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Searle denies Smith in decider as Price, Van Gerwen and Wade kick-start European Championship campaigns

European Darts Championship 2021 Day Two preview and order of play | First Round action continues

Jamie Shaw in European Championship 15 Oct 2021
Aspinall and King go head-to-head (Photo by Lawrence Lustig/PDC)

The First Round action continues at the 2021 European Darts Championship in Salzburg on Friday, with two former champions among the stars starting their campaigns.

The opening night of the £500,000 major saw defending champion Peter Wright crash out at the hands of German debutant Florian Hempel, while former champion Simon Whitlock was also sent packing.

Attention now turns to the top half of the draw bracket – which houses a host of big hitters, including world number one Gerwyn Price.

Price heads to Austria having won both of this season’s European Tour events, while also finishing runner-up in the World Grand Prix last weekend.

The reigning World Champion, who finished runner-up in the 2019 European Championship, starts out against Ritchie Edhouse – who claimed the 32nd and final qualification spot.

Edhouse, the world number 91, is making his debut in this event and has enjoyed a solid season on the ProTour – reaching three Quarter-Finals.

Michael van Gerwen launches his latest quest for a record fifth European Championship title with a clash against Croatia’s Boris Krcmar.

Van Gerwen is level with Phil Taylor on four titles, having gone unbeaten between 2014 and 2017, and is looking to bounce back from a disappointing First Round exit at the World Grand Prix.

Van Gerwen’s most recent televised title came at the Nordic Masters last month, but he has not tasted success in a TV ranking tournament since the Players Championship Finals last November.

Michael van Gerwen launches his campaign (Photo by PDC Europe)

The Dutchman faces a tricky opener against former soft-tip star Krcmar – who has twice reached the Quarter-Finals of Players Championship events this year.

James Wade, European Champion in 2018 and runner-up 12 months ago, looks to maintain his strong recent record in this competition, starting with a tie against newcomer Adam Smith-Neale.

UK Open champion Wade has reached at least the Semi-Final stage in three of his last four European Championship appearances and will look to utilise his vast experience over the only non Tour Card holder in the field.

Former World Masters winner Smith-Neale qualified courtesy of his run to the Last 16 of the Gibraltar Trophy – which included a win over Premier League and World Grand Prix champion Jonny Clayton.

Nathan Aspinall and Mervyn King face off for the third time in televised competition this season, with both having claimed a win apiece so far.

King stormed to a 10-3 success at The Masters before ‘The Asp’ prevailed 10-6 at the World Matchplay in Blackpool.

Another repeat of a First Round meeting at the Matchplay this year sees Michael Smith take on in-form Ryan Searle.

Smith was a 10-7 winner on that occasion and also triumphed when the pair met in the Quarter-Finals of a Players Championship event in March.

Smith was a semi-finalist in this event in 2019, while Searle heads to Salzburg for his debut, having made the Quarter-Finals of the World Grand Prix a week ago.

Danny Noppert aims to continue the form which carried him to the Semi-Finals of the Grand Prix when he faces former European Tour event winner Krzysztof Ratajski.

Noppert’s memorable run in Leicester last week saw him defeat Van Gerwen, Vincent van der Voort and Ian White before losing out to eventual champion Clayton.

Ratajski maintained his record of having reached at least the Quarter-Finals of every televised ranking event this season at the World Grand Prix and will look to kick-start another strong run here.

The opening match of the night sees debutants Adam Gawlas and Joe Murnan battle it out.

Murnan regained his Tour Card at Qualifying School in February and is competing in his first TV major outside of the UK Open for the first time since the 2018 Grand Slam.

Gawlas, one of three 19-year-olds in this year’s line-up, reached the Quarter-Finals of the Hungarian Darts Trophy with wins over Boris Krcmar, Jonny Clayton and Lewis Williams to seal his spot in this event.

Another closely-matched encounter sees former Brisbane Masters winner Damon Heta take on German number one Gabriel Clemens.

Aussie ace Heta reached two major Quarter-Finals at the back end of last season but has suffered First Round exits in three of his last four major tournament appearances.

Clemens has also suffered successive First Round defeats on TV, but like Heta, remains upwardly mobile in the Order of Merit at a career-high ranking of 24.

The action gets under way from 7pm BST, with First Round matches to be contested over the best of 11 legs.

WATCH THE EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIP STREAMED LIVE HERE (18+)

European Darts Championship 2021 Day Two Schedule

All times BST (local time one hour ahead)

Friday October 15

First Round

7.15pm Adam Gawlas v Joe Murnan
7.45pm Krzysztof Ratajski v Danny Noppert
8.15pm James Wade v Adam Smith-Neale
8.45pm Nathan Aspinall v Mervyn King
9.15pm Michael Smith v Ryan Searle
9.45pm Michael van Gerwen v Boris Krcmar
10.15pm Gerwyn Price v Ritchie Edhouse
10.45pm Damon Heta v Gabriel Clemens

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