Michael van Gerwen gained a degree of revenge on Peter Wright with a 7-5 victory on the opening night of…
Michael van Gerwen gained a degree of revenge on Peter Wright with a 7-5 victory on the opening night of the 2020 Premier League in Aberdeen, while Nathan Aspinall and Glen Durrant enjoyed debut wins.
Wright had defeated Van Gerwen in the World Championship final on New Year’s Day to secure a fairy-tale triumph, but the world number one asserted his authority with victory in a high quality contest at the P&J Live.
The new Unibet Premier League campaign got off to a fascinating start in front of a 7,000-strong crowd in the Granite City, with Van Gerwen averaging 104 with four ton-plus finishes to his name in a stunning display.
Wright, who continued his winning run by claiming The Masters title last weekend, got off to perfect start with finishes of 120 and 80 to take a 2-0 lead, but Van Gerwen replied with checkouts of 120 and 106 on the way to leading 3-2.
Wright levelled up at 4-4 before Van Gerwen crashed in a majestic 144 checkout, but only for the Scot to reply with a crushing 157 finish in the following leg.
Van Gerwen, however, landed double nine to regain the upper-hand before sealing all two points with a 106 checkout ending the match with seven doubles from nine attempts.
“I think it went well tonight, I can’t complain with how I played,” said Van Gerwen.
“I’m going through a tough time at the moment with getting used to my new darts.
“I can do whatever I want in practice with any darts but it’s different when you’re on the big stage.
“But the decision to change is something I needed to do for the long-term benefit of my career.
“Of course I felt under pressure tonight not being World Champion, but I’ve put a lot of work in and I think I can build from here.”
Two-time Premier League champion Gary Anderson was the only Scottish winner in Aberdeen as he made a successful return to Premier League action, recovering from 5-4 down to defeat Daryl Gurney 7-5.
Starring in his first Premier League match in almost two years after a back injury ruled him out of the 2019 campaign, Anderson looked to be heading for defeat after Gurney broke throw to move 5-4 up in a tight contest.
However, two-time Premier League champion Anderson found his best form as he fired in legs of 13, 12 and 12 darts to delight a partisan Scottish crowd.
“Tonight felt like the first time I ever played in front of a big crowd, I’m still shaking,” Anderson admitted.
“I was struggling against Daryl, I can never get a rhythm against him, but I changed it up and thankfully it worked.
“I’m giving myself three months to get my game back, it feels like I’m learning the game again but I’m getting there.
“The crowd tonight was incredible, it’s a real pleasure to play in amazing venues like this in front of your home crowd. I’m going to enjoy tonight.”
It was a perfect start to life as full-time Premier League players for Aspinall and Durrant, who recorded wins over struggling duo John Henderson and Michael Smith respectively.
Henderson’s highly-anticipated return to Aberdeen was spoiled by Aspinall, who cruised to a 7-3 victory over the out of sorts Scot.
Appearing as the first of nine Challengers following his famous draw with Van Gerwen in 2019, Henderson got off to a slow start and never recovered as Aspinall picked up a win in his first match as a Premier League player.
With Henderson waiting on 96 to go within a leg of Aspinall, the UK Open champion landed a trademark 170 checkout to halt any hopes of a Henderson fightback before seeing the game out.
“It’s a bit of a strange feeling, I’m delighted to win but I’m not happy with how I played,” admitted Aspinall.
“After what we saw in Aberdeen last year I was expecting the worst in terms of my crowd reception but it wasn’t anywhere near as bad as I thought it would be.
“I think they were a bit flat because John didn’t perform tonight, I feel for him because he’s a great guy but I have a job to do.
“I didn’t play well either to be honest, I threw three good darts in the match and they were to take out the 170 which won me the game.
“I think playing The Masters last week was an advantage for me, it meant I got the winning feeling back, whereas John hasn’t played on stage for a couple of months.”
Meanwhile, Durrant missed just two darts at double in a ruthless 7-3 defeat of 2018 Premier League runner-up Smith.
The three-time BDO Champion defied a ten-point deficit in the averages to lead 3-2 and, after Smith missed crucially missed two darts at double in leg seven, Durrant extended his lead to three legs at 5-2.
From there, Durrant never looked back, clinically seeing out the match to taste victory in his first outing as a full-time Premier League player.
“It’s a great start, I beat an amazing player tonight on one of the biggest occasions of my career,” said Durrant.
“Michael makes the game look effortless and I didn’t mean to upset his rhythm with my slower play.
“I was very nervous today, even from early this morning but I had a lovely phone call from my wife before I played and that really helped me.
“Three years ago I was watching the Premier League on a tiny TV at a club in Stockton – people were saying to me ‘you could be playing in this one day Glen’ and now I’m here – it’s an amazing story.
“My only target for this year’s Premier League is not to finish last and make sure I make it past Judgement Night.”
The final match of the night saw Gerwyn Price recover from 4-2 and 6-4 down to salvage a 6-6 draw with Rob Cross.
After taking out 124 to open up a 4-2 lead, Price was pegged back as Cross won four legs in succession to secure a point.
A 130 checkout from world number three Price sparked the Welshman back into life and he backed it up with a 13-dart leg to take a share of the spoils.
The Premier League continues in Nottingham on Thursday February 13 as Fallon Sherrock makes her Premier League debut as a Challenger, while Scotland’s World Cup winners Anderson and Wright go head-to-head.
Premier League Darts 2020 Night One Results
Thursday February 6
Glen Durrant 7-3 Michael Smith
Gary Anderson 7-5 Daryl Gurney
Michael van Gerwen 7-5 Peter Wright
Nathan Aspinall 7-3 John Henderson
Gerwyn Price 6-6 Rob Cross