PRICE POWERS THROUGH, AS LEUNG STUNS VAN VEEN
Gerwyn Price produced a merciless display to open his Paddy Power World Darts Championship campaign with victory on Monday, as Man Lok Leung caused the upset of the tournament so far at Alexandra Palace.
Day Four of the sport's flagship event saw 2021 champion Price enter the fray in the capital, and the Welshman underlined his title credentials with a dominant straight-sets win over Connor Scutt.
The 38-year-old swept aside the debutant in quick-fire fashion, averaging 98 and crashing in five 180s to send out a warning to his title rivals.
Price - one of seven World Champions in this year's field - wrapped up the opening set with a ton-plus average, and he extended his winning run to six straight legs to continue the procession.
Scutt opened his account with a 121 finish on tops to kick off set three, before Price survived a late scare, responding to five missed match darts by conjuring up a classy 12-darter to seal his progress.
"It was a decent performance, but there's plenty more in the tank," claimed Price, the number five seed this year.
"The first round is always tough. You don't want to be going home before Christmas, so I'm glad I've won this game, and hopefully I will come back a little bit better and more refreshed.
"I know my game is in a good place. I'm playing well, so fingers crossed I can go all the way."
Monday's action also saw Leung produce a sensational display on his World Championship debut, as the Hong Kong newcomer recovered from 2-0 down in sets to dump out the highly-fancied Gian van Veen.
Leung delivered one of the best performances by an International Qualifier on the Ally Pally stage, averaging 96.26 and crashing in an incredible 11 maximums to deny a shell-shocked Van Veen.
The Dutchman edged a high-quality opening set, before doubling his lead in a remarkable second stanza, which saw the Asian Tour qualifier squander 12 darts across three legs to level the tie.
However, Leung maintained his relentless barrage of treble hitting to force his way back into the contest, winning six of the next eight legs to send the match into a fifth and decisive set.
The 24-year-old continued to outscore the European Championship semi-finalist in the closing stages, reeling off legs of 17, 13 and 16 darts to set up a clash against last year's semi-finalist Gabriel Clemens.
"I am so happy, because I never thought I could win this match," admitted Leung - a winner of three PDC Asian Tour titles in 2023.
"I have never played in the World Championship before, so I wanted to enjoy it on the stage and show everyone what I can do.
"I have played against Gabriel in the World Cup. I know he's a great player, but I have nothing to lose."
Thibault Tricole also created history a memorable night of action, becoming the first French player to compete at the World Championship, and marking his debut with a 3-1 win over Mario Vandenbogaerde.
Despite squandering two darts to win an edgy opening set, Tricole responded superbly to make his mark on the sport's biggest stage, landing three 180s and pinning 46% of his attempts at double to triumph.
"I am so proud to be here," reflected Tricole, who will meet 2018 World Champion Rob Cross in round two on Thursday December 21.
"Mario is a good friend of mine on the circuit. He didn't play his best game, but I took advantage of his mistakes, and I am very happy to win.
"There was a lot of media attention before this game, so winning my first game - I think this will be a good moment for the sport in France."
Elsewhere, Martin Lukeman moved through to a second round tie against Damon Heta, courtesy of a hard-fought 3-1 against New Zealand's Haupai Puha.
Lukeman converted 114 and 110 combinations on his way to establishing a two-set lead, before defying a mid-game rally from Puha to return to winning ways on the big stage.
"I'm a fighter, that's what I do," declared Lukeman, who is relishing his clash against Australia's number one on Thursday.
"This is the one that everyone wants. You work all year to get here, and every player wants to compete at the World Championship.
"Damon is an absolute gentleman. He's a great guy and we always have a battle. I'm looking forward to it."
The Paddy Power World Darts Championship continues on Tuesday, as three-time World Champion Michael van Gerwen headlines a star-studded double session.
Four-time semi-finalist James Wade will take on Canada's number one Matt Campbell, while Steve Beaton begins his record-extending 33rd World Championship campaign against Dutch debutant Wessel Nijman.
Mikuru Suzuki - the sole female representative left standing at Alexandra Palace - also makes her World Championship return with a tie against Germany's Ricardo Pietreczko.
Statistics - First Round
Statistics - Second Round