Lisa Ashton’s bid for a fifth world title was curtailed in the opening session of this year’s BDO World Darts Championship as she was beaten in straight sets by highly-rated Japanese star Mikuru Suzuki, whilst last year’s finalist Mark McGeeney safely progressed through to round-two on Saturday afternoon at Frimley Green.
Four-time women’s world champion Lisa Ashton crashed out of the tournament on the opening afternoon after losing 2-0 to highly-rated Japanese star Mikuru Suzuki. ‘The Miracle’ has enjoyed stunning success on home soil, winning 18 consecutive stage events in an unbeaten run stretching back 12 months, and she showed her class on debut.
‘The Lancashire Rose’ has won four of the last five Lakeside titles and she impressed on her PDC World Championship debut last month, averaging 107 in the opening set of her clash against Jan Dekker. Nevertheless, Ashton was punished for a profligate display on Saturday afternoon, missing 19 of her 23 attempts at a double and averaging just 75.81.
Suzuki capitalised on some errant doubling from Ashton to win a scrappy opening set in a fifth and final leg, but the quality improved in set two. Suzuki forced another deciding leg with a 16-dart hold on tops, but Ashton opened up with a maximum to leave tops after 12 darts.
The two-time World Masters quarter-finalist responded by also leaving tops after 12 darts to heap the pressure on ‘The Lancashire Rose’, who squandered three darts at double to level the contest. Suzuki missed her first two darts at tops, but regained her composure to seal victory with a 15-dart break on D10, to prevail with a 79.83 average.
Elsewhere, number one seed Mark McGeeney secured his place in round-two with a convincing 3-1 win over Derk Telnekes in the tournament’s curtain-raiser. ‘The Gladiator’ was beaten in last year’s final by Glen Durrant after squandering match darts, but he kicked off his 2019 campaign with an 87.73 average and four maximums.
Telnekes opened up proceedings with a majestic 145 checkout, but McGeeney rallied to draw first blood. However, the Dutchman responded by taking out a delightful 119 finish in set two en route to restoring parity at one set apiece. Despite this, McGeeney upped the ante in the final two sets to seal his progression to the last 16.
Nigel Heydon recovered from two sets down to dump out Jim Widmayer in the preliminary round to set up a first-round showdown against eighth seed Richard Veenstra. Widmayer started strongly, but ‘The Undertaker’ dug deep to triumph on his Lakeside debut with an 88.60 average and three maximums.
‘Captain America’ edged a hard-fought opening set, before winning set two without reply to double his lead. However, Heydon- who competed in the PDC World Championship back in 2011 and 2012- produced a remarkable comeback; reeling off nine consecutive legs to prevail, taking out checkouts of 120 and 116 in the process.
In the final game of the afternoon session, Conan Whitehead edged out former Welsh captain and 16-time Lakeside competitor Martin Phillips in a dramatic five-set tiebreak. ‘The Barbarian’ averaged 83.34 and posted two maximums to set up a second-round clash against last year’s finalist McGeeney.
Whitehead clinched the opening set with relative ease, before Phillips levelled up proceedings at one apiece via D5. The Welshman then moved 2-1 ahead after Whitehead spurned one dart at D12 to regain the initiative, but the Englishman responded to force a fifth and final set.
The opening two legs of the decider were shared, before Phillips converted a fine 100 checkout on D19 to edge ahead. However, Whitehead held his nerve to force a tie-break and he dispatched a clinical 120 checkout en route to sealing the deal with a 16-dart leg in the eighth leg of the set.
Photo Credit: Chris Sargeant/BDO Darts