Peter Wright kicked off his World Championship campaign with victory over Brazilian debutant Diogo Portela, as Kim Huybrechts and Cristo Reyes became the latest seeds to tumble as the first-round came to a close at the Alexandra Palace on Thursday evening.
However, the big story saw Wright begin his assault for a maiden world title with a hard-fought 3-1 win over an impressive Portela. The Brazilian fired in three maximums and converted 63% of his attempts at double on his Ally Pally debut, but Wright triumphed with a 97.90 average, three maximums and a 44% checkout success rate.
Portela made a dream start to the contest, converting a fine 80 finish on D10 for an instant break. However, Wright levelled inside 15 darts, before seizing the initiative with an accomplished 101 checkout. ‘Snakebite’ then wrapped up the opening set with his third straight leg via D18, but Diogo responded magnificently in the second set.
The Brazilian fired in his first maximum en route to a 15-dart hold to open up the second set, before Wright registered successive legs to gain control. Nevertheless, Portela followed up his second 180 with a nerveless 99 checkout for a 12-dart break back, before crashing in a clinical 15-dart hold to restore parity at one apiece.
Despite this, the world number two responded impressively. He defied Portela’s third maximum to draw first blood in the third via D18, until ‘The Braziliant’ dispatched a two-dart 70 combination to square the set. Nevertheless, Wright then reeled off five legs in succession to seal his relatively routine progression.
He held throw via D4 and piled in his third maximum en route to regaining the lead in sets, before completing a 14-darter to open his account in the fourth. The Scot then dispatched a vital 72 checkout on D3 to move to the brink of victory, which he duly sealed with a 15-dart break of throw culminating on D16.
Elsewhere, James Richardson stormed into the second-round with an impressive straight sets win over 18th seed Kim Huybrechts. ‘The Hurricane’ was blown away by ‘Ruthless’, who averaged 96.91, landed four maximums and converted 36% of his attempts at double, as he dropped just two legs en route to victory.
The Englishman kicked off proceedings by following up his first maximum with a 13-dart hold, before Huybrechts levelled on D2. However, Richardson pinned tops to regain the lead, before wrapping up the set inside 13 darts, having posted visits of 180 and 177 earlier in the leg.
The Belgian drew first blood in a scrappy start to set two, but Richardson crashed in his third maximum and sank D16 to level, before registering a 14-darter on tops to break. Huybrechts was stunned but Richardson continued his charge, posting his fourth maximum and finding D6 to double his lead.
The Northamptonshire ace continued the procession with a fine 105 finish to kick off the third set, before pegging top for a 13-dart break of throw to move to the cusp of victory. Huybrechts left 100 after 9 darts in a valiant attempt to preserve his hopes, but it was all in vain, as Richardson sank D5 to seal his progression with a 15-dart hold.
Darren Webster survived a scare as he fended off a valiant fightback from South African star Devon Petersen to book a second-round showdown against Simon Whitlock. ‘The Demolition Man’ averaged 90.81, piled in four maximums and converted 35% of his attempts at double, as Petersen’s World Championship return ended in a narrow defeat.
The pair traded breaks of throw in the opening set, before Webster dispatched a tidy 80 checkout to hold. He then fired in a 15-darter via D10 to claim the opening set, before producing an impressive second set display.
Petersen hit the front via D16, but ‘The Demolition Man’ took out 70 to square the set, before piling in his second maximum and pegging D5 to seize the advantage. Petersen continued to battle, but Webster produced a moment of magic to double his cushion- conjuring up a majestic 160 checkout.
Nevertheless, the South African battled back in a topsy-turvy third set. He drew first blood via D8 before following up his second maximum with tops, but Webster responded; taking out 80 to stay alive, before forcing a set decider after ‘The African Warrior’ made a complete hash of a seemingly regulation 48 checkout.
Petersen spurned further opportunities in the following leg but was handed a reprieve on this occasion, halving the deficit via D8 after Webster missed two match darts at tops. This galvanised ‘Dancing Devon’, who then sealed the fourth set to nil; piling in two maximums and capitalising on some error-strewn darts from the 23rd seed.
However, the Norfolk ace managed to avoid being the third seeded casualty of the evening. He posted his third 180 and took out 66 to draw first blood in the fifth, before moving to the cusp of victory with a 14-darter. Webster then registered his fourth maximum, before overcoming some late doubling jitters to wrap up the win via D8.
Antonio Alcinas caused yet another shock at this year’s World Championship by dumping out his Spanish compatriot Cristo Reyes. It was a scrappy affair, but Alcinas capitalised on a poor display from the 26th seed to triumph with an 85.85 average, which sets up a second-round showdown against Adrian Lewis’ conqueror Kevin Munch.
Reyes claimed the opening leg of the contest via D8, but Alcinas levelled via the same target, having fired in a 177 earlier in the leg. Alcinas then found D2 to break having missed the bull for a 161 in the preceding visit, before he sank tops to secure a scrappy opener.
The second set followed a similar pattern. Reyes hit the front by following up his second maximum with a 15-dart hold, but Alcinas produced a stunning sequence of legs to take command; firing in legs of 14, 11 and 13 darts to extend his lead and finish with a second set average of over 105.
‘The Samurai’ clinched his fourth consecutive leg via D8 to seal an early break in the third, but Reyes responded. He sank D2 for an instant break back, before converting a classy 118 kill for an important hold. He then spurned a set dart by busting D4, but held his nerve in a scrappy decider by pinning D8 with his last dart to halve the deficit.
However, the 26th seed was unable to produce the comeback. He dispatched an eye-catching tops-tops 80 finish to draw level in the fourth set, before Alcinas took out 64 to move to the brink of victory. Reyes nailed tops to stay alive and force another set decider, but Alcinas held his nerve to sent yet another seed packing at the Palace!
Photo Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC
2018 PDC WORLD DARTS CHAMPIONSHIP
First Round – Best of five sets
Cristo Reyes 1-3 Toni Alcinas
Kim Huybrechts 0-3 James Richardson
Darren Webster 3-2 Devon Petersen
Peter Wright 3-0 Diogo Portela