Michael van Gerwen dug deep to hold off Krzysztof Ratajski in a deciding leg epic and launch his World Grand…
Michael van Gerwen dug deep to hold off Krzysztof Ratajski in a deciding leg epic and launch his World Grand Prix title defence on opening night in Coventry.
The world number one produced the performance of the night at the Ricoh Arena as he fended off a gallant fightback from the Polish sensation.
Van Gerwen flew out of the blocks, averaging over 109 in wrapping up the first set in consecutive legs, but Ratajski typically showed resilience to take the match to a third set decider.
Ratajski crucially missed three doubles to go within a leg of victory and Van Gerwen stepped in with what turned out to be a pivotal 103 checkout.
The following two legs went with throw to take the match to a sudden-death leg which Van Gerwen dominated before ending a thrilling contest with an 84 checkout.
“It was really tough, you have to do something special against Krzysztof. He’s a silent assassin,” said Van Gerwen.
“It’s always going to be hard in the first round of a World Grand Prix with the short format.
“The third set I felt was slipping out of my hands and I thought ‘this cannot happen’.
“I produced the 103 finish when I really needed it and that gives me huge confidence.
“The pressure is on my shoulders even more at the moment because I haven’t showed my ‘A game’ in the last few months, so I’m proud of myself for how I played today.”
Van Gerwen will take on Devon Petersen in round two after the South African star defeated Jose De Sousa in straight sets in a thrilling encounter between the two tournament debutants.
In-form Petersen, who claimed his first PDC ranking title at the German Championship last weekend, landed a 100 checkout on his way to taking the opening set.
Free-scoring De Sousa hit an incredible eight 180s in the match, but the Portuguese number one missed a dart at double top for a 139 checkout which would have forced a deciding set, allowing Petersen to step in to win it in style, pinning the bullseye to land a 93 checkout.
“My smile couldn’t be wider! I’ve been working hard since winning in Germany, and I felt like I was going to boss the game but Jose is an amazing player,” reflected Petersen.
“I felt like I had to hang in there, and I capitalised on his mistakes.
“This win is just the start for me in this tournament. Now I’ve got this game out of the way I can show what I can do over the longer-format matches.”
Gary Anderson began his quest for a first Boylesports World Grand Prix title with a comfortable 2-0 defeat of fifth seed Rob Cross in what was billed as the tie of the opening round.
Anderson, the 2016 runner-up, took control of the contest in the opening leg, with an off-form Cross unable to trouble the Scot, who is seeking to win one of the only TV titles to have evaded him.
“The first set was absolutely fantastic. The darts felt like they were going great,” Anderson explained.
“I’ve not spent a lot of time on the practice board since the Premier League so I’m pleased with how this went.
“It’s a tournament I would love to win before I retire, but we’ll see how we go. I just want to keep playing well and enjoy throwing again.”
Anderson will now take on Danny Noppert in the Last 16 after the Dutchman recovered from a set down to edge a see-saw battle with Ryan Searle 2-1.
Dimitri Van den Bergh produced an assured display as he dumped out fourth seed Michael Smith in a battle of former World Youth Champions.
Belgian sensation Van den Bergh, who won the World Matchplay in July, crowned an impressive performance with a 132 checkout to prevent a deciding set.
The 26-year-old will take on debutant Dirk van Duijvenbode who came through a scrap with a below-par Mensur Suljovic, defeating the three-time semi-finalist 2-1.
Mervyn King won in straight-sets against two-time World Grand Prix champion James Wade, leaving Van Gerwen and Daryl Gurney as the only former champions in the field.
King, a runner-up in 2012, continued his recent resurgence with superior accuracy to his opponent on both starting and finishing doubles to advance to the last 16 where he will take on Chris Dobey or Simon Whitlock.
“It was our 50th meeting and it was 24 wins each with one draw, so I’m ahead now,” said King.
“I got off very well and scored okay. I grew up playing double-start darts so it’s a format I’m comfortable with. I’m not here to make the numbers up, I’m here to win the tournament.
“I’m not the most consistent player in the world, but we’re all capable of throwing a bad day and at the moment they’re going really nicely.”
Round One concludes on Wednesday with nine matches set to be played, providing Simon Whitlock and Jeffrey de Zwaan return negative test for Covid-19.
Due to Adrian Lewis and Stephen Bunting testing positive for Covid-19, seven matches were played on Tuesday, with nine to be played on Wednesday.
BoyleSports World Grand Prix 2020 Results
Tuesday October 6
Danny Noppert 2-1 Ryan Searle
Dirk van Duijvenbode 2-1 Mensur Suljovic
Devon Petersen 2-0 Jose De Sousa
Mervyn King 2-0 James Wade
Gary Anderson 2-0 Rob Cross
Michael van Gerwen 2-1 Krzysztof Ratajski
Dimitri Van den Bergh 2-0 Michael Smith