Michael van Gerwen came agonisingly close to landing a nine-dart finish as he began his Belgian Darts Championship campaign with victory over home favourite Mike De Decker, as fellow Dutchman Danny Noppert produced the performance of the day in Hasselt.
Van Gerwen missed double 12 for a nine-darter in the final leg of his 6-3 success against De Decker – having fired in the 23rd perfect leg of his career on the Pro Tour last weekend. Nevertheless, the world number one still averaged 99.70 and piled in four maximums en route to victory.
Van Gerwen and Michael Smith will collide in Sunday’s last 16, in a preview of their impending Premier League clash in Exeter. Smith registered his first televised nine-darter in Thursday’s Premier League win over Daryl Gurney and he maintained his fine form on Saturday afternoon.
The world number five averaged 103.28 to breeze past host-nation qualifier Ronny Huybrechts in his opener. ‘The Rebel’ drew first blood with a 12-dart break of throw, only for Smith to reel off six consecutive legs to close out an emphatic success.
World champion Peter Wright endured a nightmare evening in Thursday’s Premier League, although the Scot returned to winning ways in Belgium. Despite averaging a modest 91, ‘Snakebite’ recorded a convincing 6-2 win over former PDC World Championship finalist Andy Hamilton.
Wright will take on Noppert for a place in the last eight after ‘Noppie’ produced a blistering performance to defeat his compatriot Jermaine Wattimena. The Dutchman averaged 108.96 and crashed in five maximums to prevail 6-2, despite Wattimena also averaging over a ton.
Elsewhere, Gerwyn Price was a comprehensive 6-1 winner against Wesley Plaisier. The Dutchman conjured up an inspired 154 finish to avoid the whitewash, although having missed opportunities for a 6-0 win, the Welshman made no mistake moments later to seal his progression.
The Grand Slam champion will lock horns with Jamie Hughes in round three, after ‘Yozza’ battled past Dimitri Van den Bergh in the solitary deciding leg clash of the day. Van den Bergh was the final Belgian standing, but Hughes produced a nerveless 14-dart hold to prevail in a tense tussle.
Dirk van Duijvenbode continued his tremendous start to 2020 by dumping out second seed Ian White. The opening seven legs all went with throw before the Dutchman punished missed doubles from ‘The Diamond’ to record his first career victory over the Stoke-on-Trent star.
His reward is a meeting with fellow countryman Jeffrey de Zwaan, who defied a partisan home crowd to see off Kim Huybrechts. ‘The Hurricane’ trailed 5-2 but hammered in four maximums to reduce the arrears to 5-4, only for De Zwaan to keep his cool and triumph with a 93 average.
Mervyn King produced a scintillating display to defeat eighth seed Glen Durrant in a quality contest. ‘The King’ averaged 105.98 and won his six legs in 14, 11, 16, 15, 12 and 13 darts, firing in three maximums and producing a delightful 140 kill to prevail 6-4 against the three-time world champion.
Reigning Gibraltar Darts Trophy winner Krzysztof Ratajski kicked off his campaign with an assured 6-2 victory against Germany’s Gabriel Clemens. The fifth seed averaged 98.30 and converted 60% of his attempts at double to set up a last 16 showdown against world number four Rob Cross.
Cross eased past Brisbane Darts Masters winner Damon Heta, who was punished for a profligate display following his first round heroics. The Australian missed a host of opportunities – particularly in leg two, as ‘Voltage’ averaged 91 en route to a 6-1 rout.
Joe Cullen was the first seeded star to bow out in Belgium, as he succumbed 6-3 to European Tour debutant Martijn Kleermaker. The former BDO star dumped out Stephen Bunting in his opener and he claimed the scalp of last year’s European Darts Matchplay champion to progress to the last 16.
James Wade saw off World Cup finalist Steve Lennon in a topsy-turvy affair to set up a clash with Nathan Aspinall for a place in the quarter-finals. Wade led 2-0 before Lennon recovered to hit the front, only for ‘The Machine’ to win the next four legs to triumph with a solid 97 average.
UK Open champion Aspinall opened up the evening’s action with a 6-3 win over veteran Steve Beaton. The opening six legs were shared but the Premier League debutant reeled off the final three legs without reply, sinking a stunning 167 checkout in the penultimate leg.
Mensur Suljovic fended off a spirited fightback from Ryan Searle in a high-quality affair. Suljovic nailed 109 and 156 combinations to lead 5-1, but Searle – who landed a sparkling 170 finish in leg two, also took out 145 to cut the deficit to 5-4, only for the Austrian to close it out inside 14 darts.
Suljovic will take on Steve West on Sunday afternoon, following his impressive 6-2 victory over Premier League ‘challenger’ Jonny Clayton. The Welshman kicked off proceedings with a 141 checkout and averaged over 104, but West won six of the next seven legs to complete a dominant display.
Photo Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC
Saturday February 29
Afternoon Session (1300 local time, 1200 GMT)
Michael Smith 6-1 Ronny Huybrechts
Martijn Kleermaker 6-3 Joe Cullen
Krzysztof Ratajski 6-2 Gabriel Clemens
Mervyn King 6-4 Glen Durrant
Rob Cross 6-1 Damon Heta
Dirk van Duijvenbode 6-3 Ian White
Danny Noppert 6-2 Jermaine Wattimena
James Wade 6-3 Steve Lennon
Evening Session (1900 local time, 1800 GMT)
Nathan Aspinall 6-3 Steve Beaton
Gerwyn Price 6-1 Wesley Plaisier
Peter Wright 6-2 Andy Hamilton
Michael van Gerwen 6-3 Mike De Decker
Jeffrey de Zwaan 6-4 Kim Huybrechts
Jamie Hughes 6-5 Dimitri Van den Bergh
Mensur Suljovic 6-4 Ryan Searle
Steve West 6-2 Jonny Clayton