prevail in the match of the tournament so far. Van den Bergh averaged 99.11 and fired in nine 180’s, but Reyes averaged 95.54, landed four maximums and converted 12 of his 19 double attempts to edge through in a five-set thriller.
Van den Bergh made a storming start to win the opening set. The Belgian kicked off the contest with a maximum before breaking in 13 darts. Dimitri doubled his lead with a clinical 98 kill, but Reyes opened his account with a 130 checkout on the bull. However, Van den Bergh held his nerve to clinch the set on D4, with a set average of 103.71.
The Belgian took the opening leg of set two on D16 but Reyes found the same target to complete a 14-darter. The Spaniard continued his revival by converting a two-dart 64 kill, before levelling up proceedings at one-set apiece with his third straight 14-dart leg, after Van den Bergh had posted visits of 180 and 170 to leave D16 after just 12 darts.
Reyes secured the lead for the first time after nailing a two-dart 90 kill for his fourth leg on the spin, but the Antwerp ace found D16 to stop the rot. The next two legs were shared as the third set went to a decider, but it went in the favour of the Spaniard, who produced a majestic 124 checkout (T20, T16, D8) for a 12-darter to move within a set of victory.
Dimitri seized the initiative early in set four with a 64 kill, but Reyes continued his fabulous finishing by pinning D4 at the first attempt. The next two legs were shared with Reyes on the cusp of victory, but ‘The Dream-Maker’ held his nerve magnificently, firing in his seventh maximum before taking out 88 for an 11-darter to force a fifth set.
Reyes drew first blood in the final set, but Dimitri drew level on D2 after ‘The Spartan’ wired D11 for a 124 outshot. The pair traded maximums in a high-quality third leg which culminated in a Reyes 14-darter, but after Van den Bergh missed two darts at D8 moments later, the Spanish star sealed a memorable triumph with a nerveless 75 kill.
It was a fantastic contest and Reyes was unsurprisingly thrilled with his performance. “It’s all about practice. Last year here I was very bad, so I’m very happy with the way I played today. My objective next year is to stay in the top 32, but in darts you have to look up, not down.”
Photo: Lawrence Lustig/PDC
William Hill World Darts Championship
Saturday December 17
Evening Session (7pm)
Ross Snook 0-2 Kim Viljanen (P)
Cristo Reyes (32) 3-2 Dimitri Van den Bergh
Stephen Bunting (16) 2-3 Darren Webster
Michael van Gerwen (1) 3-0 Kim Viljanen