The First Round

I already had arrived in Blackpool the day before the tournament started and on Saturday morning first had a look around. I never had been in Blackpool before and had to find out how to get to the venue. As it turned out I had decided for exactly the right accommodation - it was not only clean and comfortable, I had only to walk five minutes down the road to the Winter Gardens.

So it was no problem at all to arrive in time and totally relaxed for the start of the tournament in the press room which is quite small and neat and in which mostly to me well-known faces were assembled. Before the tournament started I walked around the venue which is not too big but a little bit confusing.

The tournament started punctually with the match between Terry Jenkins and Andy Smith who are close friends - it was a slightly disappointing match, as Smith never really was in the match, but Jenkins showed a strong performance. As one-sided was the match between Raymond van Barneveld and Mensur Suljovic - Suljovic had no chance at all. But it really was an achievement for him to have qualified for the tournament.

After those two matches the evening got more exiting - both the matches between James Wade and John Part and between Simon Whitlock and Jelle Klaasen were hard fought. In the end in both seeded players won. To me John Part looked much better than in the UK Open where he played rather lacklustre. The first evening soon was over and I was back in my room at a reasonable time.

The Sunday was a rather long day of darts. Strengthened by a good breakfast I returned to the press room in which on this day the air conditioning spread icy polar air. Luckily I had thought to bring a jacket with me.
In the first match poor Mark Webster didn't have many chances, he just managed the walk-on on stage and each step hurt him. Somehow darts and football don't seem to be compatible with one another. Hopefully he'll recover soon! Kevin Painter had his hands full with Jamie Lewis. Those young and upcoming players you can't take easy and Jamie Lewis was a rather successful youth player. For me Kim Huybrechts was disappointing - at the moment he's far from his best. Brendan Dolan v Steve Beaton was a thrilling match which Dolan in the end won with some luck.

During the break I wandered through the corridors of the Empress Ballroom, spied the commentator's cabin and discovered that the press room has a second entrance.

After the break we finally saw an again convincing Gary Anderson. Mervyn King as one heard already knew in the player's room he had a rather bad day and that showed. Nevertheless I had once during the match the impression Anderson was about to collapse, but he hang on. John Part turned up in the press room - Sky Sport uses him as guest commentator during this tournament. Not a bad choice might be that will be a permanent institution as with John Gwynne's retirement after the tournament a position will be vacated.

Before the next match I met an old acquaintance, a fan who had told me the day before he is a huge Nicholson fan, he even tries to look like him. It's a pity not even his support helped Nicholson - he lost to Dave Chisnall and was taking it hard. The fan probably was devastated as well, I never saw him again.

The next match on Sunday was a typical Taylor match and his victim this time was Stuart Kellett. More astonishing was it, that Michael van Gerwen had quite a lot of problems against Colin Lloyd - but Lloyd has a lot of experience with PDC Majors and is totally undaunted. It looked he was rather annoyed after the match as he cannonballed in breath taking speed through the press room where rarely any player turns up. That was the end of a very long day of darts and I went to bed much too late because I was too cheerful to be able to fall asleep immediately and hungry too.

On Monday the last four first round matches were played. It was a really hot day and as all people crowded on the promenade and at the beach I decided to take refuge in the shade of the Stanley Park till it was time for the air conditioning in the press room.
At least I had expected more from Robert Thornton who had played so strong during the last months. But this Monday was just not his day. Usually he seems to be rather cool but this time he was nervous and distracted and was steamrolled by Ian White who was easy going and seemed to enjoy himself. Wes Newton, who lives just around the corner in Fleetwood, played unluckily one of his typical matches. He looked like the winner but shunned the finishing line and this time it was Jamie Caven who took his chance. I really would wish for him he could get rid of the problem.
Adrian Lewis against Ronny Huybrechts was really not a good game but Lewis deserved the win. Really a nightmare was the last match of the evening for Ronnie Baxter, who went down unsung against Andy Hamilton 1:10.
After all the action was over I once again searched for a way outside which is not always easy when security has locked up after the crowd has left. This time I ended in a backyard parking lot I had never seen before. But I managed to find back to the hotel - luckily. The minute I closed the door behind me it started to rain...

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