Van den Bergh shines as debutant quartet march on
Dimitri Van den Bergh laid down a marker to his title rivals, while four debutants enjoyed victories on Day Three of the Cazoo World Darts Championship.
Van den Bergh produced the highest average and highest checkout of the tournament so far in a 3-0 whitewash of Lourence Ilagan late on Saturday night at Alexandra Palace.
Former World Matchplay champion Van den Bergh averaged 97.20, dropping just two legs in a comprehensive victory which was sealed with a 164 checkout.
"I feel comfortable playing on the Ally Pally stage, even though I haven't always got the results," said Van den Bergh, who was dumped out in his opening game of last year's event.
"I knew I was playing well but I made the mistake of looking at my set-by-set averages during the game.
"I'm pleased with how I played, but there is so much more to come from me.
"I'm on the up, I'm happy with my new darts. Today is a good start, hopefully the start of something special."
Meanwhile, Jock Rock, Martin Lukeman, Cameron Menzies and Adam Gawlas were victorious in their first matches on the sport's biggest stage.
Rock, one of the title favourites following a sensational 2022, defeated Jose Justicia 3-1 on his highly-anticipated World Championship debut.
The World Youth Champion, who hit a nine-darter at November's Grand Slam of Darts, was pegged back to 1-1 by his Spanish opponent but kept his composure to win the last two sets, pinning a 150 checkout along the way.
"My performance wasn't great, a 93 average is not my game at all," said Rock, who will meet Callan Rydz in round two.
"I said I wasn't going to feel the pressure but I did once I got up there; I think I coped with it okay.
"My confidence is sky-high, I won't complain about the pressure of being one of the favourites because that is a positive.
"I'm eager to perform how I know I can in the next game, I'm confident I can have a good run here."
Another breakout star of 2022, Lukeman enjoyed a stress-free debut as he breezed past Nobuhiro Yamamoto in straight sets.
Lukeman dropped just three legs against Japan's Yamamoto, who went six darts into an unlikely nine-darter in the third set.
"I felt comfortable in the game but he was a bit of a slow player, so it took me a little while to get into it," admitted Lukeman, who will meet Martin Schindler in round two.
"I won and that's all that matters, I'm looking forward to the Martin Schindler game now.
"It felt brilliant being up there; I thought it was going to be the same as other TV events I've played in but this is completely different.
"Now I've played one game up there I feel adjusted to my surroundings ahead of the next one."
Doubling accuracy proved pivotal for Menzies in his 3-1 win over Brazil's Diogo Portela, while Czech youngster Gawlas came from behind to claim a hard-fought 3-2 win over former Lakeside Champion Richie Burnett.
Ryan Meikle ran out a 3-2 winner against Lisa Ashton, but had to fend off a remarkable comeback attempt from the four-time BDO Women's Champion.
Both players were finding the doubles with ease as Meikle raced into a two-set lead, before a 117 checkout from Ashton sparked a run which saw her win six legs from eight to force a deciding set.
However, set five proved to be one-way traffic as Meikle took it 3-0 to earn the right to take on five-time World Champion Raymond van Barneveld in the second round.
Reflecting on the result, Meikle said: "I felt like I was cruising but when Lisa came back at me I was in a bit of trouble.
"I was under big pressure from the crowd as well but I held it together and I'm very pleased to have come through.
"I've won a game now and that was a big aim for me. Barney will be heavy favourite but if I relax and play like I can, I fancy it - I want to be back here after Christmas."
Daryl Gurney became the first seeded player to bow out of the tournament, going down 3-0 to Alan Soutar who once again impressed on the Ally Pally stage.
Soutar won the deciding leg of each set, winning it in style with a 160 checkout to again progress past the Christmas break having enjoyed a run to the last 16 of last year's event.
The popular Scot, who will work for the fire service over the Christmas break, could now face UK Open champion Danny Noppert in round three.
"I'm absolutely buzzing, Daryl is a tough player but he missed loads of chances and let me in," Soutar reflected.
"He's a seed for a reason, he's 24th in the world, he's a lot better player than me but today is my day.
"I feel like I'm playing the darts of my life recently and I'm getting used to playing on the big stage now."
Simon Whitlock kicked off his 20th World Championship campaign by surviving a huge scare from Christian Perez.
Former World Championship runner-up Whitlock eventually ran out a 3-2 winner after Perez spurned crucial doubles in the deciding set.
With the final set tied at 1-1, Perez missed nine darts at double as Whitlock won a 30-dart leg before following it up with a 13-dart break of throw to get over the winning line and set up a second round meeting with Jose de Sousa.
"That was a real battle, Christian played really well and it could've gone either way," Whitlock conceded.
"I think I stayed calm, used my experience and just got lucky really. I came through it okay but I will have to be much better against Jose, he's an amazing player and I know it's going to be a really tough game."
Sunday will see another double session take place, with two-time World Champion Adrian Lewis' meeting with Damon Heta headlining the afternoon action.
Two-time World Championship semi-finalist Nathan Aspinall will begin his campaign against Boris Krcmar in the evening session.
Statistics - First Round
Statistics - Second Round
Statistics - First Round
Statistics - Second Round