Two-time world champion Adrian Lewis kicked off his campaign with an emphatic straight sets triumph; Joe Cullen saw off Corey Cadby in the match of the tournament so far, whilst Mervyn King fought back from 2-0 down to edge out Steve West on an epic night of darts on day five at the Alexandra Palace on Monday evening.
Lewis began his assault for a third World Championship crown with an emphatic straight sets victory over veteran Swede Magnus Caris. The two-time world champion averaged 93.25, landed five maximums and converted 31% of his doubles, to maintain his record of having never lost a first-round tie at the World Championship.
Lewis won the opening set relatively comfortably. Caris claimed the opening leg on 56 after Lewis missed two darts at tops to break, but ‘Jackpot’ responded with a majestic 10-darter. The two-time world champion was experiencing difficulties on the double but completely outscored the Swede, pinning D5 in successive legs to seal the set.
Lewis continued his dominance to take out 65 and draw first blood in set two, but Caris somehow drew level after the Stoke-on-Trent star squandered a further five darts at double. ‘Jackpot’ regained the lead with a 13-darter, but Caris followed his first maximum with a 14-darter, only to miss one set dart at tops as the fourth seed doubled his lead.
Caris claimed an early lead in set three, but missed five darts to break throw as Lewis escaped via D1. This minor scare appeared to awaken the 31-year-old from his slumber, and he fired in a 13-darter to break and move within a leg of victory, before landing his fifth maximum and nailing D18 to secure his safe passage to round-two.
After his win, Lewis told Josh’s Dartistry: “I don’t care if I don’t win any tournament all year, as long as I win this. You don’t get introduced as the Grand Prix champion, or the Matchplay champion. You want to be known as a two-time world champion and so on. I was missing silly little shots tonight, and if I want to win this tournament, I’ve got to put it right.”
Joe Cullen produced the performance of his career to defeat World-Youth champion Corey Cadby in the match of the first-round. The Australian was averaging 110 at one stage, but Cullen fought back superbly to record a 3-1 victory with a 100.88 average, six maximums and 38% on the doubles.
Cadby sealed his progress to the first-round with a stunning preliminary round victory over China’s Qiang Sun. The World-Youth champion was in sensational form; averaging 102.48, converting 67% of his double attempts and producing finishes of 152, 121 and 108 to seal victory without dropping a single leg.
Cadby continued from where he left off as he won a very high-quality opening set with over a 106 average and 75% on the doubles. The World-Youth champion opened up with a two-dart 90 kill, before Cullen levelled on D18. However, the 21-year-old Australian then fired in three maximums in just two legs to seal the set in sensational style.
Cadby’s stunning display continued as he converted a 107 finish to break ‘The Rockstar’, but the 28th seed responded by rounding off a two-dart 68 combination to level. Cadby capitalised on missed doubles from Cullen for a third straight break, but Joe fought back tremendously and restored parity with successive finishes of 85 and 117.
Cadby followed up his fifth maximum with deadly 108 kill to draw first blood in the third set, but Cullen produced a stunning sequence of legs to seal command of the contest. ‘The Rockstar’ levelled in 14-darts, secured the lead for the first time with a 11-dart break, before moving 2-1 ahead with a classy 13-dart hold.
Cadby recovered early in set four by breaking with a 109 checkout, but Cullen delivered an instant riposte in a nervy leg which saw both men miss doubles. The next two legs were shared as ‘The Rockstar’ had the throw for the match, and the 28th seed held his nerve to post D18 and seal his first ever victory on the Alexandra Palace stage.
After his win, Cullen stated:“Obviously Adrian’s a great player but I just want to go as far as I can. I’m feeling really confident. I’ve had a decent year; I’ve had a couple of TV quarter-finals and I’ve played well on the floor so I can’t see why I can’t go any further. I was speaking to Adrian beforehand and I think he’d have rather played Corey than me.”
Mervyn King produced an inspired comeback from 2-0 down to edge out Ally Pally debutant Steve West in the most dramatic game of the tournament. King averaged 86.85, landed two maximums and converted three ton-plus finishes to prevail, as West, who fired in eight maximums, was left to rue three missed match darts.
West breezed to the opening set without reply as King endured a torrid start. Mervyn averaged a miserly 69 as West won three straight legs, clinching the set with a fine 64 kill, with King failing to post a score of over 100 and having no darts at double.
King arrested his slump after the break by converting a clinical two-dart 80 finish to hold. ‘The King’ then posted his second successive 14-darter to seal control of the set, but after missing two set darts moments later, he was ruthlessly punished. West fired in three maximums in as many legs to snatch the set with a stunning 11-dart break.
The pair exchanged breaks after the interval, before West moved to the cusp of victory with a fine 109 kill. The debutant then posted six perfect darts and left D18 after just nine darts to close in on the win, but King stayed alive in sensational style with a magnificent 136 finish.
West had the chance in the next leg to throw for victory but missed one match dart at tops, as King stepped into survive on D16, before kicking off set four with a majestic 140 outshot. Merv missed five darts for his fourth straight leg as West stopped the rot, but King forced a fifth and final set after converting finishes of 95 and 106 consecutively.
The opening three legs of set five went with throw, before King produced a 14-darter to force a tiebreak. West fired back with his seventh maximum and a 14-darter of his own, but he spurned two match darts at tops as King pinned D8 at the fourth attempt to stay alive.
The Ally Pally debutant then made a mess of a 65 checkout as King converted 68 to move within a leg of victory, but West punished a poor leg from ‘The King’ to prolong the drama. The nerves got to both men in the ninth leg as they missed a multitude of darts at double, but King broke once more on D2, before finally closing out a remarkable triumph on D9.
King admitted to Josh’s Dartistry that he found it very tough playing one of his best friends on tour. “I was playing a very good friend and sometimes that’s not an easy thing to do. Steve’s a great player and we’ve had some real tussles over the years on the floor and it was about time I took him out. As far as the game was concerned, that 136 checkout was immense.”
William Hill World Darts Championship
Monday December 19 (7pm)
Qiang Sun 0-3 Corey Cadby (P)
Mervyn King (22) 3-2 Steve West
Adrian Lewis (5) 3-0 Magnus Caris
Joe Cullen (28) 3-1 Corey Cadby
Photo Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC