Defending champion Anderson safely progressed (credit:Lawrence Lustig/PDC)
Gary Anderson and Gerwyn Price will collide in the Quarter-Finals of the 2019 US Masters after safely coming through their opening matches in Las Vegas on Thursday.
The opening day of the season’s first World Series event saw the PDC stars face off against the North American qualifiers, with all eight seeds safely advancing to the latter stages at the Mandalay Bay Resort.
Anderson and Price have not met on the oche since their explosive Grand Slam final last November which saw the Welshman come out on top to claim his first major title in controversial fashion.
Price was subsequently handed a record total of fines for his conduct during the tournament, while Anderson was given a formal warning, and the pair have avoided each other in competition since.
However, they will renew their fierce rivalry on Friday after Price dispatched veteran Gary Mawson and Anderson saw off the challenge of American debutant Elliot Milk.
Price recovered from a bout of early doubles trouble to close out a 6-4 victory over the former UK Open finalist, while Anderson came from 2-0 down to see off Milk by the same scoreline with a 96.8 average.
“It’s been a while since I played so I’m relieved to get through,” admitted Anderson. “It was a bit nervy and there were some good darts and some terrible darts.
“Gerwyn’s playing well so I need to score better than I did today. I’m a bit rusty but I’ve got to work through it because it’s a big day on Friday.”
Price, who suffered a shock First Round exit in last year’s event, revealed: “I lost here in the first round last year and I really wanted to win here more than ever. I was a bit edgy.
“I’ll just do my own thing like I always do, it’ll be a good game for everyone to watch and I’m sure there will be a lot of people watching.”
Elsewhere, world number six Peter Wright survived a scare as he held firm to edge out North American champion Jeff Smith in a last-leg decider.
Smith fired in finishes of 106 and 126 and failed to miss a dart at a double in the entire contest, but it was the two-time World Series event winner who got over the line thanks to a 67 outshot in the decider.
“I didn’t worry about it, I knew I was going to come back and win,” admitted a relieved Wright. “I’m mentally strong.
“He let me off today by not scoring but I went up there feeling really confident anyway, it didn’t matter who was in front of me.”
Nathan Aspinall marked his World Series debut with a convincing 6-2 win over Canadian qualifier Shawn Brenneman.
The UK Open champion averaged 98 and hit three 180s in an impressive showing, and admitted: “I loved it – I had a few nerves beforehand but once I got on stage I felt at home and it was a steady performance.
“I didn’t know how Shawn would play but I played a solid game and came through.
“I’m loving being here and it’s a dream come true and I don’t want it to end.”
Rob Cross, last year’s beaten finalist, stormed to a 6-0 whitewash of American debutant Leonard Gates with a 101 averaged as he denied his opponent a dart at a double until the final leg.
Cross, who moves through to face Aspinall in a repeat of March’s UK Open final, said: “My finishing early on took the game away from him but he’ll be better for that stage experience.
“I’ve had some time off recently so I wasn’t sure how I was going to play and I was nervous today, but I’ll be better on Friday.”
Daryl Gurney was also ruthless as he dispatched TV debutant Daniel Baggish 6-1 with a 97 average and a high checkout of 116.
Gurney goes through to face world number six Wright in Round Two, and said: “I’m pleased with that.
“People were telling me that I’d drawn the most consistent player from the qualifiers, so I knew he was a good player.
“He was one of the dangers and I wasn’t going to take him lightly. I was lucky in a couple of legs but it was a good win.”
Michael van Gerwen, the 2017 US Masters winner, ensured there would be no fairy-tale scalp for Darin Young as he dispatched the veteran left-hander 6-4.
The world number one raced into a 3-0 lead before Young took out 105 and 76 to get a foothold in the match, and though MVG restored a two-leg cushion, the American hit back to level at four apiece.
Van Gerwen, though, took out 78 to regain control and duly wrapped up the win with a 13-darter on tops.
“His slow play doesn’t really suit me to be fair,” Van Gerwen told Live Darts. “I had chances to make it 4-0 and you can’t justify missing darts.
“Players wherever they’re from always want to do well against you but a win is a win.”
Van Gerwen will now face Michael Smith in a repeat of January’s World Championship final, after ‘Bully Boy’ battled past Canada’s Jim Long 6-4.
Smith landed a pivotal 126 checkout to move 3-2 up as well as a show-piece 131 checkout for a 12-darter to make it 5-3 before eventually sealing the deal.
“To get over the winning line was the main thing and it’s nice to get through,” said Smith. “I knew I had a tough game but the 126 saved me and I kept hold of the lead from there.
“I know my game is there but I’m trying to force it at the moment. Form can change from day to do and tomorrow’s a different day.”
US Darts Masters 2019 Results
Thursday July 4
Gerwyn Price 6-4 Gary Mawson
Nathan Aspinall 6-2 Shawn Brenneman
Daryl Gurney 6-1 Daniel Baggish
Michael Smith 6-4 Jim Long
Rob Cross 6-0 Leonard Gates
Gary Anderson 6-4 Elliot Milk
Peter Wright 6-5 Jeff Smith
Michael van Gerwen 6-4 Darin Young