Michael van Gerwen continued his stunning start to the new season by defeating his fellow Premier League star Michael Smith 6-3, to clinch glory in the first Coral UK Open qualifier at the Robin Park Tennis Centre in Wigan on Friday evening.
‘The Green Machine’ was in sensational form throughout the afternoon, averaging over 100 in all six of his matches as he claimed the £10,000 winner’s prize- which maintains his unbeaten start to 2018 and confirms his qualification for next month’s UK Open in Minehead.
Smith played his part in a thrilling final, averaging 107.70 to Van Gerwen’s 105.50, although it was the Dutchman who claimed glory. MvG drew first blood in sensational style; taking out 120 with S20, Bull, Bull. Smith replied with a clinical two-dart 81 combination to level, before the Dutchman closed out the third straight hold of throw.
The two-time world champion fired in his second maximum and punished two missed darts at double from Smith to claim a crucial break, before extending his lead to 4-1 with an effortless 80 outshot. ‘Bully-Boy’ conjured up a majestic 10-dart leg to reduce the arrears to 4-2, but Van Gerwen was undeterred.
‘Mighty Mike’ converted an 87 checkout for a 12-dart leg to move to the cusp of victory, and although Smith completed a 14-dart hold via D5, Van Gerwen triumphed in typically emphatic style. The Dutchman left 170 after just nine darts and sealed the win by crashing in the maximum checkout.
Earlier in the day, Van Gerwen kicked off his campaign with an impressive 6-3 win over Ian Moss, averaging 105.30 and crashing in six maximums en route to victory. ‘The Green Machine’ then recorded successive 6-1 victories over William O’Connor and Robert Thornton, averaging 109.90 and 105.30 respectively.
The world number one then produced another ton-plus average to defeat Simon Stevenson 6-3 and book his place in the quarter-finals, where he then dispatched his fellow Premier League star Daryl Gurney 6-1. ‘Super-Chin’ avoided the whitewash, but MvG triumphed with a 103 average and sealed the win with a classy 130 kill.
In the last four, Van Gerwen faced two-time world champion Adrian Lewis, who defeated Dawson Murschell, Josh McCarthy, Robert Rickwood, Steve Beaton and Jose Perales to make a strong start to his 2018 season.
However, Lewis’ win over Perales was marred with controversy. Perales performed superbly to reach the last eight in his first Pro Tour appearance since winning his Tour Card at European Q-School, but ‘Jackpot’ was incensed with the Spaniard and security had to separate the pair after Lewis appeared to push Perales having sealed victory.
Nevertheless, the Stoke-on-Trent star was sent packing in the semi-finals by an imperious Van Gerwen, who averaged 108.50 to prevail 6-3 and continue his magnificent start to the new darting season.
On the other side of the draw, Michael Smith continued from where he left off in Dublin to seal his qualification to next month’s UK Open Finals. ‘Bully-Boy’ reeled off six straight legs to defeat his mentor Gary Anderson less than 24 hours earlier and he maintained that impressive form in Wigan.
Smith began proceedings with a dramatic deciding-leg victory over Kevin Simm, before breezing into the last 32 with an emphatic 6-1 win over John Goldie, averaging 97.80 and converting three ton-plus finishes to prevail.
The St Helen’s star then edged out Geert Nentjes 6-4, before claiming successive 6-3 wins over Martin Schindler and Kyle Anderson to secure his spot in the last four. Smith took on world number two Peter Wright for a place in the final and rose to the challenge, averaging over 100 to defeat ‘Snakebite’ 6-3.
Nevertheless, there were a number of big names who suffered chastening early exits. World champion Rob Cross was beaten 6-2 in his opening match by former World Youth champion Corey Cadby, who was making his debut on the Pro Tour circuit having claimed his PDC Tour Card at Q-School last month.
Elsewhere, five-time world champion Raymond van Barneveld was also beaten at the L128 stage, losing 6-5 to World Masters winner Krzysztof Ratajski, despite RvB averaging over 99. Dave Chisnall, Alan Norris, Benito van de Pas and Stephen Bunting were also dumped out without a win to their name.
Eight-time major winner James Wade was beaten at the last 64 stage by Welshman Robert Owen, whilst Jelle Klaasen, Ian White and the returning Terry Jenkins also suffered third-round defeats.Meanwhile, three-time world champion John Part suffered a galling first-round whitewash against Christian Bunse, averaging just 63 in the process.
The full results from today’s opening UK Open qualifier can be found via the following link: https://www.pdc.tv/node/7671
Photo Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC