Gary Anderson produced a dazzling display to kick off his 2017 season in style, as Phil Taylor, Raymond van Barneveld and Peter Wright also sealed impressive victories on the opening night of the 2017 Unibet Masters at the Arena MK in Milton Keynes on Friday evening.
Two-time world champion Gary Anderson produced the performance of the night to dismantle emerging Dutch star Benito van de Pas and set up a quarter-final clash with another Dutchman in the shape of Raymond van Barneveld.
‘The Flying Scotsman’ was in sensational form; averaging 109.74, landing nine maximums and converting 56% of his attempts at double to record a comprehensive 10-3 triumph against ‘Big Ben’, who was afforded just five darts at double in the entire contest.
The Scottish star landed maximums in the opening two legs to establish an early cushion. Van de Pas halved the deficit via D16, but Anderson landed his fourth maximum and took out 76 to regain his two-leg cushion. However, the 23-year-old reduced the deficit to 3-2 with a clinical two-dart 88 finish.
However, Anderson ran riot after the interval. He hit his fifth 180 and completed a 14-darter on tops straight after the break, before pinning D10 to secure a double-break. The world number two then converted a majestic 130 checkout on tops, as his average exceeded 108.
The Scot produced a 14-darter to extend his lead, before clinching his fifth straight leg on D10 as he stormed into the second interval 8-2 ahead. Van de Pas conjured up a classy 128 finish to register just his third leg of the contest after the break, but this proved to be his final action.
The two-time world champion was scoring magnificently, and landed his eighth maximum to move to within a leg of victory with a 14-dart hold on tops. ‘Big Ben’ continued to battle, but ‘The Flying Scotsman’ recorded his ninth 180 before wrapping up his stunning triumph with an effortless 142 finish, culminating on D11.
Raymond van Barneveld kicked off the 2017 Unibet Masters with a comprehensive 10-5 victory over 2016 finalist Dave Chisnall. The five-time world champion averaged 99.48, compared to Chisnall’s 96.59; the pair also landed seven maximums apiece.
Nevertheless, their contrasting fortunes in the finishing department proved decisive; Barney boasted an impressive checkout success ratio of 56%, whilst ‘Chizzy’ only converted 25% of his attempts at double.
The St Helen’s ace enjoyed a stunning start to the contest, crashing in a 122 checkout on the bullseye to break throw after both players had registered early maximums. Chisnall then defied Barney’s second maximum to extend his lead on D2.
However, the seventh seed began to show frailties on the doubles and Van Barneveld took advantage by reeling off back-to-back legs to level, before firing in a majestic 10-dart leg to hit the front at 3-2 heading into the first interval.
The Dutchman clinched his fourth successive leg after following his fourth maximum with a classy 14-darter, before converting a cool 76 kill to establish a commanding 5-2 cushion. Barney won his sixth straight leg via tops, before hitting the same target to round-off a clinical 80 checkout and continue the procession.
Chisnall finally stopped the rot after following his sixth maximum with a regulation 56 kill, but Van Barneveld responded by completing a nerveless 64 finish to storm into an 8-3 advantage. The next three legs all went with throw, before the Dutch darting legend pinned D16 to round-off a 14-dart leg to wrap up a convincing first-round victory.
Van Barneveld was in bullish mood after his impressive opening salvo, stating:”Michael won almost everything last year, but this is a new year. I’ve had a nice few weeks off and I think I can go all the way.”
Phil Taylor kicked off the final year of his career in stunning style, with an emphatic 10-6 victory over former World-Youth champion Michael Smith. ‘Bully-Boy’ performed impressively and averaged over 100, but Taylor was in fine form; averaging 104.80, landing five maximums and converting 48% of his double attempts.
‘The Power’ made a storming start to the contest, winning the opening two legs with brilliant 133 and 91 finishes. However, Taylor spurned three darts at D16 for a 3-0 lead as Smith followed up his first maximum by hitting D15 to open his account.
The St Helen’s star then levelled up proceedings with a clinical two-dart 100 kill, before registering a magnificent 11-darter to hit the front. Smith was flying and then converted a nerveless 72 checkout on tops to record his fourth straight leg.
Nevertheless, the 16-time world champion responded to wrestle back the initiative. The Stoke star landed his first 180 and rounded off a 14-darter on tops to stop the rot, before levelling with a confident 13-dart leg.
‘The Power’ then landed his third maximum in as many legs to regain the lead with his second straight 13-darter, but Smith followed up a brilliant 170 set up shot by hitting tops to level up proceedings at five apiece.
However, Taylor upped the ante after the second interval to pull away. The 56-year-old moved 6-5 ahead after following his fourth maximum with a 96 checkout for a quality 11-darter. The sixth seed then nailed D7 in successive legs to seal command, but Smith registered a 14-darter on D10 to reduce the arrears to 8-6.
Despite this, Smith was unable to overturn the deficit. Taylor crashed in his fifth maximum en route to an 11-darter as he closed in on victory, and he duly completed the triumph by hitting D7 for the third time in the contest.
Taylor will face third seed Peter Wright in Sunday’s quarter-final, after the Scot saw off Stoke-on-Trent star Ian White in the evening’s final match. Snakebite averaged 96.56, landed eight maximums and boasted a checkout success ratio of 40%, as White was condemned to an opening-round defeat despite hitting nine 180’s.
Wright made a strong start, winning the opening two legs without reply. Snakebite then landed his first maximum as he attempted to extend his lead, but White opened his account with a clean 13-darter. The Scot hit D2 to re-establish his two leg cushion, but ‘The Diamond’ reduced the deficit via D4, after Wright missed the bull for a 130 outshot.
The next three legs all comfortably went with throw, before White held throw after Wright spurned three darts for a double-break. The Stoke star then landed his seventh maximum as he attempted to level proceedings, but Wright held firm, following his fifth 180 by hitting tops to maintain his two-leg cushion.
The third seed opened up a three-leg cushion for the first time after converting a clinical 116 kill on tops, but White fired back instantly. The world number fourteen registered his eighth maximum and completed a confident two-dart 62 checkout to stay in contention.
The topsy-turvy nature of this contest as Wright hit his seventh maximum to record the third successive break of the contest. The five-time major finalist then posted yet another 180 to move within a leg of victory, and ‘Snakebite’ closed out a convincing 10-5 triumph on D8, after White wired the bullseye for a 135 finish in the preceding visit.
The four winners from Friday’s opening session will return to quarter-final action on Sunday afternoon, whilst the pick of Saturday’s matches will see defending champion Michael van Gerwen take on two-time world finalist Simon Whitlock.
Photo Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC
2017 Unibet Masters
Friday January 27 (7pm)
Dave Chisnall (7) 5-10 Raymond van Barneveld (10)
Phil Taylor (6) 10-6 Michael Smith (11)
Gary Anderson (2) 10-3 Benito van de Pas (15)
Peter Wright (3) 10-5 Ian White (14)