Gerwyn Price recorded the highest average of the opening round to kick off his European Championship bid in style, while former winners Michael van Gerwen and James Wade also progressed to set up an intriguing second round showdown in Salzburg.
Peter Wright’s shock exit on Thursday evening left the bottom half of the draw wide open, although the big guns delivered on Friday night, with Price averaging 104.53 to complete a 6-2 win over Ritchie Edhouse, who crashed in five maximums in defeat.
“It was a steady performance and I did the right things at the right times,” said Price, a runner-up at the European Championship in 2019. “I wasn’t under much pressure but I was pretty steady today.
“It’s a longer format now and I’ll be more comfortable. I’m playing well and I just need to be on my A-game. I’m happy with the performance and I can build from that – if I want to win this tournament, I have to play a bit better.”
Van Gerwen also sent out a statement to his title rivals with a comprehensive 6-2 victory over Boris Krcmar. The four-time winner flew out of the blocks, firing in legs of 11, 12 and 14 darts to move 3-0 ahead with a remarkable 126 average.
‘Mighty Mike’ wasn’t able to maintain that staggering standard as Krcmar avoided the dreaded whitewash, but the world No 3 capped off an eye-catching performance to prevail with a 100.45 average.
“In the beginning I think I played really well,” Van Gerwen reflected. “I think I controlled the game and my focus was there, my confidence was there and that made me win this game.
“That’s one done and now it’s on to the next one. The format suits my game, from here on I think I can do some more damage. I feel comfortable, my game is starting to get somewhere and I hope I can continue the good form.
“I’m playing James Wade tomorrow. I think I can show some more, my feeling is really nice and we’ll see what is going to happen.”
Wade avoided a major scare in his opener against debutant Adam Smith-Neale, recovering from 4-2 down to triumph with a 92.93 average and three 180’s.
Smith-Neale produced a brace of 88 finishes to move to the brink of victory against ‘The Machine’, who had reeled off three consecutive legs to regain the initiative, but 2018 champion Wade kept his poise in a dramatic deciding-leg, posting a 15-dart break to book his place in round two.
Elsewhere, the in-form duo Ryan Searle and Danny Noppert will meet in the second round after claiming victories over Michael Smith and Krzysztof Ratajski respectively.
World Grand Prix quarter-finalist Searle went some way to avenging his World Matchplay loss to Smith, by overturning a 3-0 deficit to prevail 6-5 with a 101.9 average.
“In that last leg I just wanted to hit the tops and not mess about, and luckily enough it went in,” Searle admitted. “A couple of years ago I may have given up at 3-0, but I dug in.
“When I was 3-0 down I was thinking that if I could get it back to 3-2 at the break I had a chance. I hadn’t travelled this far to give up, and I showed I’m here for the long haul.”
Noppert – a semi-finalist in last week’s double-start event – maintained his fine form by averaging 102.31 in an emphatic 6-2 success against World Matchplay semi-finalist Ratajski.
‘The Polish Eagle’ secured the early initiative after the opening three legs went with throw, only for the Dutchman to reel off five consecutive legs without reply – featuring a sequence of maximums in four successive legs.
Fifth seed Nathan Aspinall produced a spirited display to wrap up a 6-4 victory over Mervyn King, and his reward is a showdown against Damon Heta, who was too strong for Gabriel Clemens in the evening’s finale.
Meanwhile, talented Czech teenager Adam Gawlas is through to the last 16 of a major televised event for the first time in his career, courtesy of a 6-4 win over Joe Murnan, and he will now meet top seed Price for a place in the last eight.
Image Credit: Kais Bodensieck/PDC Europe
2021 Cazoo European Championship
Friday October 15
First Round x8
Adam Gawlas 6-4 Joe Murnan
Danny Noppert 6-2 Krzysztof Ratajski
James Wade 6-5 Adam Smith-Neale
Nathan Aspinall 6-4 Mervyn King
Ryan Searle 6-5 Michael Smith
Michael van Gerwen 6-2 Boris Krcmar
Gerwyn Price 6-2 Ritchie Edhouse
Damon Heta 6-3 Gabriel Clemens
Saturday October 16
Afternoon Session (1345 local time, 1245 BST)
Second Round x4
William Borland v Joe Cullen
Brendan Dolan v Rob Cross
Jose de Sousa v Luke Humphries
Ryan Searle v Danny Noppert
Evening Session (2000 local time, 1900 BST)
Second Round x4
Nathan Aspinall v Damon Heta
Gerwyn Price v Adam Gawlas
Michael van Gerwen v James Wade
Mensur Suljovic v Florian Hempel