Michael van Gerwen, Gary Anderson and Peter Wright all crashed out on a dramatic opening day of the Ladbrokes UK Open, while former champions Adrian Lewis and Raymond van Barneveld also bowed out as the 159-player tournament kicked off with a bang at Butlin’s Minehead Resort on Friday.
Van Gerwen suffered another shock early UK Open exit at the hands of Mervyn King, while reigning champion Anderson was beaten by Steve Beaton on his return from a back injury.
Elsewhere, 2017 champion Peter Wright was beaten by World Matchplay finalist Mensur Suljovic, less than 24 hours after his defeat to ‘The Gentle’ on Night Four of the Premier League in Exeter.
Van Gerwen, who was beaten by Jeffrey de Zwaan at the same stage of last year’s event, produced a stunning 170 checkout in the opening leg of the contest, but 2014 semi-finalist King won seven of the next eight legs to establish a commanding 7-2 cushion.
‘The Green Machine’ reeled off three consecutive legs to reduce the arrears to 7-5, but King conjured up a sensational 141 finish to move to the brink of victory at 9-5. Van Gerwen responded by converting a 108 kill to prolong the contest, but it wasn’t enough.
King pinned double six to wrap up his first victory over MvG since the 2014 Masters to condemn Van Gerwen to his second defeat in as many days, following his Premier League defeat to James Wade on Thursday.
“I fancied this right from the word go and it went my way tonight,” said King, who was labelled a ‘disgrace to darts’ by MvG following a bizarre Pro Tour clash a fortnight ago.“My performance wasn’t fantastic, I didn’t play to the best of my ability by a long stretch but I just played better than Michael and took my chances.
“The 141 was a pivotal moment – it stopped him in his tracks. If I play at my best I believe there isn’t a player here who can beat me, but there are so many players here capable of wiping you off the board if you’re not at your best.”
However, less than an hour after Van Gerwen’s shock exit, defending champion Anderson was beaten by the veteran Beaton, who is competing in his 17th consecutive UK Open.
‘The Flying Scotsman’ was making his first competitive appearance of 2019 and kicked off proceedings with a maximum, but the opening ten legs of the contest were shared. Beaton produced a stunning 130 finish on the bull to seize the initiative, before following it up with a clinical 100 outshot to lead 8-6.
Anderson fought back valiantly to restore parity at eight apiece, only for Beaton to produce back-to-back 14-dart legs to end the Scot’s hopes of a second UK Open crown in as many years.
“My game is always in there, it just depends which Steve turns up on the day,” said Beaton.“I didn’t like the draw when it came out, but you’ve got to take every game as it comes and when it got to 5-5 I thought ‘just go for it now’ – I think it was an entertaining game for everyone.“
It was an action-packed day with 127 matches taking place on eight separate boards across the opening two sessions. Three-time BDO world champion Glen Durrant, 2012 UK Open champion Robert Thornton and 2011 finalist Wes Newton were among those to bow out in the opening three rounds, before the top 32 entered the fray.
However, Van Gerwen and Anderson weren’t the only high-profile names to exit the tournament in round-four. 2017 champion Peter Wright became the third player out of the world’s top four to suffer defeat, despite posting a 106 average against his fellow Premier League star Suljovic.
Two-time world champion Adrian Lewis was edged out in a last-leg decider by Jamie Lewis, with the Welshman conjuring up an inspired 161 checkout in the decider to dump out 2014 winner ‘Jackpot’.
Elsewhere, two-time UK Open winner Raymond van Barneveld was beaten 10-7 by Simon Stevenson in his final appearance in ‘The FA Cup of Darts’. The five-time world champion trailed 8-3 and wasn’t able to overturn the deficit as ‘The Mirror Man’ secured one of the biggest wins of his career.
Nine-time major winner James Wade is the only previous winner of the tournament left in this year’s competition, after he demolished former BDO number one James Wilson 10-1 with a 100.5 average.
The Premier League trio of Rob Cross, Daryl Gurney and Michael Smith recorded comprehensive wins over Darren Webster, Reece Robinson and John Henderson respectively, while Grand Slam champion Gerwyn Price defeated Joe Cullen 10-6 in the evening’s curtain-raiser.
‘The Iceman’ will face Jamie Hughes in round-five, after the Tipton ace produced a number of eye-catching displays to record four victories on day one. Hughes averaged 107.70 to defeat Diogo Portela, before posting another ton-topping average en route to claiming the scalp of Ian White.
Simon Whitlock thrashed Jan Dekker 10-3 to book his spot in round-five, while Dave Chisnall reeled off five consecutive legs from 8-5 down to defeat Luke Humphries, who impressed as the latest Premier League contender in Exeter.
The tournament continues on Saturday with the fifth round in the afternoon session, followed by the sixth round in the evening, after which just eight players will remain to compete in Sunday’s final day.
The Main Stage action on Saturday afternoon features a clash between King and Cross, while Smith takes on Gurney in an all-Premier League tussle. Meanwhile, Wade meets German number one Max Hopp and Suljovic faces Van den Bergh in a repeat of the 2018 German Darts Masters final.
Photo Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC
Saturday March 2
Afternoon Session (1230 GMT start)
James Wade v Max Hopp
Michael Smith v Daryl Gurney
Mensur Suljovic v Dimitri Van den Bergh
Mervyn King v Rob Cross
Madars Razma v Nathan Aspinall
Simon Whitlock v Gabriel Clemens
Jamie Lewis v Josh Payne
Jamie Hughes v Gerwyn Price
Steve Beaton v Keegan Brown
Krzysztof Ratajski v Jonny Clayton
Simon Stevenson v Kim Huybrechts
Jermaine Wattimena v Luke Woodhouse
Mickey Mansell v Steve Lennon
Dave Chisnall v Martin Schindler
Ross Smith v Steve West
Richard North v Cristo Reyes