Michael van Gerwen survived a scare from his bitter Dutch rival Jelle Klaasen as he launched his world title defence…
Michael van Gerwen survived a scare from his bitter Dutch rival Jelle Klaasen as he launched his world title defence on opening night at Alexandra Palace on Friday.
The opening day of the William Hill World Championship saw Van Gerwen recover from a set down to prevent an upset from Klaasen – who defeated Northern Ireland’s Kevin Burness in the opening game of the tournament.
Van Gerwen landed pivotal checkouts of 170 and 130 on his way to victory, with the world number one now set to enjoy a nine-day break from the festive feast of darts before returning for round three.
“I think I played a poor game, it wasn’t there tonight,” admitted a fired-up Van Gerwen.
“Me and Jelle had a past so I didn’t want to lose to him.
“I was trying really hard, probably too hard but I’m through and that’s all that matters.
“But even when you’re not playing well you have to hit the big shots at the right time and I managed to do that tonight.”
The opening set saw Van Gerwen surrender a two-leg advantage as Klaasen took out 116 to take a surprise lead.
Klaasen then broke throw in the next set and was throwing to double his lead in sets, only for Van Gerwen to land a 170 checkout to turn the match on its head.
The third set saw Van Gerwen produce a 130 checkout with Klaasen sat on a finish, which set the three-time World Champion up to win four of the last five legs.
Meanwhile, Humphries enjoyed a winning return to the scene of his sensational run to the quarter-finals 12 months ago with a hard-fought 3-1 win over Devon Petersen.
Humphries, who ended Rob Cross’ reign as World Champion at last year’s event, landed four ton-plus finishes including a game-changing 160 checkout in the final set.
A strong showing from South African Petersen saw the pressure piled on Humphries throughout, but the recently-crowned World Youth Champion found a number of last dart in hand finishes to set up a round two meeting with Jermaine Wattimena on Saturday.
“That was a really hard game to win, Devon made life very difficult for me up there,” said a relieved Humphries.
“Devon was outscoring me but my doubles were good, and just like Michael van Gerwen I hit the doubles when I needed them most.
“I’ve got some good memories here from last year and there was a little bit of pressure on me because I don’t want people to think last year was a one-off.
“I didn’t score well tonight but I know that’s a one-off for me and tomorrow we will see a much better performance from myself.”
Day One also saw former World Championship quarter-finalist Kim Huybrechts came through an intense battle with Geert Nentjes, winning 3-2 to set up a second round meeting with Rob Cross on Saturday.
A game which saw six ton-plus checkouts, including a 164 from Huybrechts, saw the Belgian snatch the first set from Nentjes before the Dutch youngster took the next two to lead 2-1.
Huybrechts battled back to take the tie to a fifth set, and the former World Cup finalist held his nerve in the decider to make it through to Round Two.
William Hill World Championship 2019/20 Results
Friday December 13
Jelle Klaasen 3-1 Kevin Burness (First Round)
Kim Huybrechts 3-2 Geert Nentjes (First Round)
Luke Humphries 3-1 Devon Petersen (First Round)
Michael van Gerwen 3-1 Jelle Klaasen (Second Round)