Five-time world champion Raymond van Barneveld kicked off his bid for a sixth world title with a thumping 3-0 victory over Robbie Green, as Simon Whitlock and Brendan Dolan also progressed through to round-two at the World Championship on Tuesday evening at the Alexandra Palace.
Van Barneveld made an impressive start to his World Championship campaign after recording a straight-sets victory over former Lakeside semi-finalist Robbie Green. The Dutch legend averaged 98.45, landed three maximums and converted 56% of his double attempts to secure a second-round showdown with Alan Norris after Christmas.
Barney prevailed in a high-quality opening set with a 103.93 average. The Den Haag ace opened his account with a two-dart 86 finish, before Green took out the same finish (S18, D18, D16) to level. Nevertheless, Van Barneveld then fired in his signature 156 finish to regain the lead, before clinching the set by converting a 64 kill on D16.
RvB’s high-quality finishing continued into the second set as he landed a classy 120 checkout to break, before pinning D10 with last dart in hand to extend his lead after ‘Kong’ wired the bull for an 86 outshot. The former Lakeside semi-finalist found D18 to stay alive in the set, but the five-time world champ converted an 80 kill on D12 to double his lead.
Van Barneveld maintained his dominance by pinning D8 to seize an early lead in set three, before landing his second maximum and converting a clinical 81 finish on D13 to move within a leg of victory. Green had an opportunity to prolong the contest but missed one dart at bull, as RvB returned to pin D8 and seal his safe-progression to round-two.
After his win, Barney told Josh’s Dartistry: “I keep on believing in myself. The World Championship is always extra special. To perform well in the worlds is extra; this is what its all about. I know when I beat Michael last year, he would give all and everything back to lift this trophy. To lift this trophy as a world champion; every player wants to do this.”
Simon Whitlock secured his first victory on the Alexandra Palace stage since 2014 with an emphatic straight sets truimph over German qualifier Dragutin Horvat. ‘The Wizard’ produced some magical finishing in the closing stages to seal victory with a 98.70 average and a 60% checkout success rate.
Earlier in the evening, Horvat won a topsy-turvy last-leg decider against Russia’s Boris Koltsov to set up a showdown with ‘The Wizard’. Koltsov clinched the opening set and led 2-0 in the third and deciding set, but Horvat eventually prevailed with a 75.58 average, two maximums and a 22% checkout success rate.
However, Horvat was overwhelmed by Whitlock; winning just one leg in the whole contest. The 17th seed clinched the opening set without reply, before taking out 91 to seal an early cushion in set two. Whitlock then won his fifth straight leg on D16 and although Horvat opened his account on tops, ‘The Wizard’ doubled his lead moments later.
Nevertheless, Whitlock’s performance in the third and final set was simply spell-binding. He drew first blood with a classy 92 kill, before converting the maximum 170 outshot to move within a leg of the second-round. The former world finalist was full of confidence and duly sealed the win with a majestic 158 match-winning salvo.
Whitlock told Josh’s Dartistry: “I think I’d won my last ten first-round matches at the Worlds until two years ago. It’s a big relief and I just feel very confident at the moment. Those two Players Championship titles did me the world of good; it had been two and a half years since I’d won a Pro Tour; and I played some of the best darts I’ve ever played to win these.”
Finally, Brendan Dolan produced an impressive performance to defeat former Lakeside world champion Christian Kist 3-1. The former Grand Prix finalist averaged 95.12, landed two maximums and converted 56% of his doubles to cap off a fine display and set up a second-round showdown with either Jelle Klaasen or Jeffrey de Graaf.
Dolan made a very strong start to the contest, winning the opening set with an average of over 100. The Northern Irishman broke throw immediately on D10 after Kist spurned two darts at double, before Dolan extended his lead with a 13-darter. The Dutchman then wired D12 for a 141 skin-saver, as ‘The History-Maker’ rounded off the set with a clinical 70 kill.
Nevertheless, Kist responded magnificently in set two, winning the set without reply to level up proceedings at one set apiece. The 2012 Lakeside world champion opened his account by following up his first maximum with a 14-darter, before converting clinical finishes of 72 and 105 to fire straight back in this high-quality affair.
For the third set in succession, the set was won in three straight legs as Dolan regained the initiative by continuing his clinical finishing. Dolan pinned D16 in the opening leg to break Kist’s throw, before reeling off impressive checkouts of 78 and 102 to move within one set of victory.
Dolan pinned D16 to win his fourth straight leg and draw first blood in set four, but Kist stopped the rot by eventually pinning D1. However, the Dutchman was struggling in the scoring department and the ‘The History-Maker’ capitalised; following up a 54 checkout with a clinical 14-darter to clinch a pleasing triumph.
Dolan was understandably thrilled with the win.“I’ve struggled for 18 months, but since October and November my form’s been coming back and I’ve got more belief, more drive, more need to win this year. If you’re checking out sharply it puts the opponent under a lot of pressure. I’m happy with my finishing, I’m happy with the win, but I know there’s more to come.”
Photo: Getty Images Europe
William Hill World Darts Championship
Tuesday December 20 (7pm)
Boris Koltsov 1-2 Dragutin Horvat (P)
Brendan Dolan (23) 3-1 Christian Kist
Raymond van Barneveld (12) 3-0 Robbie Green
Simon Whitlock (17) 3-0 Dragutin Horvat