Jose De Sousa landed his first televised nine-darter on a blockbuster opening day at the European Championship, as defending champion Rob Cross was dumped out by debutant Martijn Kleermaker in Oberhausen.
The Portuguese ace confirmed his spot in the European Championship with with a maiden European Tour victory a fortnight ago, and he maintained that sparkling form with a comprehensive 6-3 win over Jeffrey de Zwaan on Thursday afternoon.
The highlight of his performance came in leg two, where he followed up successive visits of 180 and 177 by converting a 144 checkout in nerveless fashion, pausing before sizing up his final dart at double to achieve perfection.
“It is amazing to hit my first 9-darter on the television,” said De Sousa. “This feeling is very special but it is more important to win. I am very proud today – this is fantastic for me. I am always trying to improve but I am enjoying my game and I will do everything to get better.
“It is nice for people to say I am one of the best players in the world at the moment but for me it’s not true. I have to keep working hard and keep winning.“
‘The Special One’ will now take on Jonny Clayton for a place in the quarter-finals, after the Welshman survived two match darts against home favourite Max Hopp to prevail in a last-leg thriller. ‘The Maximiser’ took out 170 en route to a 5-3 lead, only for Clayton to reel off the final three legs.
Rob Cross was one of the highest-profile casualties as he succumbed to former BDO star Martijn Kleermaker. The imposing Dutchman produced finishes of 74, 97, 107 and 100 to set up a clash with South African star Devon Petersen, who eased past Andy Hamilton 6-1 in his opener.
Elsewhere, William O’Connor claimed the scalp of top seed Joe Cullen to book a last 16 tussle against Jamie Hughes. O’Connor won five of the last six legs to topple ‘The Rockstar’ 6-3, whilst Hughes edged out Dave Chisnall in a last-leg decider, courtesy of a sublime 11-dart break of throw.
It’s been a tough period for world No 1 Michael van Gerwen of late, but the four-time winner kicked off his bid for a fifth European Championship crown with an emphatic 6-1 success against Darius Labanauskas, averaging over 103 and converting 50% of his attempts at double.
Van Gerwen will now take on Ian White for a place in the last eight, after ‘The Diamond’ accounted for Mervyn King in a hard-fought affair. White’s 6-2 triumph didn’t tell the entire story, as he conjured up sensational 164 and 143 finishes to equal his best performance at this event.
Two of the world’s top three will collide in a mouthwatering second round affair, as Gerwyn Price and Peter Wright prepare to do battle. Second seed Price – the winner of this year’s Belgian Darts Championship – produced a clinical display to cruise past former Premier League star Kim Huybrechts.
‘The Iceman’ kicked off his bid for a second consecutive televised title with a 103.68 average and 85% on the doubles, whilst world champion Wright posted a 104.73 average to dump out Gabriel Clemens, coming from 2-1 down to end any hopes of a home victory in Oberhausen.
Recent World Grand Prix finalist Dirk van Duijvenbode maintained his impressive big-stage form with a 6-0 whitewash of Danny Noppert, and now plays Michael Smith after the world No 4 came from 3-0 down to defeat Ross Smith 6-5.
Nine-time major winner and 2018 champion James Wade survived a scare to defeat Steve Lennon in a hard-fought contest and his reward is a showdown with Premier League finalist Nathan Aspinall, who overcame Maik Kuivenhoven 6-3 despite delivering a below-par display.
Elsewhere, 2016 finalist Mensur Suljovic battled past a struggling Daryl Gurney to set up a meeting with Steve West in the last 16, after the Englishman fired in a 13-darter to send Krzysztof Ratajski packing, with ‘The Polish Eagle’ missing eight darts to break throughout the contest.
2020 Unibet European Championship
König Pilsener Arena, Oberhausen
Thursday October 29
16x First Round
Jamie Hughes 6-5 Dave Chisnall
Steve West 6-5 Krzysztof Ratajski
Ian White 6-2 Mervyn King
Jose De Sousa 6-3 Jeffrey de Zwaan – Jose De Sousa hits nine-dart finish
James Wade 6-5 Steve Lennon
Devon Petersen 6-1 Andy Hamilton
Michael Smith 6-5 Ross Smith
Dirk van Duijvenbode 6-0 Danny Noppert
Nathan Aspinall 6-3 Maik Kuivenhoven
William O’Connor 6-3 Joe Cullen
Martijn Kleermaker 6-3 Rob Cross
Jonny Clayton 6-5 Max Hopp
Michael van Gerwen 6-1 Darius Labanauskas
Gerwyn Price 6-1 Kim Huybrechts
Peter Wright 6-3 Gabriel Clemens
Mensur Suljovic 6-2 Daryl Gurney
Friday October 30
Afternoon Session (1300 CET)
4x Second Round
William O’Connor v Jamie Hughes
Devon Petersen v Martijn Kleermaker
Jose De Sousa v Jonny Clayton
Nathan Aspinall v James Wade
Evening Session (2000 CET)
4x Second Round
Michael Smith v Dirk van Duijvenbode
Gerwyn Price v Peter Wright
Michael van Gerwen v Ian White
Mensur Suljovic v Steve West