Mensur Suljovic became the latest big name to crash out of the William Hill World Darts Championship after losing 3-1 to debutant Ryan Searle, whilst two-time world champion Adrian Lewis eased through to round-three on a dramatic Thursday night at the Alexandra Palace.
Peter Wright, Raymond van Barneveld and Simon Whitlock have all exited the tournament over recent days, and seventh seed Suljovic was added to the list of high-profile casualties as his poor World Championship record continues.
‘The Gentle’ made a blistering start to the contest but was punished for uncharacteristic profligacy in the finishing department, as he converted just six of his 25 attempts at double. Searle made a sluggish start but grew into the tussle; averaging 90.33 to secure the biggest win of his career thus far.
Suljovic kicked off proceedings by landing four maximums in his first five scoring visits, as he clinched the opening set with a 102 average. Nevertheless, his level dropped considerably after the interval and Searle kicked off set two with a delightful 120 finish, before rattling in a clinical 65 kill to restore parity at one set apiece.
The world number seven responded by crashing in his eighth maximum and closing out a 14-dart break to draw first blood in set three, but Searle produced a nerveless 82 combination, followed by 16 and 17-dart legs to establish a 2-1 cushion.
The Austrian’s inconsistency was epitomised by the fact it took him 13 legs to register his first 140 of the match, despite having posted nine maximums. Suljovic endured more double-trouble in the fourth set and although he sank D8 at the sixth attempt to stay alive, Searle followed up a 14-darter with a sublime 118 checkout to claim a famous win.
However, Adrian Lewis made an impressive start to his campaign with a straight sets victory over Ted Evetts. ‘Super Ted’ performed far better than the scoreline indicates, but Lewis’ timing was impeccable, as the two-time world champion triumphed with a 97.20 average, six maximums and a 50% checkout success rate.
‘Jackpot’ clinched a tight opening set with a 14-dart break in the decider and he repeated the feat in set two; firing in a 13-darter in the fifth leg of that set. Evetts posted six 180’s and kicked off set three with a classy tops-tops 100 finish, but Lewis converted an effortless 80 kill to break throw, before sealing victory with a sublime 11-darter.
Earlier in the day, Alan Norris edged out Steve Lennon in a thrilling sudden-death leg to set up a tussle against Ryan Joyce in round-three. Norris has failed to register back-to-back victories in a ranking event since April, but ‘Chuck’ averaged 92.23 and crashed in ten maximums to tear up the form book and defeat the Irishman in an Ally Pally classic.
Lennon claimed a hard-fought opening set, but Norris levelled up proceedings in impressive fashion; averaging 109.98 in a high-quality second. Lennon regained the initiative with a clinical 62 kill in a nervy conclusion to set three, but the former Lakeside finalist responded once more to force a fifth and decisive set.
Lennon took out clinical 64 and 107 combinations to hold throw and Norris responded in kind. However, the Carlow ace spurned two match darts in a dramatic eighth leg, before Norris prevailed in a thrilling decider. Lennon won the bull, but the 25th seed crashed in his tenth maximum and converted a classy 81 kill to complete a superb 12-dart clincher.
Elsewhere, Luke Humphries produced a fine display to defeat former Lakeside champion Stephen Bunting and move through to round-three. ‘Cool Hand’ made a blistering start to the contest, before surviving a valiant fightback from Bunting to prevail with a 95.56 average, seven maximums and a 40% checkout success rate.
Humphries won a tight opening set with a majestic 142 finish, before taking out a sparkling 136 checkout en route to doubling his lead. Bunting capitalised on finishing-line nerves from the 23-year-old to halve the deficit, but ‘The Bullet’ spurned five darts to force a fifth set and Humphries took out 92 and 88 in consecutive legs to triumph.
Mervyn King survived a late fightback from Jan Dekker to book his place in round-three, having missed six darts for a 3-1 victory. King outplayed the Dutchman in every department, averaging 97.76 to Dekker’s 87.56, but ‘The King’ was almost punished for his profligacy in the latter stages of the contest.
King claimed a topsy-turvy opening set which saw all five legs go against throw; taking out 140 and 76 finishes in the process, after Dekker had converted a 127 on the bull. The 52-year-old then cruised to the second set without reply, but the Dutchman responded.
With King poised on tops to seal a 3-0 victory, Dekker converted a clinical two-dart 100 combination to reduce the arrears to 2-1, before surviving six match darts in an incredible sequence of play to force a deciding set. Nevertheless, King eventually held his nerve, recovering from busting a 74 finish to seal his progression on tops.
Chris Dobey stormed into the third-round with a straight sets rout over the legendary Steve Beaton on Thursday afternoon. ‘Hollywood’ dropped just two legs in thrashing Boris Koltsov in round-one and history repeated itself against ‘The Bronzed Adonis’.
Beaton fought back from 2-0 down in the opening set to force a deciding leg, but Dobey clinched it with a clinical 88 kill on the bull, with Beaton sat on tops. This proved decisive, as Dobey reeled off the final two sets without reply, following up 11 and 14-dart legs in the third with a classy 100 checkout to seal the deal.
Cristo Reyes converted four ton-plus finishes as he fought back from two sets down to defeat Rowby-John Rodriguez in a dramatic affair. The pair endured contrasting fortunes in the finishing department which proved decisive- Reyes boasted an impressive 50% checkout success rate, whilst the Austrian missed 25 of his 33 darts at a double.
Rodriguez won the opening two sets in deciding legs, but Reyes won the third without reply to halve the deficit. The Austrian then dispatched a clinical 115 kill to move within a leg of victory but Reyes capitalised on Rodriguez’ finishing-line fever to force a deciding set, where he followed up finishes of 108 and 104 by pinning D10 to progress.
Finally, Jermaine Wattimena eased past Michael Barnard to set up a third-round showdown against two-time world champion Gary Anderson. The Dutchman endured double-trouble early in the contest, but he outscored Barnard throughout to complete an emphatic straight sets victory.
The Dutchman won a scrappy opener in a deciding leg, before Barnard kicked off the second with a fine 120 finish. However, ‘The Dinosaur’ didn’t have another dart at double for the remainder of the contest, with Wattimena rattling off the final six legs without reply- including a fine 130 finish on the bull in the penultimate leg of the contest.
Photo Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC
2018/2019 William Hill World Darts Championship
Schedule of Play
Thursday December 20
Afternoon Session (1230)
Jermaine Wattimena 3-0 Michael Barnard (R2)
Alan Norris 3-2 Steve Lennon (R2)
Luke Humphries 3-1 Stephen Bunting (R2)
Chris Dobey (R2) 3-0 Steve Beaton
Evening Session (1900)
Cristo Reyes 3-2 Rowby-John Rodriguez (R2)
Mervyn King 3-2 Jan Dekker (R2)
Adrian Lewis 3-0 Ted Evetts (R2)
Ryan Searle 3-1 Mensur Suljovic (R2)