World number one Michael van Gerwen fended off an inspired fightback from Kim Huybrechts to make a winning start to his Unibet Masters title defence on Saturday, as Gary Anderson, James Wade and Gerwyn Price also triumphed on an entertaining evening of action in Milton Keynes.
Michael van Gerwen began his assault for a fourth consecutive Unibet Masters by defying a stunning late surge from Kim Huybrechts to prevail 10-6. Van Gerwen led 9-1 and appeared poised to close out a comprehensive win, but ‘The Hurricane’ reeled off five straight legs to threaten an unprecedented comeback.
Despite this, ‘The Green Machine’ maintained his composure to run out a 10-6 winner with a 102.68 average, five maximums and an impressive 63% checkout conversion rate. The opening two legs of the tussle were shared, but then Van Gerwen ran riot.
The world number one fired in 13 and 11-dart legs to move 3-1 ahead, before dispatching an effortless 92 checkout to lead 4-1 at the first interval. The Dutchman then produced 13 and 16-dart legs to stretch his lead to 6-1, before conjuring up a majestic 132 finish on the bullseye to continue the procession.
‘Mighty Mike’ followed up his fourth maximum with a clinical 12-darter to claim his seventh straight leg, before nailing a 13-darter on D14 to move to within a leg of the last eight. Nevertheless, Huybrechts continued to battle valiantly in the face of MvG’s brilliance and fought back tremendously.
He registered his second leg on D10 after Van Gerwen had missed three for the match, which the Belgian followed with a fine 88 outshot on the bull. Huybrechts then landed his fourth maximum and converted a classy 107 finish for his third straight leg, before crashing in a spectacular 11-darter to reduce the arrears to 9-5.
‘The Hurricane’ was throwing some inspired arrows and his purple patch continued, as he powered home a sensational 160 checkout for a 12-dart break, with Van Gerwen sat on a double for victory. Nevertheless, the Belgian’s resistance was finally ended as MvG piled in his fifth maximum, before pegging tops to seal his progression inside 14 darts.
Two-time world champion Gary Anderson breezed into the quarter-finals with an emphatic 10-4 victory over Benito van de Pas. ‘Big Ben’ missed just one dart at double but really struggled in the scoring department, as Anderson ran out a comprehensive winner with a 90.55 average, four maximums and a 37% checkout success rate.
‘The Flying Scotsman’ eased into a 4-0 lead with finishes of 85 and 78 en route, but Van de Pas opened his account with a classy 115 finish culminating on D19. The Dutchman then capitalised on three missed darts at double from Anderson to reduce the deficit to 4-2, but the fourth seed soon regained total control.
Anderson dispatched 68 and 109 finishes in consecutive legs to establish a 6-2 cushion, before stretching his lead with a fine 13-darter. The Scot then won his fourth straight leg with a clinical 68 kill, before pinning D10 to move to the brink of victory at 9-2.
The Scot missed match darts in each of the next two legs as Van de Pas added some respectability to the scoreline with tidy 74 and 67 finishes, but this simply delayed the inevitable. Anderson kicked off the following leg with his fourth maximum and made no mistake on this occasion, sealing his progression with a classy 99 kill on tops.
Elsewhere, James Wade kicked off the new season with a hard-fought 10-8 win over eighth seed Simon Whitlock, to set up a quarter-final clash against Michael van Gerwen. ‘The Wizard’ missed double twelve for a nine-darter in the closing stages, but Wade held his nerve to prevail with a 95.79 average, five 180’s and a 50% checkout conversion rate.
The opening two legs both went with throw, before Whitlock fired in back-to-back 14-darters to establish a 3-1 cushion. Wade responded with a sublime 11-darter to break straight back, but he spurned two darts at double in the following leg, as Whitlock produced a clinical 68 kill for the third straight break of throw.
The pendulum swung once again as ‘The Machine’ reeled off four successive legs in 14, 15, 14 and 18 darts to seize control of the contest, but Whitlock crashed in a majestic 142 finish to stop the rot. However, the next two legs both went with throw, before Wade dispatched an effortless 120 finish to move 8-6 ahead.
The next two legs were shared as the eight-time major winner moved to within one leg of victory, but Whitlock preserved his hopes in sensational fashion; wiring D12 for a 9-darter, which he eventually clinched inside 11 darts. However, Wade remained completely unfazed, rounding-off victory in the next leg with a 14-dart hold on tops.
Finally, last year’s UK Open finalist Gerwyn Price dumped out World Grand Prix champion Daryl Gurney in a battle of the Premier League debutants. Gurney led 6-5 at one stage, but Price won five of the final six legs to triumph with a 98.72 average, eight maximums and a 43% checkout success rate.
Gurney drew first blood with a classy 102 finish, but Price levelled via D10, before breaking throw with a fine 104 outshot. Gurney conjured up another ton-plus checkout to restore parity with a 112 out, but Price then won the next two legs in just 28 darts to lead 4-2. However, ‘Super-Chin’ responded impressively.
The Northern Irishman sandwiched a clinical 94 checkout in between 14 and 15-dart holds, but Price converted an effortless 108 finish on tops to level at five apiece. The pair then traded 14-dart holds of throw, before the Welshman took command of the contest.
‘The Iceman’ followed up another maximum with a superb 12-darter to break, which he consolidated with a solid hold via D10. Gurney fired in a 14-darter to reduce the arrears to 8-7, but Price landed his eighth maximum to move to within a leg of victory, which he duly wrapped up courtesy of a 14-dart leg culminating on tops.
Photo Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC
2018 Unibet Masters
Saturday January 27 (7pm)
First Round x4
Simon Whitlock 8-10 James Wade
Daryl Gurney 7-10 Gerwyn Price
Gary Anderson 10-4 Benito van de Pas
Michael van Gerwen 10-6 Kim Huybrechts
Sunday January 28
Afternoon Session (12.45pm)
Peter Wright v Raymond van Barneveld
Mensur Suljovic v Rob Cross
Gerwyn Price v Gary Anderson
Michael van Gerwen v James Wade
Best of 19 legs
Evening Session (7pm)
Wright/Van Barneveld v Suljovic/Cross
Van Gerwen/Wade v Price/Anderson
Best of 21 legs