Nathan Aspinall produced a sensational comeback from two sets down to dump out Grand Slam champion Gerwyn Price on another night of drama at the World Darts Championship, as 11th seed Ian White was also beaten by an inspired Devon Petersen on Friday evening.
Peter Wright, Mensur Suljovic, Simon Whitlock and Raymond van Barneveld have all suffered surprise opening round exits over the last week, but Price’s exit sent shockwaves around the Alexandra Palace, after ‘The Iceman’ missed one match dart for a straight sets victory.
The Welshman clinched a hard-fought opening set with a two-dart 97 combination, and he also clinched the second set in a decider, taking out a classy 124 finish en route. However, 27-year-old Aspinall- roared on by the partisan Ally Pally crowd, produced an incredible comeback.
Price missed a dart at the bullseye to complete a straight sets win, and Aspinall converted a nerveless 91 finish to stay alive and reduce the arrears to 2-1. The former World Youth finalist then produced finishes of 92 and 140 en route to winning the fourth set to restore parity at two apiece.
The Grand Slam champion was reeling, while Aspinall was riding the crest of a wave. The Lancashire ace followed up a solid 16-dart hold by pinning D5 with his last dart to complete a 15-dart break and close in on victory. Price had three clear darts to break straight back but he fluffed his lines, which saw Aspinall sink D16 to claim a famous win.
Elsewhere, Devon Petersen also produced an inspired fightback from two sets behind to defeat Ian White in a thriller. ‘The Diamond’ made a blistering start, opening up a 2-0 lead with a 107.50 average and a 66% checkout conversion rate.
Nevertheless, ‘The African Warrior’ responded superbly to clinch a high-quality third set, which saw both players average over 109. White took out a delightful 121 finish to stay in it after Petersen won the opening two legs, but the South African dispatched a 76 kill to halve the deficit inside 12 darts.
White suddenly began to display some vulnerability on the outer ring and Petersen capitalised; clinching the fourth set 3-1. The opening four legs of the decider were shared, before Petersen- who had converted nine of his 12 attempts at double, inexplicably squandered SEVEN darts at double for a break of throw.
White eventually sank D10 to regain the lead, but Petersen responded with a stunning 125 finish. The World Cup of Darts veteran then punished the Stoke star for two missed darts at tops by landing double four to hit the front – and after White missed a dart to stay alive, Petersen sealed the deal on D10 in a victory he describes as ‘career-saving’.
Reigning World Youth champion Dimitri Van den Bergh produced one of the performances of the tournament thus far to defeat 15th seed Jonny Clayton 3-1. ‘The Dream-Maker’ averaged 104.45, crashed in eight maximums and converted 50% of his attempts at double to set up a third-round showdown against Luke Humphries.
Van den Bergh stormed to the opening set without reply, averaging 115 in the process. However, Clayton followed up brilliant 11 and 12-dart legs with a scrappy hold of throw on D8 to restore parity at one set apiece.
Van den Bergh regained the lead with 15 and 13-dart legs in the third, but Clayton took out a classy 116 outshot en route to claiming a 2-0 lead in the fourth set. Despite this, the Belgian rattled off three consecutive legs in 12, 14 and 15 darts to wrap up a superb victory, while also posting his highest ever average at a World Championship.
Elsewhere, former World Youth champion Keegan Brown will face James Wade in round-three, after claiming a scrappy 3-1 victory over former Lakeside champion Jelle Klaasen. Brown defeated ‘The Machine’ in round-one twelve months ago, and the nine-time major winner will be bidding for revenge when they collide on Sunday afternoon.
Klaasen started strongly to claim the opening set, but Brown restored parity by winning the second set without reply; taking out a 108 finish en route. ‘The Needle’ then converted a tidy 111 checkout in set three, which he went on to win 3-1, and he clinched the fourth set by the same margin to prevail with a modest 82.66 average.
Earlier in the afternoon, John Henderson won a five-set thriller against Germany’s Gabriel Clemens, taking out three ton-plus finishes to prevail with 95.17 average, five maximums and a very impressive 61% checkout success rate.
Henderson kicked off proceedings with a clinical 97 kill, before defying an outrageous 125 checkout (Bull, 25, Bull) from Clemens to clinch the opening set with an 88 outshot on the bull. However, ‘Gaga’ took out a sparkling 141 checkout en route to levelling proceedings, before edging a nervy third set to claim a 2-1 lead.
Nevertheless, Henderson took out a stunning 141 checkout of his own to clinch the fourth set in a deciding leg, and ‘The Highlander’ won the final set 3-1, taking out a 120 finish to seal the win and set up a showdown with tenth seed Michael Smith in round-three.
Benito van de Pas survived one match dart to edge past Canada’s Jim Long in a dramatic five-set tiebreak to kick off Friday’s action. ‘Big Ben’ breezed into a two-set lead, but Long won the third set with a classy 96 checkout, before prevailing in a nervy fourth set to force a decider.
The opening four legs were shared which prompted a tiebreak, where the match had to be won by two clear legs. Long appeared poised to close out victory at 3-2 ahead, but he spurned one match dart at tops and Van de Pas completed the turnaround with a majestic 150 checkout.
Elsewhere, Kyle Anderson defeated qualifier Noel Malicdem 3-1 in a high-quality contest. Malicdem lost the opening set despite posting finishes of 122 and 140, but he restored parity after a a tight second set. However, Malicdem spurned four set darts in the third which proved decisive, as ‘The Original’ won the fourth set without reply to triumph.
Finally, Steve West will take on Devon Petersen in round-three, after defeating Richard North 3-1. North averaged 95.96 to West’s 89.49, but the pair’s contrasting fortunes in the finishing department proved decisive. North missed 29 of his 36 attempts at double in a profligate display, as West converted finishes of 164 and 124 en route to victory.
Photo Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC
2018/2019 William Hill World Darts Championship
Schedule of Play
Friday December 21
Afternoon Session (1230)
Benito van de Pas 3-2 Jim Long (R2)
John Henderson 3-2 Gabriel Clemens (R2)
Steve West 3-1 Richard North (R2)
Kyle Anderson 3-1 Noel Malicdem (R2)
Evening Session (1900)
Devon Petersen 3-2 Ian White (R2)
Keegan Brown 3-1 Jelle Klaasen (R2)
Nathan Aspinall 3-2 Gerwyn Price (R2)
Dimitri Van den Bergh 3-1 Jonny Clayton (R2)