Michael van Gerwen began the defence of his William Hill World Darts Championship title with a stunning victory over his fellow countryman Christian Kist, whilst Gerwyn Price, Steve Beaton and James Wilson also prevailed on a high-quality opening night at the Alexandra Palace on Thursday evening.
Van Gerwen was in ruthless mood as he kicked off his world title defence with a brilliant 3-1 win over former Lakeside world champion Christian Kist in a high-quality affair. Kist averaged over 100 for the duration, but MvG stormed to victory after averaging 106.17, landing four maximums and converting 69% of his darts at double.
Kist produced his best televised performance for some time; averaging 100.23, posting two maximums and boasting a 44% checkout success rate, but Van Gerwen was irrepressible. MvG also dispatched three ton-plus checkouts and his average of 106.17 is the third highest first-round average in World Championship history.
Kist averaged over 104 in a high-quality opening set, but he was unable to trouble the scoreboard. He was punished for wiring the bull for 164 and 161 finishes in the opening two legs, before Van Gerwen conjured up a majestic 141 outshot to seal the set with a 12-darter.
‘The Green Machine’ kicked off set two with a comfortable hold and a fourth straight leg, but Kist opened his account with an impressive 13-darter moments later. However, Van Gerwen regained the lead via D18, before converting a clinical 74 kill to double his lead in sets.
However, Kist was showing little signs of the arthritis problems that have plagued him over recent months, as he fought back to halve the deficit in the third set. The pair exchanged maximums in the opening leg of set three, but Kist held firm with a brilliant 86 finish.
Van Gerwen responded in kind with a 12-darter of his own, but ‘The Lipstick’ followed up his second maximum with a 14-darter to continue his charge. ‘Mighty Mike’ dispatched a brilliant 138 checkout to force a set decider, but Kist held his nerve; pinning D9 for a 13-dart hold to reduce the arrears to 2-1.
Despite this, it was normal service resumed for the world number one in set four. He produced an effortless 114 finish to hold, before following up his fourth maximum with a 13-darter to move to the brink of victory. Kist continued to battle; but Van Gerwen sealed the triumph via D8; having narrowly missed the bull for an eye-catching 132 kill.
‘The Green Machine’ will meet James Wilson in round-two, after Wilson secured his first win on the Ally Pally stage with a comeback victory against World Masters champion Krzysztof Ratajski. ‘The Polish Eagle’ started strongly on debut but Wilson was very impressive; averaging 97.94, posting five 180’s and converting 48% of his darts at double.
Ratajski made a blistering start; kicking off proceedings with a 177 en route to an 11-dart hold. Wilson levelled on D18, but ‘The Polish Eagle’ regained the lead via D6, before pegging tops to seal the opening set after Wilson had missed D10 for a 128 finish.
The opening two legs of set two were shared as Ratajski produced a clinical 106 finish with Wilson sat on a double, but the former BDO number one responded with a majestic 11-darter. Ratajski then found D16 to force a set decider, but ‘The Lethal Biscuit’ held his nerve with an assured 15-dart hold on tops.
Wilson secured early control of set three by pegging tops in consecutive legs, before squandering four set darts moments later. This wasn’t too expensive an error however, as he returned to clinch the set with a tidy 13-dart leg.
Ratajski responded with five perfect darts to claim an immediate break early in set four, but the next three legs all went against throw, with the Pole wiring one set dart at D16. This gave Wilson the opportunity to throw for victory and he made no mistake; following up his fifth maximum with a clinical 95 checkout to triumph with a sublime 12-darter.
Gerwyn Price claimed his first ever World Championship victory with a brilliant straight-sets win over PDPA qualifier Ted Evetts. ‘The Iceman’ had lost his three previous matches on the Alexandra Palace stage but broke his duck in fine style; averaging 101.55, landing four maximums and dispatching 36% of his attempts at a double to triumph.
Price made a blistering start, clinching the opening set with a 110 average. He kicked off proceedings with a 14-dart break on tops, before following up a brilliant 168 with a 13-dart hold. Evetts fired in his first maximum in an attempt to open his account, but ‘The Iceman’ kept his cool and completed a 14-darter to clinch the set to nil.
The Welshman continued his strong start early in set two, hitting tops for his fourth straight leg, but Evetts responded. He produced back-to-back 140’s and sank a 13-darter to open his account, before capitalising on three missed darts at double from Price to break throw via D16.
The young Warwickshire star had the throw to restore parity at one apiece, but he was unable to do so. Price squandered a further three at double but on this occasion he wasn’t punished as Evetts failed to take out 97, and the UK Open finalist rectified his double-trouble with a confident 14-darter to extend his lead in sets.
Price maintained his stranglehold on proceedings by hitting D9 for an immediate break in set three, before moving to the cusp after landing his fourth 180 and taking out 76 for a 12-dart hold. Evetts produced a 76 checkout of his own to keep his hopes alive, but the Welshman closed out a comprehensive straight sets triumph with a fine 13-darter.
Finally, former Lakeside world champion Steve Beaton kicked off this year’s World Championship with an impressive 3-1 victory over Irish Matchplay winner William O’Connor.
O’Connor scored prolifically and landed six maximums, but the debutant was punished for spurning 16 darts at double in an error-strewn opening set. The veteran ‘Adonis’ started sluggishly but grew into the contest; averaging 93.28, registering three 180’s and converting 39% of his attempts at double to seal his progression to round-two.
Beaton stole a nervy opening set which saw O’Connor spurn an incredible sixteen darts at double. ‘The Bronzed Adonis’ broke via D7 in the opener, before the Irishman levelled on tops. O’Connor landed maximums in three straight legs but he squandered an incredible 14 consecutive darts at double, as Beaton duly capitalised.
The 1996 Lakeside champion upped the ante in the second set; dispatching classy 81 and 131 finishes to double his advantage, but the Irishman halted his finishing woes impressively; converting checkout of 64, 97 and 86 to reduce the arrears to 2-1 with a third set average of over 100.
Nevertheless, Beaton maintained his composure impressively; firing in his second maximum to hold on D16, before posting a 13-darter to move to the brink of victory. O’Connor pegged a brilliant 115 finish to stay alive, but Beaton wasn’t to be denied; following up five perfect darts by pinning D10 to seal victory inside 12 darts.
Photo Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC
Thursday December 14 (7pm)
Steve Beaton 3-1 William O’Connor
James Wilson 3-1 Krzysztof Ratajski
Michael van Gerwen 3-1 Christian Kist
Gerwyn Price 3-0 Ted Evetts