Peter Wright embraced his inner Grinch as he began the defence of his World Championship crown with victory over Steve West on the opening night of the sport’s showpiece event, as an emotional Diogo Portela defeated record-breaker Steve Beaton on Tuesday night at Alexandra Palace.
The opening night of the World Championship saw almost 1,000 fans in attendance for one night only, before London enters Tier 3 of Covid-19 restrictions on Wednesday, and world champion Wright gave them a night to remember, courtesy of his remarkable attire.
Elsewhere, a visibly emotional Portela punished a below-par display from the veteran Beaton to record a surprise straight sets victory, whilst experience paid dividends for Jeff Smith, who accounted for last year’s BDO World Youth champion Keane Barry in his opener.
Peter Wright 3-1 Steve West
Wright kicked off the defence of his World Championship title with a 3-1 victory over Steve West, who breezed past Indian qualifier Amit Gilitwala in the evening’s curtain-raiser, which set up a clash against Snakebite – their second televised meeting in as many months.
The Scot was determined to entertain the fans inside Alexandra Palace and he duly delivered, sporting a brilliant Grinch themed outfit en route to victory, averaging 93.62 and converting 36% of his attempts at double to book his place in round three.
The world champion underlined his intent with a dominant opening set, landing two maximums in as many legs and reeling off the first in 14, 15 and 15 darts – averaging 102.48 in the process.
He continued the procession to wrap up the second set without reply, despite averaging in the mid 80’s, although West came alive in set three; getting underway with six perfect darts and opening his account with a 13-dart hold on tops.
The Waltham Abbey thrower doubled his tally courtesy of a two-dart 72 combination, only to see Wright produce a majestic 144 finish to save the third set. West wasn’t to be denied however, pegging tops to complete a 67 checkout and reduce the arrears to 2-1.
Wright responded with a classy 101 checkout to hit the front in the fourth, although his advantage was eroded immediately as West broke back in 14 darts. Nevertheless, as West threatened to force a deciding set, the third leg proved to be absolutely pivotal.
West crashed in a sixth 180 to leave 80 after 12 darts, only to squander two darts at double having picked out the treble 20. Wright capitalised with a clinical 71 kill culminating on tops, before sealing his progression via double 10 – the same target he pinned to lift his world title 349 days ago.
Diogo Portela 3-0 Steve Beaton
It was touted as Steve Beaton’s night in the spotlight. ‘The Bronzed Adonis’ created history with a record 30th consecutive World Championship appearance in the capital, yet Diogo Portela stole the show by becoming the first Brazilian to register victory at the PDC World Championship.
The pair were plagued by nerves in a scrappy opening set, although Portela drew first blood courtesy of a clinical 69 checkout. This galvanised ‘The Braziliant’ and he produced an improved showing in set two – following up 16-dart legs by leaving 90 after nine darts en route to doubling his lead.
The 32-year-old was growing in confidence and moved to the cusp of victory with consecutive 15-dart legs, only to miss the bull for a 124 clincher. Beaton kept proceedings alive, although this only delayed the inevitable, as Portela sealed the deal moments later with a classy 85 kill.
Portela broke down in tears as he wrapped up a straight sets triumph – his first win on the World Championship stage at the fourth attempt. His reward is a second round showdown against Premier League champion Glen Durrant, with the pair locking horns tomorrow night.
Jeff Smith 3-1 Keane Barry
Former BDO World Championship finalist Jeff Smith set up a second round clash against 22nd seed Chris Dobey on Wednesday afternoon, after overcoming emerging Irish starlet Keane Barry in an entertaining affair.
It was highlighted by many as potentially the tie of the round, although both men made a tentative start. Barry dominated the scoring stakes in the opening stages, but was punished for his profligacy as ‘The Silencer’ wrapped up the set in three straight legs, having relinquished the first.
The Irishman continued to toil on the outer ring in set two, although he almost levelled up proceedings in show-stopping style, missing double 19 for a spectacular 158 combination. He was suitably punished by the clinical Canadian, who converted a two-dart 80 finish to double his cushion.
The third set was an equally competitive affair, although having lost 3-0 to Vincent van der Voort on his Alexandra Palace bow 12 months ago, Barry claimed his first set at the event. The pair traded four successive holds, before Barry closed out a sublime 14-dart hold in the third set decider.
The 18-year-old was starting to find his range as he followed up visits of 180 and 140 with an accomplished 80 finish to break throw early in set four, although Smith returned the favour, converting an 80 finish in identical fashion in the very next leg.
The pendulum swung once again as Barry pegged double seven for a third straight break, having missed double 14 for a 121 outshot in the preceding visit. However, he was ruthlessly punished for spurning two set darts to force a fifth and final set, as Smith cleaned up to close out victory.
Images: Lawrence Lustig/PDC