VAN VEEN BOOSTS WORLD GRAND PRIX HOPES; PIETRECZKO EXITS IN BUDAPEST
Gian van Veen preserved his hopes of securing BoyleSports World Grand Prix qualification with a 6-2 victory against Brendan Dolan in Friday's Hungarian Darts Trophy first round.
Dutch prospect Van Veen is one of the players bidding to snatch a place in the double-start event following this weekend's PDC European Tour event in Budapest, which is the final tournament before the cut-off for World Grand Prix spots.
Van Veen led 2-0 and 4-1 before Dolan responded with an 11-darter, but Van Veen closed out the tie to set up a mouth-watering second round contest against World Matchplay champion Nathan Aspinall on Saturday.
Van Veen will move into the provisional qualification places with victory over Aspinall, after Ricardo Pietreczko suffered a shock defeat against Host Nation Qualifier Nandor Major.
Pietreczko, who currently occupies the final qualification spot, was beaten 6-4 by debutant Major, who won five of the last six legs to become the first ever Hungarian to win a match on the European Tour.
Luke Woodhouse kept alive his hopes of snatching World Grand Prix qualification on Friday, as he sealed a 6-3 win over Hungary's Gabor Jagicza with a sensational 160 finish, to follow up an earlier 100 checkout to move through to face Rob Cross.
Jermaine Wattimena kicked off Friday's action with a hard-fought win against Joe Murnan, pinning 50 percent of his attempts at double to set up a showdown against eighth seed Jonny Clayton on Saturday evening.
The Dutchman could still secure a World Grand Prix place if he claims the Hungarian Darts Trophy title - having expressed his relief after securing a first European Tour win of 2023 at the sixth time of asking.
Elsewhere, experienced star James Wade set up a tie with reigning Hungarian Darts Trophy champion Joe Cullen, courtesy of a hard-fought 6-3 win over Irish ace William O'Connor at the MVM Dome.
Jose de Sousa will take on World Champion Michael Smith in round two - but only after edging out Daryl Gurney in a decider, having missed nine match darts before finally closing out victory.
Reigning European Champion Ross Smith averaged 100 in an impressive 6-2 win over Welsh qualifier Robert Owen, setting up a clash with Michael van Gerwen on Saturday.
Smith raced through the first five legs without reply, landing a 152 finish in the process, and after Owen posted a 121 combination to pull back a second leg, the Dover ace closed out the win in leg eight.
Keane Barry also kicked off his campaign in style, racing to a 6-3 victory against Gabriel Clemens, despite the German number one crashing in five maximums in a high-scoring affair.
Mike De Decker produced finishes of 144, 122 and 100 as he ousted UK Open champion Andrew Gilding with a 6-4 success to move through to a second round tussle with Josh Rock.
Rock's compatriot Nathan Rafferty earned a clash with Gerwyn Price following a high-quality 6-4 win over Stephen Bunting, with the Northern Irish prospect averaging over 99 in an eye-catching display.
Earlier in the night, Hungary's Patrik Kovacs was punished for five missed match darts as Rowby-John Rodriguez took victory in their clash in a dramatic last-leg shoot-out.
Sweden's Anton Ostlund dispatched Denmark's Vladimir Andersen in a battle of the European Tour debutants, landing five 180s and converting a 145 checkout to see off his Scandinavian counterpart.
Scott Mitchell also celebrated victory on his European Tour bow, producing a 13-dart break in his deciding-leg win against Andy Boulton to create a showdown against top seed Dave Chisnall.
Mitchell was joined in Saturday's second round by another former Lakeside Champion, as Scott Waites defied a late fightback from Madars Razma to secure his first win on the European Tour in 2023.
Scott Williams punished a profligate display from Richard Veenstra to move through to a meeting with fourth seed Dirk van Duijvenbode, winning four of the last five legs to run out a 6-3 winner.
Earlier in the day, Poland's Sebastian Bialecki breezed through to round two with a 6-1 win against Hungarian debutant Mihaly Vida, who raised the roof with a spectacular 161 finish in the penultimate leg.
Saturday's second round sees the 16 seeded stars enter the action for a huge day of darts at the MVM Dome, with Sunday's final stages featuring the third round in the afternoon session and the quarter-finals, semi-finals and final in the decisive evening session.