Man of the moment Wright celebrates (credit:Lawrence Lustig/PDC)
Peter Wright stretched his unbeaten run in all competitions to 19 games with a 10-5 defeat of Vincent van der Voort in Round One of the 2019 World Matchplay on Monday, while Daryl Gurney, Simon Whitlock and Keegan Brown also prevailed.
Wright, who followed up his German Masters triumph with back-to-back Players Championship titles last week, maintained his red hot run of form as he registered the highest winning average (102) of the opening round in Blackpool.
The number six seed kick-started his charge with a sensational 164 checkout to get off the mark in the third leg as he came from 2-0 down to lead 4-2.
The 2017 Matchplay runner-up remained two in front until the twelfth leg, before breaking throw to go further clear and following up with a 91 checkout to make it 9-5.
Wright then sealed the deal on double ten in the proceeding leg to wrap up an impressive win with six 180s to his name.
“I had to play really well because Vincent was fantastic,” said Wright. “I wanted to smash the highest average.”
“It’s about time I come into this tournament feeling good, I normally come into it feeling tired and its felt like hard work. This time I’m feeling nice and fresh.
“Whoever I play in this tournament will have to play well, otherwise they’re going home.”
Earlier in the night, two-time World Matchplay semi-finalist Whitlock battled his way to a 10-8 success over John Henderson, with the Australian number one now having the chance to avenge his crushing Quarter-Final defeat to Wright 12 months ago.
A 112 checkout from Whitlock moved him into a 5-3 lead, but only for Henderson to burst into life and rattle off the next three legs to go in front for the first time at 6-5.
The pendulum then swung back in Whitlock’s favour as he won four successive legs, the last of which was won with a 124 checkout, to go within a leg of the match.
Henderson rallied with finishes of 97 and 81, but after the Scottish crowd favourite missed four darts to take the match to a tie-break, Whitlock found double eight with his last dart in hand to seal his path through to round two.
“That was a fantastic game,” said Whitlock. “Hendo is the nicest guy on tour but, jeez, can that guy play darts!
“I felt so good in practice and I’ve been pretty good in Blackpool. I feel comfortable on this stage.”
Whitlock has been struggling with tendinitis around his elbow, but revealed: “I’m good now. It’s really affected me in the last few weeks and I’ve been a bit restricted.”
Former Blackpool semi-finalist Gurney landed nine 180s on his way to a 10-7 victory over debutant Ricky Evans.
Missed doubles from the number three seed allowed Evans to keep in touch at 4-3, before Gurney found his range on the outer ring to stretch his advantage to 7-3.
Evans then began to settle onto the famous stage, winning four of the next five legs to go within a leg of the Northern Irishman at 8-7.
With Evans waiting on 24 to level and take the game to a grandstand finale, Gurney showed composure to find double six with his last dart in hand, before sealing the win in the following leg with another third-dart checkout, this time on double two.
“If I had gone off the boil and he was getting six darts at double per leg then I would’ve been panicking, but as it was I always felt quite calm and confident of winning,” said Gurney, who will now face Keegan Brown.
“I’m happy with the win. You’ve got to be in it to win it, and I’m still in it. I’ve got another couple of gears to go through and I’ll need to unlock those if I’m going to win the tournament.
“I know I’m in for a tough game against Keegan, I saw him on the practice board earlier and he was hitting everything, but hopefully I can come out on top and progress to the quarter-final.”
Brown landed four ton-plus checkouts to edge out 14th seed Jonny Clayton 10-8 in a nip and tuck contest.
There was never more than a leg between the pair in the opening 11 legs, before leg 12 saw Clayton fire in a 14-darter to break throw.
However, the Welshman failed to press home the advantage and Brown punished him with a third successful visit to double 16 followed by a magnificent 127 finish on the bullseye, adding to his earlier checkouts of 148 and 134.
At 8-8 Brown struck a pivotal 109 checkout to break throw and go 9-8 in front, before the former World Youth Champion found double top to book his place in the last 16 for the second time in Blackpool.
“It was such an up and down game,” said Brown. “It was anyone’s game but when I went 5-5 at the break, I thought ‘I fancy this’.
“To beat Michael [Van Gerwen] twice this year has given me confidence and I’m playing good.”
Betfred World Matchplay 2019 Results
Monday July 22
Jonny Clayton 8-10 Keegan Brown
Simon Whitlock 10-8 John Henderson
Daryl Gurney 10-7 Ricky Evans
Peter Wright 10-5 Vincent van der Voort