Michael van Gerwen kicked off his bid for a third consecutive World Matchplay crown with a comprehensive win over former Lakeside world champion Stephen Bunting, as Adrian Lewis, Rob Cross and Simon Whitlock all recorded victories on the final night of first-round action at the Winter Gardens on Monday evening.
Michael van Gerwen began the defence of his World Matchplay title with an emphatic 10-4 win against former Lakeside world champion Stephen Bunting. ‘The Green Machine’ controlled the contest from the outset; averaging 98.55, posting six 180’s and dispatching a majestic 160 outshot to clinch his spot in round-two.
The world champion appeared poised to secure a first-round whitewash in Blackpool for the second straight year after storming into a 7-0 lead, with Bunting missing doubles at crucial times. However, the St Helen’s ace continued to battle valiantly and rallied late on to add some respectability to the scoreline.
‘The Bullet’ averaged 94.54 and landed three maximums, but his hopes were extinguished early on after a plethora of missed opportunities. He won four of the next six legs to reduce the arrears to 9-4, but Van Gerwen finished proceedings in sublime fashion; pegging an effortless 160 checkout to complete the triumph.
Van Gerwen claimed: “It was a bit too easy. Stephen wasn’t confident and didn’t really play his game to be fair; he missed doubles and I played alright in the first two sessions. I can look forward to the next round against Simon Whitlock now and I’m sure I am going to play better.”
Adrian Lewis enjoyed a successful return from injury after recording a hard-fought 10-7 victory over the veteran Steve Beaton. The two-time world champion was making his first televised appearance since May having undergone surgery on a back problem, but he produced an impressive display to book his spot in Wednesday’s second-round.
Lewis averaged 95.07 and only registered the solitary maximum, but he posted 17 scores of 140+ and boasted a superb 56% checkout success rate. Beaton averaged 94.51 and showed glimpses of his class, but he was unable to replicate last year’s run to the quarter-finals.
The Stoke-on-Trent ace established an early 3-1 lead, but Beaton recovered impressively and reeled off three straight legs to regain the initiative. The pair were then locked at five apiece heading into the second interval, but Lewis upped the ante in the latter stages; winning six of the final eight legs and sealing victory with a classy 11-darter.
The world number four reflected: “It’s a massive win for me because I love this tournament. It’s my favourite event but this year I’ve got no expectations and it’s the first time I’ve ever come into an event feeling like this.”
“Now it’s about getting my belief back and making sure I’m more comfortable during the game. I can’t dictate the pace and that’s something I like to do but I got through the game and I’m happy,” he added.
Lewis will take on World Matchplay debutant Rob Cross in round-two, after the 26-year-old marked his first appearance at the Winter Gardens with a hard-fought 10-7 win over thirteenth seed Ian White.
Cross has enjoyed a whirlwind first year on the PDC circuit after earning his tour-card in January; winning two Players Championship titles and climbing into the world’s top 50. However, his form shows no signs of subsiding after edging out White in a gruelling battle; averaging 95.72, posting three 180’s and converting 32% of his attempts at double.
The first seven legs all went with throw as both men began tentatively, but the quality improved as the contest progressed. White fought back from 8-5 down to reduce the arrears to the solitary leg, but Cross moved to the cusp of victory with a sensational 11-dart break, before dispatching a nerveless 70 kill to book his passage to the last 16.
Simon Whitlock prevailed in an entertaining all-Australian clash against Kyle Anderson. Anderson averaged 96.64 and piled in six maximums, but Whitlock’s clinical finishing proved decisive, as ‘The Wizard’ triumphed 10-5 with a 95.77 average, the solitary maximum and a 50% checkout conversion rate.
Whitlock successfully converted seven of his first nine attempts at double to establish a healthy 7-2 cushion, but ‘The Original’ reeled off three straight legs to reduce the arrears to 7-5. Nevertheless, any hopes of a comeback proved forlorn, as Whitlock won the remaining three legs to set up a second-round showdown against Michael van Gerwen.
Simon admitted: “I really enjoyed that. Kyle came back at me as I knew he would and he played really well, but my double tops were amazing. I’ve been playing well lately and working hard. I fractured my wrist eight weeks ago and it set me back a bit, but it’s good now and my confidence is great. I can’t wait for the second round.”
Tuesday will see the second-round action get underway, with Gary Anderson continuing his campaign against a red-hot Daryl Gurney. Peter Wright faces a tough test against Spanish star Cristo Reyes, whilst seventh seed Mensur Suljovic kicks off the night against Justin Pipe. The other tie sees Darren Webster take on Matchplay debutant Steve West.
Photo Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC
BetVictor World Matchplay
Monday July 24 (7pm)
4x First Round
Simon Whitlock 10-5 Kyle Anderson
Adrian Lewis 10-7 Steve Beaton
Michael van Gerwen 10-4 Stephen Bunting
Ian White 7-10 Rob Cross