Gerwyn Price survived a major scare as he defied a hostile atmosphere at Alexandra Palace to prevail in a thrilling sudden-death leg against Kim Huybrechts in the third round at the World Darts Championship.
The sport’s flagship event resumed after the Christmas break and Price’s gripping 4-3 victory over ‘The Hurricane’ was the headline act, as he continued the defence of his Sid Waddell Trophy.
The world No 1 converted five ton-plus checkouts en route to victory, but despite winning three of his sets without reply, the Welshman was taken the distance by a spirited Huybrechts, who relished the partisan atmosphere in the capital.
Price stormed to the opening set with a ton-plus average, but finishes of 147 and 120 from Huybrechts wrapped up sets two and three respectively, as the Belgian looked to spring a surprise.
‘The Iceman’ was coolness personified as he reeled off six legs without reply to regain the initiative, in a spell which featured brilliant 112, 120 and 130 outshots.
Huybrechts responded by closing out a sixth set decider to prolong the drama, yet he was left to rue a multitude of missed opportunities in the closing stage, squandering eight darts at double across three legs – all on Price’s throw.
Huybrechts posted a brace of 180s and conjured up a classy 114 finish to send the match into sudden-death, but Price maintained his composure magnificently, mopping up a 76 combination on tops to keep his title hopes alive.
It was a compelling contest littered with tungsten testosterone, although tensions threatened to boil over in the latter stages, with referee Kirk Bevins forced to intervene as the pair exchanged words.
“The crowd were tough. Kim was tough. It was tough at the end and we had a little bit of niggle but that is what this game is all about,” Price told Sky Sports post-match.
“He gave a little bit, I gave a little bit. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t be very happy if I lost and neither is he, but that is the way the game goes sometimes.
“A couple of times he walked back and was giving it large as I am going to throw. I did it back to him and I just said to him: ‘That’s 1-1, so if you’re going to do it to me, I’ll do it to you!’
“It was nip and tuck and thankfully that double top went in, because I couldn’t hit a barn door.
“It was one of those games you just had to get through. The crowd was tough and that kept him in the game, because I think I kept him in the game early on anyway.
“I am never out until the last dart goes in and I stuck in there right until the end. I was under a lot of pressure.”
Price will take on Dirk van Duijvenbode in a repeat of last year’s World Grand Prix final for a place in the last eight, after the Dutchman produced a stirring comeback from 3-0 down to stun Ross Smith in Monday’s curtain-raiser.
Elsewhere, Jonny Clayton continued his bid for a fifth major title of 2021 with a comprehensive straight-sets win over Gabriel Clemens.
‘The Ferret’ struggled on the outer ring in the early stages, but he scored magnificently throughout and sealed the deal with a 102.56 average, seven 180s and three ton-plus checkouts.
Clayton will play 2019 finalist Michael Smith in a mouth-watering last 16 tussle, after ‘Bully Boy’ battled past William O’Connor, recovering from a set adrift to record a 4-2 success.
O’Connor punished a sluggish start from Smith to draw first blood, but the St Helen’s star turned on the style to progress, averaging 97, landing ten 180s and producing four 100+ finishes.
Raymond Smith’s impressive run at this year’s tournament continues, as he punished a below-par display from Florian Hempel to complete a resounding 4-1 win.
The German was unable to replicate the performance that saw him dump out Dimitri Van den Bergh in round two, and ‘The Guru’ averaged 94.79 and converted 39% of his attempts at double to seal his progression.
In other news, Vincent van der Voort was forced to withdraw from the competition after returning a positive test for Covid-19 earlier in the day.
Van der Voort was due to take on world No 4 James Wade for a place in the last 16, but ‘The Machine’ received a bye through to the next round, where he will meet either Joe Cullen or Martijn Kleermaker.
Image Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC
2021/22 William Hill World Darts Championship
Schedule of Play
Monday December 27
Afternoon Session (1230 GMT)
3x Third Round
Dirk Van Duijvenbode 4-3 Ross Smith
Michael Smith 4-2 William O’Connor
Raymond Smith 4-1 Florian Hempel
Evening Session (1900 GMT)
3x Third Round
James Wade bye Vincent Van der Voort
Gerwyn Price 4-3 Kim Huybrechts
Jonny Clayton 4-0 Gabriel Clemens