John Henderson caused one of the biggest shocks in World Grand Prix history by dumping out reigning champion and world number one Michael van Gerwen on a dramatic opening night at the Citywest Hotel, Dublin, on Sunday evening.
‘The Green Machine’ was 1/33 on to triumph with some bookmakers, but Henderson held his nerve to inflict the Dutchman’s first opening-round defeat in a TV ranking major since 2011. The Scot took his opportunities to secure the biggest win of his career to date, despite averaging a modest 76.08 compared to Van Gerwen’s 87.64.
The world number one endured a nightmare start as Henderson won the opening two legs, and although MvG rallied to force a set decider, the imposing Scot pegged D10 to claim the opening set after Van Gerwen failed to register a starting double in his first two visits.
However, normal service was resumed in the second set, as ‘Mighty Mike’ clinched it without reply to secure parity at one apiece. He then wired D18 for a 129 outshot for a fourth successive leg, as ‘Hendo’ stopped the rot via D10, before Van Gerwen soon levelled via tops.
Henderson then incredibly regained the lead with a nerveless 71 checkout after MvG missed three clear darts to break. The reigning champion forced a final leg via D18, but Henderson kicked off the decider with a fine visit of 120, before sinking D20 to prevail and secure his first ever win against MvG- at the ninth attempt.
Daryl Gurney delighted the Dublin crowd with a thrilling victory over fourth seed Adrian Lewis. ‘Super-Chin’ breezed to the opening set but Lewis showed his class to force a decider. Despite this, the Northern Irishman held his nerve to defeat the two-time world champion, who became the first seed to tumble in this year’s event.
Gurney averaged 90.09, piled in five maximums and converted 28% of his attempts at double, whilst Lewis averaged 87.49 and registered three maximums. However, ‘Jackpot’ was ruthlessly punished for hitting just three of his thirteen finishing doubles.
‘Super-Chin’ drew first blood with a confident hold via D16, before doubling his tally by virtue of a spectacular 132 outshot (Bull, Bull, D16). Moments later he spurned eight darts at double to round-off the set, but Lewis failed to take advantage and Gurney eventually found D8 to move 1-0 ahead.
‘Jackpot’ wasn’t scoring at his free-flowing best but he dispatched clinical 96 and 124 finishes to seal command of the second set, before Gurney forced a set decider. Lewis was throwing to stay alive, but defied a fine maximum from the Northern Irishman to take out 77 and send the match into a third and final set.
The Stoke-on-Trent star celebrated with a little wiggle directed at the partisan Irish crowd, but he wasn’t dancing for joy minutes later. He fired in 180’s in each of the first two legs to regain the initiative, before maintaining his composure to sink D9 and provoke jubilant scenes of celebrations in front of his adoring Irish fans.
Raymond van Barneveld kicked off his World Grand Prix campaign with an impressive straight-sets triumph over recent Auckland Darts Masters winner Kyle Anderson in an entertaining affair. Van Barneveld, a two-time Dublin finalist in 2008 and 2009, averaged 90.21 and converted 55% of his attempts at double to round-off a solid performance.
The Australian kicked off proceedings with a 103 checkout, before firing in a 14-darter to seal command of the opening set. However, Van Barneveld found D10 and D2 to force a deciding leg, where Anderson crumbled. He spurned two set darts at tops and RvB found the same target to complete the turn-around and draw first blood.
Van Barneveld dispatched an effortless 76 kill to seal early control of set two, until Anderson levelled with a fine 102 checkout. The Dutchman then followed up an exquisite 165 set up with tops to regain the lead, before Anderson forced another set decider via tops.
Nevertheless, the five-time world champion showed his class to close out a straight-sets victory. He found D8 with his second dart of the leg and followed up visits of 140 and 125 with an effortless 100 checkout to dump out ‘The Original’.
Former Grand Prix finalist Dave Chisnall produced the performance of the night to ease past an out-of-sorts Jelle Klaasen. The St Helen’s star averaged 101.10, landed six maximums and converted 100% of his finishing doubles to complete the near-perfect display.
The first four legs all went with throw, but Klaasen squandered four darts at double to win the opening set. Chisnall punished this error with a clinical two-dart 80 combination, before wrapping up the final set without reply, where he averaged 112.73 and crashed in two sublime 12-dart legs to progress emphatically.
Elsewhere, Steve Beaton rolled back the years to record an impressive straight sets victory over World Grand Prix debutant Rob Cross. Cross has enjoyed a stunning debut year on the PDC circuit having won three Pro Tour titles, but Beaton tore up the form book after producing a typically silky-smooth display to ease through.
‘The Bronzed Adonis’ took out 93 to seal the opening leg, doubling his tally on tops, before clinching the set with a 15-darter via D18. Cross opened his account in the second set but spurned opportunities to level up the contest at one apiece and Beaton capitalised, to round off a fine victory with an 89.59 average and 55% on the doubles.
2015 World Grand Prix champion Robert Thornton produced a spirited fightback to see off Kim Huybrechts in a topsy-turvy affair. ‘The Thorn’ only qualified for this year’s event by virtue of Phil Taylor’s withdrawal, but the Scot capitalised on his good fortune to record his fourth successive victory over the Belgian.
‘The Hurricane’ made a blistering start to the contest; reeling off three legs on the spin to seal the set with a near ton-plus average. However, Thornton displayed real tenacity and exploited some error-strewn darts from Huybrechts to force a thrilling third and final set.
Thornton retained his momentum; producing 64 and 157 finishes in successive legs to seal control of the contest. However, Huybrechts capitalised on crucial missed doubles from the Scot to break back and force a deciding leg, in which he had the advantage of throw.
Yet Huybrechts surrendered that advantage after missing seven darts at double to kick off the final leg. He piled in a late maximum to leave D19 and pressure Thornton, but it proved to be a mere consolation, as the former Grand-Prix champion maintained his composure and sank tops with his last dart in hand to close out a dramatic victory.
Joe Cullen came from a set down to defeat Darren Webster in a high-quality first-round tie. ‘The Rockstar’ lost the opening set in three straight legs, but fought back valiantly to prevail in a dramatic deciding-leg with a 91.62 average, six maximums and a 29% checkout success rate.
Webster raced to the opening set in a matter of minutes, before spurning one match dart at D18 for a 147 outshot and a straight sets victory. Cullen stepped into force a decider in which all five legs went with throw, and the Bradford ace kicked off the final leg with a magnificent visit of 152 before completing the comeback by pinning D16.
Alan Norris also fought back from 1-0 behind to dump out former World Grand Prix semi-finalist Justin Pipe in the tournament’s curtain-raiser. ‘Chuck’ struggled on the starting doubles in the early stages, but recovered superbly to triumph with an 81.72 average and a 39% checkout conversion rate.
Both players made a nervy start, but Pipe conjured up an inspired 170 checkout en route to claiming the opening set. However, with Norris two legs down in the second and on the brink of defeat, ‘Chuck’ won six of the final seven legs to complete a remarkable turnaround, after kicking off five of the legs with perfect 160 starts.
Photo Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC
2017 Unibet World Grand Prix
Sunday October 1 (7pm)
First Round x8
Alan Norris 2-1 Justin Pipe
Joe Cullen 2-1 Darren Webster
Steve Beaton 2-0 Rob Cross
Robert Thornton 2-0 Kim Huybrechts
Raymond van Barneveld 2-0 Kyle Anderson
Daryl Gurney 2-1 Adrian Lewis
John Henderson 2-1 Michael van Gerwen
Dave Chisnall 2-0 Jelle Klaasen