VAN GERWEN PROGRESSES ON OPENING NIGHT OF BETVICTOR WORLD MATCHPLAY
Michael van Gerwen kicked off the BetVictor World Matchplay with a hard-fought 10-7 win over Steve Beaton in Blackpool on Saturday night, as Ian White, Simon Whitlock and James Wade joined him in enjoying first round victories.
World Champion van Gerwen, the pre-tournament favourite with sponsors BetVictor, opened up his challenge to win the prestigious World Matchplay title for the first time by seeing off Beaton in a see-saw contest.
After Beaton hit back from 2-0 down to level, van Gerwen took leads of 5-2, 7-4 and 8-5 - taking out checkouts of 134 and 102 - before the former World Champion hit back to within a leg as the Dutchman struggled with his doubles.
Finishes of double 18 and double ten gave van Gerwen the next two legs as he sealed the win, but after missing 24 darts at a double in the game the world number one insisted he must improve ahead of his second round tie with White.
"I was disappointed with my missed doubles and it was strange for me, but the most important thing was that I won the game," said van Gerwen. "The first game is always the most difficult and I can look forward to the second round now. I'm not really happy with performance but it was an okay game and I know there's a lot of progression left for me. I want to up my game because winning this is a big target of mine this year."
Stoke ace White, the number 16 seed, was the night's most impressive winner as he averaged over 100 throughout his high-quality 10-4 win over Terry Jenkins.
White kicked off the game with a 180 in an 11-dart leg and also took out 160 as he took control before ending the contest by hitting ten doubles from 14 attempts.
"I'm very happy with that," said White. "It turned out to be a cracking game, we both hit plenty of 180s and big scores and I want to take that into the second round now. I felt quite confident coming here and I've kept up my run of not losing in the first round in Blackpool. I've moved my the form which I've shown for a while in the floor tournaments onto the big stage now, and it's going well for me at the moment."
2007 World Matchplay champion James Wade cruised through to the second round with a 10-5 win over Andy Smith, who hit back from 6-1 down to pull back to 7-5 before the five-time finalist regained his range to seal victory.
"I was very nervous and I probably didn't know what to expect, but I played really well in the first three or four legs and probably lulled myself into a false sense of security," admitted Wade, who now faces either Brendan Dolan or Richie Burnett.
"I thought it was going to be a close game but that I'd play better than I did. I came out well and whacked him into a corner but I let him get back into the game. Andy missed a lot of doubles and I don't think the scoreline reflected the game in the end, but if I can play how I'm feeling and how I'm thinking then I can mix it with anyone."
Australian ace Simon Whitlock, the number four seed, progressed to the last 16 in another topsy-turvey encounter, as he overcame Kevin Painter 10-6 with a trio of ton-plus finishes.
After the Australian took out 104 in moving 3-0 up, Painter took the next four to move ahead.
Whitlock finished 154 to level, and after Painter edged in front again at 5-4, the former European Champion powered through to claim the win by winning six of the next seven legs.
"It felt like a much closer game than 10-6 but I'm delighted with that win," said Whitlock. "I did well in the latter part of the game and when Kevin missed a few doubles I was able to punish him. It's another boost to my confidence and my form is great at the moment. I feel amazing and it will take a very good performance to beat me this week."
|98.85||4||10/34 ||v:Gerwen ||10:6|| Beaton||92.77||3||7/18|
|93.01||3||10/23 ||Wade ||10:5|| A.Smith||89.67||0||5/16|