AUSTRALIA OPEN TITLE DEFENCE WITH VICTORY, AS REUS STARS IN FRANKFURT
Australia's Damon Heta and Simon Whitlock began their defence of the My Diesel Claim World Cup of Darts with a whitewash win over debutants Guyana, as Denmark's Benjamin Reus stole the show on a bumper opening night in Frankfurt.
Heta and Whitlock eased past Norman Madhoo and Sudesh Fitzgerald to storm to the top of Group C, as hosts Germany also made the perfect start to their campaign at the Eissporthalle.
The opening night of the revamped 450,000 pound tournament saw 12 group stage ties take place on Thursday, with Australia's reigning champions amongst the high-profile nations to triumph.
"It wasn't a great performance but we got the job done," said Australia's number one Heta, who warmed up for this event by scooping a Players Championship title on Tuesday.
"We move on to bigger and better things tomorrow night and hopefully we get the job done against Gibraltar.
"We have grown up in Australia playing Pairs, so I think this format suits us. We fancy our chances.
"We won this title last year and it's up to the other players to try and beat us, and that's how we are going to approach it."
Germany also opened their challenge with a whitewash win over Hong Kong, as Gabriel Clemens and Martin Schindler dispatched Man Lok Leung and Lok Yin Lee in four straight legs.
Clemens and Schindler reached the quarter-finals in their first appearance as a partnership 12 months ago, and they averaged 94 to send out a statement in their Group B curtain-raiser.
"I think if we play our game we have a chance, definitely," declared Schindler, who pinned four of his six attempts at double.
"I think we have shown that we are capable of winning this title, but tonight was the first step, and now we have to focus on tomorrow."
Germany's number one Clemens hailed his compatriot's performance, as the sixth seeds prepare to take on 2019 semi-finalists Japan on Friday evening.
"It's a very good start. Martin played amazing darts tonight," added the World Championship semi-finalist.
"We have a lot of confidence. We are a good team and we know that, but tomorrow is a new day."
However, Danish debutant Reus produced the performance of the opening night, boasting an astonishing individual average of 114.7 to stun 2021 runners-up Austria in Group F.
Reus also landed four 180s and conjured up a match-winning 116 finish as he and Vladimir Andersen condemned Mensur Suljovic and Rowby-John Rodriguez to a shock 4-2 defeat.
"I don't know what just happened. I was completely in the zone," reflected Reus, who featured in January's Nordic Darts Masters.
"I was totally relaxed and everything went perfectly tonight. We played two really good PDC players, so we knew we needed to find something extra tonight."
French duo Jacques Labre and Thibault Tricole also enjoyed a dream debut in Frankfurt, courtesy of an emphatic 4-1 rout against Northern Ireland's Brendan Dolan and Daryl Gurney.
Labre and Tricole dominated their more experienced opponents, and a 114 checkout from Tricole capped off a terrific display, as Northern Ireland's miserable recent record at this event continues.
Belgium were the highest seeds in group stage action on Thursday's opening night, and Dimitri Van den Bergh and Kim Huybrechts began their campaign with a 4-0 demolition of Finland.
Van den Bergh fired in a brace of 180s in leg two as Belgium broke throw in 12 darts, and the 2013 runners-up denied Finland a single dart at double to make an assured start to Group A.
Krzysztof Ratajski inspired Poland to a deciding-leg win over Portugal's Jose de Sousa and debutant Luis Ameixa in their Group G opener, in a thrilling contest featuring seven maximums.
Ratajski and Krzysztof Kciuk fired in a superb 11-darter in leg three, and despite Ameixa's heroics in leg six, an animated Ratajski followed up back-to-back 140s with a nerveless 64 kill in the decider.
Elsewhere, Keane Barry impressed on his World Cup bow alongside ever-present William O'Connor, as 2019 finalists Republic of Ireland brushed aside Thailand 4-1 in their Group E opener.
Czech Republic's Karel Sedlacek and Adam Gawlas celebrated their first win as a duo, winning three straight legs to seal a 4-2 win over Singapore's World Cup ever-presents Paul Lim and Harith Lim.
Three-time quarter-finalists Canada won through a hard-fought Group H clash against India, with North American champion Jeff Smith and Canadian number one Matt Campbell battling their way to a precious two points.
Devon Petersen made a winning World Cup return alongside Vernon Bouwers, as the South African pair defeated 14th seeds Spain 4-2, despite missing eight darts for a whitewash win.
Madars Razma and Dmitriy Zhukov guided Latvia to an impressive comeback win over New Zealand, reeling off four straight legs - including 15 and 13-dart holds - to take control of Group K.
Meanwhile, Michele Turetta and Massimo Dante led Italy to a landmark first win on the World Cup stage in the evening's opener, after they fended off a late fightback from Switzerland to claim a 4-3 success.
The losing nations from Thursday's matches will play the third team from each group in Friday's afternoon session, as Northern Ireland and Austria battle to preserve their qualification hopes.
The decisive final group games will then be played on Friday evening, which will be followed by the draw for the last 16, when England, Wales, Netherlands and Scotland enter the fray.
Statistics, First Round
|88.65||2||4/13||Czech Republic ||4:2||Singapore||85.16||0||2/5|
|82.69||2||2/7||Spain ||2:4||South Africa||84.69||1||4/12|
|84.31||2||4/8||Republic of Ireland ||4:1||Thailand||76.17||1||1/9|
|81.83||1||1/5||Northern Ireland ||1:4||France||83.09||1||4/19|
|87.82||2||4/9||Latvia ||4:2||New Zealand||83.13||1||2/7|