Van Gerwen and Anderson Crash Out On Day One of Ladbrokes UK Open
MICHAEL VAN GERWEN, Gary Anderson and Peter Wright all crashed out on a dramatic opening day of the Ladbrokes UK Open as the 159-player tournament got underway at Butlin's Minehead Resort on Friday.
Day One of the unique event saw Mervyn King claim a 10-6 victory over two-time winner Van Gerwen, while reigning champion Anderson's return from injury ended in a 10-8 defeat at the hands of UK Open ever-present Steve Beaton.
Van Gerwen, who went out at the first hurdle of last year's event, found himself trailing 7-2 to 2014 semi-finalist King despite opening the game with a 170 checkout, before the world number one battled his way back to within two legs at 7-5.
A sensational 141 checkout from King put him within a leg of victory at 9-5, before a missed match dart for a 127 finish allowed Van Gerwen to take out 108 to keep himself in the contest.
However, the reprieve proved short-lived for Van Gerwen as King wrapped up his first victory over the Dutchman since the 2014 Masters semi-finals to condemn the three-time World Champion to two defeats in as many days, after a Premier League loss to James Wade on Thursday.
"I fancied this right from the word go and it went my way tonight," said King, who made his UK Open debut in 2007.
"My performance wasn't fantastic, I didn't play to the best of my ability by a long stretch but I just played better than Michael and took my chances. The 141 was a pivotal moment - it stopped him in his tracks.
"If I play at my best I believe there isn't a player here who can beat me, but there are so many players here capable of wiping you off the board if you're not at your best."
The Main Stage crowd barely had time to catch their collective breath before the evergreen Beaton ended Anderson's reign as champion in a thrilling contest.
Anderson, who had been sidelined since the World Championship with a back injury, fired in a 180 with his first three darts back on the big stage, but quickly found himself embroiled in a battle with Beaton.
With nothing to separate the pair at 5-5, Beaton took out a 130 finish on the bull to take the advantage, and followed it up with a 100 checkout to go 8-6 in front.
Anderson fought back to level at 8-8, only for Beaton to produce back-to-back 14-dart legs to end Anderson's hopes of a second UK Open crown in as many years.
"My game is always in there, it just depends which Steve turns up on the day," said Beaton, who will celebrate his 55th birthday in April.
"I didn't like the draw when it came out, but you've got to take every game as it comes and when it got to 5-5 I thought 'just go for it now' - I think it was an entertaining game for everyone.
"I play with the attitude that I will win if I produce a high 90s to 100 average but tomorrow's another day and I'll need to be at my best again."
The day began with 159 players all bidding for the boosted £100,000 top prize, with 127 matches taking place on eight boards across two sessions on the first staging of the expanded UK Open.
The festival of darts saw 95 games held in a bumper afternoon session, with three-time Lakeside Champion Glen Durrant, 2012 champion Robert Thornton and 2011 runner-up Wes Newton among the fallers in the opening three rounds.
The world's top 32 entered the hat for the fourth round, before the evening session saw a further 32 ties take place in the event widely dubbed 'The FA Cup of Darts' as former champions Wright, Adrian Lewis and Raymond van Barneveld bowed out at the first hurdle.
Mensur Suljovic came through a high-class contest with Wright which saw both players post ton-plus averages, as the Austrian made it two wins in as many days against the world number three following their Premier League clash on Thursday.
A see-saw battle between Lewis and Jamie Lewis saw the Welshman land a stunning 161 checkout to win a thriller in a deciding leg, while departing Dutchman Van Barneveld bowed out 10-7 at the hands of Simon Stevenson to see his hopes of a third UK Open title ended.
James Wade is now the only previous winner of the tournament left in the competition after he powered past James Wilson 10-1 with a 100.5 average.
Former World Champion Rob Cross overcame Darren Webster 10-4, Daryl Gurney thumped Reece Robinson 10-1 and Michael Smith played through the pain of a groin injury to beat John Henderson 10-5.
2017 finalist Gerwyn Price continued his recent fine form with a 10-6 triumph over Joe Cullen, while Simon Whitlock and Dave Chisnall secured victories over Jan Dekker and Luke Humphries respectively.
Starring in his first UK Open since 2012, Jamie Hughes caught the eye with four victories, averaging 107.7 on the Main Stage in his win over Diogo Portela, which he followed with a 10-5 success over Ian White.
Scott Taylor was the only Rileys Qualifier to make it to the fourth round before going down to an agonising 10-9 loss to Mickey Mansell.
The tournament continues on Saturday with the fifth round in the afternoon session, followed by the sixth round in the evening, after which just eight players will remain to compete in Sunday's final day.