A trio of evenly-matched encounters form Sunday night’s line-up at the World Darts Championship at Alexandra Palace. The First Round…
A trio of evenly-matched encounters form Sunday night’s line-up at the World Darts Championship at Alexandra Palace.
The First Round of the sport’s blue riband event draws to a close before two finely-poised Second Round ties unfold.
Martijn Kleermaker was due to face South Africa’s Cameron Carolissen in Round One, but the Dutchman has been withdrawn from the tournament after testing positive for Covid-19.
Josh Payne – the highest ranked player of the six final round losers at the qualifier – was the first reserve.
Although Payne received a negative Covid test, he has been in close contact with someone in the last 24 hours who has returned a positive test and must therefore self-isolate in accordance with UK government protocols.
With no further opportunity to replace Kleermaker before tonight’s scheduled tie, Carolissen now receives a first round bye, with Sunday’s evening session to feature just three matches.
The final remaining tie of the opening round sees former World Youth Champion Keegan Brown take on Development Tour champion Ryan Meikle.
Brown is making his sixth William Hill World Championship appearance, having reached the Third Round in both 2017/18 and 2019/19.
A medical lab assistant in blood services on the Isle of Wight, Brown has been on the frontline in the fight against Covid this year and will look to produce his brilliant best form on the sport’s biggest stage.
Meikle, 24, secured his second successive World Championship appearance having topped the Development Tour Order of Merit this year with two titles and a further two final appearances to his name.
World number 17 Jonny Clayton aims to progress to the Third Round for only the second time by overcoming popular Scotsman John Henderson.
Clayton was part of the Wales side that claimed World Cup of Darts glory last month alongside Gerwyn Price and has also reached the Semi-Finals of the UK Open and European Championship.
Clayton, who has also landed a nine-darter at the UK Open this year, has won four of his last seven previous meetings with Henderson, though this will be their first show-down on a televised stage.
Henderson battled his way past Finland’s Marko Kantele in a match to forget and is now bidding to reach Round Three for the fourth consecutive year.
The Highlander faced a nervous wait on the final day of the Winter Series to secure the 32nd and final qualification spot via the ProTour Order of Merit.
Number 23 seed Jeffrey de Zwaan is looking to banish the memories of last year’s agonising seven-set defeat to Peter Wright when he starts out against Ryan Searle.
De Zwaan had defeated Dave Chisnall 4-3 with a 106 average in the previous round and narrowly missed out on changing the course of history against eventual champion Snakebite.
Searle embarked on a superb run to the Last 16 on his debut two years ago and lost out his darting hero Gary Anderson in the Last 32 in 2019.
The Somerset star picked up his first Players Championship title at the beginning of the year and edged out American’s Danny Lauby 3-2 in a high quality First Round tie with a 98 average.
The action gets underway from 6pm GMT, with all matches to be contested over the best of five sets, best of five legs per set.
In a change from previous World Darts Championship rules to reduce the possibility of sessions over-running, there will be no tie-break in any match. Should any deciding set reach two-all, the fifth leg would be the final leg.
William Hill World Darts Championship 2020/21 Schedule
Sunday December 20
Cameron Carolissen – Bye (R1)
6.15pm Keegan Brown v Ryan Meikle (R1)
7.15pm Jeffrey de Zwaan v Ryan Searle (R2)
8.15pm Jonny Clayton v John Henderson (R2)