James Wade safely progressed to the third round of the World Darts Championship on Wednesday night, on a day which also saw Benito van de Pas dump out Gabriel Clemens and Stephen Bunting end his winless run at Alexandra Palace.
It’s been a tournament littered with shock exits up to press – 2018 champion Rob Cross, last year’s finalist Michael Smith, five-time world champion Raymond van Barneveld and ninth seed Ian White among the early casualties, although Wade ensured he wasn’t added to that list.
Following Fallon Sherrock’s historic triumph 24 hours ago, there was a more subdued feel to proceedings at the Palace, although we came agonisingly close to witnessing a nine-dart finish courtesy of impressive debutant Nico Kurz.
The biggest upset of the day saw PDPA qualifier Van de Pas overcome Clemens in round one, to dispel the prospect of a Deutsche Derby between Clemens and Hopp.
Van de Pas has slipped to 59th in the Order of Merit following a barren spell, although he improbably reached the fourth round at last year’s tournament and delivered under pressure once again on darts’ biggest stage to defeat rising star Clemens.
Bunting was another big winner on Wednesday. The former Lakeside world champion has been playing some of the best darts of his PDC career over recent months and he continued his revival against Jose Justicia, breaking his Ally Pally hoodoo in the process.
James Wade 3-0 Ritchie Edhouse
Wade safely progressed to the third round with a convincing straight sets win over Edhouse. Edhouse averaged 93.48 compared to Wade’s 92.43, but ‘The Machine’ was clinical in the finishing department, boasting a 64% checkout success rate which proved decisive.
Wade was extremely strong on his own throw in the opening set, registering 15, 14 and 13 dart holds to draw first blood. The second set was a case of missed opportunities for Edhouse. He wasted one dart at double 16 in leg three, before frittering away multiple opportunities in the fourth.
‘The Machine’ has made a career out of capitalising on his opponent’s errors and he did just that to double his lead and despite a valiant effort from Edhouse in set three, Wade prevailed in another set that went the distance, mopping up a 76 combination on tops to advance to the last 32.
Benito van de Pas 3-2 Gabriel Clemens
Van de Pas survived a match dart as he battled past Clemens in a dramatic last-leg decider to advance to round two, where another German Max Hopp awaits. ‘Big Ben’ has endured a tumultuous 24 months but kept his nerve superbly to record the biggest win of his darting season.
The Dutchman won the opening set despite averaging 12 points less than Clemens, with ‘The German Giant’ plagued by double-trouble. Clemens breezed to set two without reply only for Van de Pas to regain the initiative, wrapping up the third with a tidy 13-darter.
Clemens produced a blistering spell in the fourth, reeling off three legs in 12, 13 and 14 darts with a set average of 113. Nevertheless, the German spurned further opportunities in the decider and missed one match dart at double 16, enabling Van de Pas to triumph with a nerveless 69 kill on tops.
Nico Kurz 3-1 James Wilson
Kurz enjoyed a debut to remember, missing double 12 for a nine-darter en route to a 3-1 success over Wilson. The 22-year-old stormed to the opening five legs with a 102 average and although Wilson opened his account with a 101 finish, he squandered eight darts in the next as Kurz doubled his lead.
Kurz then missed double 12 for the first nine-darter at Ally Pally since 2016 as he kicked off set three with a 10-dart hold, although ironically he lost the next three legs as Wilson reduced the arrears to the solitary set.
Despite this, double-trouble resurfaced for ‘Jammie Dodger’ and the German qualifier capitalised to seal his progress with an impressive 95.67 average, setting up a tussle with 15th seed Joe Cullen in the process.
Josh Payne 3-0 Diogo Portela
Payne produced one of the performances of the opening round to dispatch Brazilian World Cup star Portela in three straight sets. Portela was afforded just three darts at double which illustrated Payne’s dominance, as the 26-year-old prevailed with a 96.49 average and 45% on the doubles.
The Englishman sealed the opening set without reply with Portela’s average languishing in the 70’s. The Brazilian averaged over a ton in set two but Payne edged a set decider with the help of a 130 finish, and an 11-darter in set three inspired the former World Youth finalist to an emphatic victory.
Bunting survived a scare to edge out Justicia in a dramatic fifth set tie-break. ‘The Bullet’ had suffered three consecutive opening round exits at Alexandra Palace, but he fired in ten maximums to register his first World Championship win since 2015.
Justicia defied a 101 average from Bunting to claim the opening set, but the former Lakeside world champion recovered to lead 2-1. However, Justicia responded impressively; converting clinical 74 and 80 combinations to force a fifth and final set.
Bunting missed two consecutive big numbers as Justicia broke throw and closed in on victory, but a skin-saving 84 checkout on the bull from ‘The Bullet’ with the Spaniard sat on tops proved crucial, as he recovered to seal his progression with a two-dart 64 kill.
Harry Ward produced a remarkable comeback to defeat Latvia’s Madars Razma on his World Championship debut, to set up a second round showdown against former finalist Simon Whitlock.
Ward, who won a maiden Players Championship title in May, clinched the opening set to nil before Razma embarked on a sequence of eight successive legs to move to the cusp of victory. Nevertheless, Ward turned the contest completely on its head, winning the final six legs without reply to prevail.
Elsewhere, Seigo Asada became the second Japanese star to progress to round two, producing a clinical display to sweep aside Mickey Mansell. Asada converted nine of his 13 attempts at a double to triumph, dropping just three legs in the process.
Ron Meulenkamp also progressed in serene fashion, defeating New Zealand qualifier Ben Robb in straight sets. Robb converted 112 and 170 checkouts in the opening set but it was to no avail, as ‘Ron The Bomb’ averaged 91.9 and landed four maximums to set up a tussle with 22nd seed Chris Dobey.
Photo Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC
Wednesday December 18
Afternoon Session (1230 GMT)
3x First Round, 1x Second Round
Ron Meulenkamp 3-0 Ben Robb (First Round)
Seigo Asada 3-0 Mickey Mansell (First Round)
Harry Ward 3-2 Madars Razma (First Round)
Stephen Bunting 3-2 Jose Justicia (Second Round)
Evening Session (1900 GMT)
3x First Round, 1x Second Round
Nico Kurz 3-1 James Wilson (First Round)
Josh Payne 3-0 Diogo Portela (First Round)
Benito van de Pas 3-2 Gabriel Clemens (First Round)
James Wade 3-0 Ritchie Edhouse (Second Round)