Rob Cross began life as world champion with an impressive 10-3 win over Ian White in the first-round of the Unibet Masters on Friday, as Peter Wright, Raymond van Barneveld and Mensur Suljovic all tasted victory on the opening night in Milton Keynes.
However, the main story saw Cross mark his first match since becoming world champion with an emphatic 10-3 win over Ian White. ‘Voltage’ averaged 102.08, piled in seven maximums and converted 56% of his attempts at double as he eased through to the quarter-finals at the expense of an under-par ‘Diamond’.
The former electrician continued from where he left off at the Alexandra Palace, firing in a 167 outshot en route to establishing an early 3-0 lead. White opened his account with a majestic 136 finish, but Cross responded by landing a brace of maximums in the fifth leg, where he took out a classy 105 finish to round-off a 12-dart hold.
Cross continued the procession with his fourth 180 and a 15-darter, but ‘The Diamond’ followed up three consecutive 140’s with a clinical 81 kill to reduce the deficit to 5-2. ‘Voltage’ piled in yet another 12-darter to lead 7-2, only for White to dispatch a vital 91 finish to close the gap to four legs.
Nevertheless, the Stoke star was unable to make further inroads after the interval. Cross followed up brilliant visits of 180 and 174 by taking out 90 for a 12-dart hold, and he won the next two legs with relative ease to cap off an impressive Masters debut.
Elsewhere, second seed Peter Wright eased through to the last eight with a convincing 10-5 win over Alan Norris. ‘Snakebite’ wasn’t at his vintage best; averaging 97.76, crashing in six maximums and dispatching 37% of his attempts at double. However, he capitalised on Norris’ miserly 26% checkout success rate to safely seal his passage.
The pair exchanged holds of throw early on in the piece, before finishes of 97 and 80 saw Wright take a 3-1 lead. Norris responded with a 14-dart break back, but spurned two darts at double to level in the sixth, as Wright produced a two-dart 96 combination for a third successive break of throw.
The UK Open champion followed up a sublime 11-darter with successive 15-darters to extend his lead to 7-2, before Norris found D5 to stop the rot. Wright regained his five-leg cushion with an effortless 66 finish, but he then squandered five darts at double moments later, as Norris gratefully pegged D10 to reduce the arrears to 8-4.
The next two legs both went with throw after Wright had missed tops for a 116 checkout which would have sealed victory, but the Scot made no mistake in the following leg. He opened up with his sixth 180 and dispatched D12 to seal his progression inside 14 darts, to set up a tasty quarter-final clash against Raymond van Barneveld.
Van Barneveld fended off an inspired fightback from Dave Chisnall to prevail in a thrilling last-leg decider to kick off the tournament. Chisnall, who trailed 7-3 at one stage, averaged 106.48, landed nine maximums and converted 60% of his attempts at double, but it wasn’t enough to overcome RvB, who triumphed with a 101.09 average.
Barney drew first blood with a brilliant 12-darter, but ‘Chizzy’ drew level after the Dutchman missed three darts at double to break. The next two legs both went with throw, before Van Barneveld followed up his second maximum with a 13-darter to lead 3-2 at the first interval.
Van Barneveld then converted brilliant finishes of 76, 130 and 96 en route to establishing a 7-3 cushion, but the St Helen’s star responded; capitalising on a slump from the Dutchman to register four consecutive legs in 14, 12, 14 and 14 darts to restore parity at seven apiece.
Barney fired in a 177 and dispatched a clinical 64 kill to stop the rot, before Chisnall levelled inside 14 darts. Van Barneveld then moved to the cusp of victory by following his fourth maximum with a 14-darter of his own, but Chisnall continued his prolific scoring by posting an eighth 180 to complete an 11-darter and force a last-leg decider.
However, Van Barneveld had the advantage of throw which ultimately proved pivotal. Chisnall fired in his ninth maximum to leave 88 after just nine darts, but after Barney wired the bull for a spectacular 164 outshot, the St Helen’s star couldn’t register a dart at double and the Dutchman returned to triumph with a 14-darter on D8.
Mensur Suljovic also had to survive a valiant fightback in his first-round clash against Michael Smith. The Austrian stormed into a 5-0 lead and led 8-3 at one stage, only for Smith to reel off five on the spin to level at 8-8. Nevertheless, ‘The Gentle’ held his nerve to triumph with a 99.89 average, five maximums and a 43% checkout success rate.
Suljovic made a blistering start to the contest, following up checkouts of 61, 70 and 77 with 12 and 14-dart legs to establish a commanding 5-0 cushion. Smith opened his account after piling in his second maximum, before Suljovic regained his five-leg buffer with a 116 finish.
Smith responded with an eye-catching 130 kill on the bull, but the next three legs all went with throw as Suljovic extended his advantage to 8-3. However, Smith fired in consecutive 14-darters to reduce the arrears to 8-5, before closing the gap further by pegging D5 with his last dart in hand.
‘The Gentle’ then missed five darts at double for a 9-6 lead and ‘Bully-Boy pounced; dispatching brilliant 110 and 80 combination finishes in successive legs to level up at eight apiece. However, the former World-Youth champion was unable to complete the comeback.
The Champions League of Darts winner produced his second 116 checkout of the contest to move to within a leg of victory, before pegging tops to seal a 10-8 victory in 14 darts to set up a quarter-final showdown against world champion Rob Cross.
Photo Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC
2018 Unibet Masters
Friday January 26 (7pm)
First Round x4
Dave Chisnall 9-10 Raymond van Barneveld
Mensur Suljovic 10-8 Michael Smith
Rob Cross 10-3 Ian White
Peter Wright 10-5 Alan Norris
Saturday January 27 (7pm)
First Round x4
Simon Whitlock v James Wade
Daryl Gurney v Gerwyn Price
Gary Anderson v Benito van de Pas
Michael van Gerwen v Kim Huybrechts