2018 finalist Wright celebrates (credit:Lawrence Lustig/PDC)
Michael van Gerwen and Peter Wright each recorded back-to-back wins at the Champions League of Darts on Saturday to confirm their place in the Semi-Finals, as Gary Anderson and Rob Cross crashed out.
The opening day of the eight-man invitational played host to the opening two sets of fixtures in both groups at the Morningside Arena in Leicester, with four players now facing straight shoot-outs on Sunday to seal their progression.
Van Gerwen, who is yet to get his hands on this trophy, started the day with a 10-8 victory over James Wade before fending off Michael Smith’s fightback from 5-0 down to eventually close out a 10-6 triumph.
“I’m very pleased,” said Van Gerwen. “It’s always nice to win your first two games and you can see my confidence.
“I’m playing good darts and I want to do well here because I’ve never won this tournament before and that’s my goal this weekend.
“I’m through to the semi-finals but I still want to win my last game on Sunday afternoon against Gary. It’s always great playing him and I want to keep this form going into the semi-finals.”
Reigning champion Anderson now cannot qualify for the knock-out phase after he suffered successive defeats in Group A at the hands of Smith and Wade.
Smith came from 3-0 and 5-1 down to defeat the Scot 10-7 in the afternoon session before Wade hit back from 9-7 down to snatch victory in a dramatic deciding leg.
Smith and Wade will now face a straight shoot-out on Sunday afternoon for the right to join MVG in the evening’s Semi-Finals.
“I’m happy because I’ve still got a chance,” said Wade. “In my opinion, Gary’s the best player in the world when he’s on form but I did enough at the right times and did the job.
“I was quite disappointed to lose to Michael but Gary gave me the opportunities and I made the most of it.”
In Group B, Wright secured his qualification with wins over Daryl Gurney and Gerwyn Price.
Wright, last year’s beaten finalist, recovered from a slow start to the day by coming from 3-0 down to defeat Gurney 10-7, pulling away from seven-all to take all two points.
He then saw off Price 10-8 in arguably the match of the day, averaging 103 and landing checkouts of 161 and 125 as he defied finishes of 130 and 109 from the Welshman to book his place in the Last Four.
“It’s really good that I’m through but I still want to finish top of my group and go on to win the title now,” said Wright. “It’s a brilliant tournament and I’d love to win it.
“I’ll be treating the game against Rob like it’s a straight knockout to get myself in the right frame of mind for the semi-finals. I’m not happy with how I’m playing and I know there’s more to come.”
Gurney and Price will now face off on Sunday afternoon for the right to remain in the running for the £100,000 top prize.
Price had defeated Cross 10-5 in the afternoon session, while Gurney’s 10-6 defeat of the world number two means that the 2018 World Champion now cannot reach the semi-finals.
Gurney followed up his evening session win over Cross by shaving his head for the Cystic Fibrosis Care charity, having raised over £12,000 through donations from fellow players and the darting public.
“I can throw the tub of gel in the bin now!” He joked.
Champions League of Darts 2019 Results
Saturday October 19
Daryl Gurney 7-10 Peter Wright (Group B)
Rob Cross 5-10 Gerwyn Price (Group B)
Michael Smith 10-7 Gary Anderson (Group A)
Michael van Gerwen 10-8 James Wade (Group A)
Rob Cross 6-10 Daryl Gurney (Group B)
Peter Wright 10-8 Gerwyn Price (Group B)
Gary Anderson 9-10 James Wade (Group A)
Michael van Gerwen 10-6 Michael Smith (Group A)