Michael van Gerwen kicked off the defence of his European Championship title with a convincing win over his fellow countryman Jan Dekker, as the Huybrechts brothers were both condemned to deciding-leg defeats on a dramatic opening night in Hasselt on Thursday evening.
Defending champion Michael van Gerwen eased into round-two with a comfortable 6-2 victory over his compatriot Jan Dekker. ‘The Green Machine’ was far from his vintage best, but Dekker was punished for squandering key opportunities early in the contest.
The first five legs all went against throw, but Van Gerwen sealed total control after the interval; winning four legs on the spin to wrap up a comprehensive win. The world number one averaged 95.95, landed two maximums and converted 40% of his attempts at double to remain on course for a fourth successive European Championship crown.
Last year’s finalist Mensur Suljovic dumped out home favourite Kim Huybrechts in a thrilling last-leg shootout. ‘The Hurricane’, who was beaten by James Wilson at this stage last year, suffered his second consecutive first-round exit in Hasselt at the hands of a clinical Suljovic.
‘The Gentle’, who clinched his maiden TV title at last month’s Champions League of Darts, averaged 92.86 and converted 60% of his attempts at double, nailing finishes of 116, 100, 94 and 76 en route to victory. Huybrechts scored prolifically by piling in five maximums, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the fourth seed.
It was also a disappointing evening for the other Huybrechts brother Ronny, who squandered a 5-3 lead against UK Open finalist Gerwyn Price in the tournament’s curtain-raiser. Price established an early 3-2 cushion at the first interval, before ‘The Rebel’ reeled off three straight legs in a stunning burst to seal total control at 5-3.
Nevertheless, ‘The Iceman’ fought back superbly; breaking the Belgian’s throw twice in the last three legs to complete the comeback. Ronny was sat on tops poised to seal victory in the decider, but Price sank a nerveless 67 kill to prevail with a 96.76 average, three maximums and a 75% checkout success rate.
2012 champion Simon Whitlock continued his resurgence to dump out James Richardson in a hard-fought first-round tussle in Hasselt. Neither man was at their best, but a clinical 90 checkout from the recent World Grand Prix finalist proved decisive.
Richardson outscored the Australian for large parts of the contest but converted just three of his fourteen darts at double which proved expensive. Whitlock was far from his best, but still triumphed with an 88.63 average, a solitary maximum and a 43% success rate in the finishing department.
Whitlock will face Alan Norris in round-two, after ‘Chuck’ reeled off three consecutive legs from 4-3 behind to defeat Mervyn King. Norris appeared to be staring down the barrel of a third consecutive first-round defeat at the European Championship, but he capitalised on an uncharacteristic 26% checkout success rate from King to triumph.
The first six legs all went with throw, before King claimed the first break of throw via D16. However, Norris broke back immediately on D10, before firing in a classy 121 finish on the bullseye en route to victory, sealing his progression with a 92.55 average and a 55% checkout conversion rate, as King was dumped out despite posting five 180’s.
Ian White survived a match dart as he edged out Darren Webster to set up a second-round showdown with Michael van Gerwen. It was an error-strewn contest, with White missing big numbers on three separate occasions which cost him legs, but ‘The Diamond’ held his nerve to progress in a thriller.
Webster conjured up a magical 160 finish in leg two and fired in four maximums, but he still struggled for consistency in large periods. He also spurned a match dart in the decider, as White nervelessly dispatched a two-dart 93 outshot to seal victory with a 96.83 average, three maximums and a 55% checkout conversion rate.
Kyle Anderson stormed into the last 16 with a comprehensive 6-1 win over recent World Grand Prix semi-finalist John Henderson. ‘The Highlander’ defeated Michael van Gerwen & Raymond van Barneveld in a heroic run to the last four in Dublin, but he could not replicate that performance against the Auckland Darts Masters champion.
Henderson averaged 94.41 and landed three maximums, but he was punished for converting just one of his seven darts at double. By contrast, Anderson was clinical; reeling off five legs in succession after averaging 96.84, piling in two maximums and converting 43% of his shots at double.
Finally, Christian Kist’s injury woes continued as he was whitewashed by his compatriot Jelle Klaasen in a battle of the former Lakeside world champions. Kist suffers with severe arthritis and was plagued with injury at the recent European Darts Trophy, losing 6-0 to Jan Dekker with an average in the mid 60’s, and history repeated itself in Hasselt.
Kist averaged 64.35, registered just three tons and failed to register any darts at double, as Klaasen coasted home. ‘The Cobra’ averaged 92.02, posted the solitary maximum and dispatched 35% of his darts at double to set up a second-round showdown against his close friend and stablemate Kyle Anderson.
Photo Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC
Unibet European Championship
Thursday October 26 (8pm local time, 7pm UK time)
Gerwyn Price 6-5 Ronny Huybrechts
Alan Norris 6-4 Mervyn King
Ian White 6-5 Darren Webster
John Henderson 1-6 Kyle Anderson
Simon Whitlock (8) 6-3 James Richardson
Mensur Suljovic (4) 6-5 Kim Huybrechts
Michael van Gerwen (1) 6-2 Jan Dekker
Jelle Klaasen (5) 6-0 Christian Kist
Best of 11 legs