European Championship - Night One Round-Up
SIMON WHITLOCK began the defence of his European Championship title with a thrilling 6-4 win over Kim Huybrechts as four-time champion Phil Taylor was also victorious on the opening night of the £200,000 tournament in Germany.
Whitlock had claimed his maiden major title last September when he took victory at the RWE Sporthalle, and having defeated Huybrechts in the semi-finals of that event he overcame the Belgian once again as he sealed a second round spot on Thursday night.
The Australian cruised into a 4-1 lead, but missed four darts at double ten to win a fifth leg as Huybrechts seized the initiative by winning the next three legs to level.
However, the Belgian crucially missed three darts at doubles to take the lead in the ninth, as Whitlock posted a key double nine to move 5-4 up before sealing the victory with a superb 110 checkout.
"It was probably the toughest draw I could have got in the first round because Kim's one of the best players in the world at the moment, and it was a fantastic match," said Whitlock.
"Kim missed his doubles in the ninth leg and gave me my chance, and I took it. I felt as though I had to hit the 110 in that tenth leg and it was massive for me - I'd missed a couple of doubles early on but I made up for it in the leg that mattered!
"To get through a tough match like that will do me the world of good and it gives me loads of confidence going into the rest of the tournament.
"I felt a little bit of pressure coming back as defending champion but I'm feeling pretty comfortable on that stage and can't wait for the second round on Saturday now."
The second round will see Whitlock take on Colin Lloyd, who impressed with a 100 average and three 13-darters as he overcame in-form Peter Wright 6-4, sealing the victory with a 116 finish.
World Champion Phil Taylor, who won this event four times from 2008-2011, opened his bid to reclaim the title with a 6-3 win over Dutch ace Vincent van der Voort.
Taylor took the game's first three legs before van der Voort hit back with a brace, but the number one seed regained his range on doubles to move 5-2 up and, despite his opponent hitting two 180s as he tried to keep the game alive, an 88 finish saw the Stoke star into the last 16.
"I'm pleased to be through because it was a tough test for me," said Taylor. "You're always on edge in the first round because it's a short format and I know what Vincent van do if you give him a chance.
"I started off quite well but it was a little bit scrappy in places. I know I can relax a bit more in the second round because the format's longer, which will suit us all."
Taylor will face Ronny Huybrechts - the older brother of Kim - in the last 16 on Saturday evening, after the Belgian kicked off the tournament with a 6-3 defeat of Stuart Kellett, averaging almost 101 in a fine debut in the event.
Jamie Caven produced the night's most impressive performance with a sensational 6-0 whitewash of Dave Chisnall, hitting two 180s, a 118 finish and averaging over 106 as he stormed into the second round.
Caven, who kick-started his career with a Players Championship double in Wigan in May, now plays James Wade and said: "I'm very pleased and it was probably my best performance on TV.
"I've got a pretty good record against Dave and the pace of the game was perfect for me, and I really enjoy the match. I've practised well and was ready for that, and the important thing was getting to six first, whether that was 6-5 or 6-0!"
Wade, meanwhile, dropped only two legs in a clinical win over fellow left-hander Mark Webster, who stepped in to play in the tournament on Wednesday after Gary Anderson was ruled out through illness but was unable to upset the world number four.
Wade took the game's first three legs without reply, and eventually sealed victory with a 96 finish as he progressed to the last 16.
"I'm really happy to have won but it was a hard game for me," said Wade. "It was tough for Mark to come in at short notice but I had to go up there and do my job, and to get the win was the main thing."
Scotland's Robert Thornton defied the pain of a pulled muscle in his back to see off Brendan Dolan 6-2 as he set up a second round date with Raymond van Barneveld, the number eight seed.
"I pulled a muscle between my shoulder blades but I knew I had a job to do and I went up there and fought hard," said Thornton. "Brendan's a hard player to play against, but he missed a few doubles and I took advantage."
Van Barneveld, meanwhile, marked his return to action with a 6-1 victory over Germany's Tomas Seyler, who was punished for missing a string of doubles against the Dutch star, who has not played competitively since the UK Open having enjoyed a break in Las Vegas.
The first round will conclude on Friday night in Muelheim with the remaining eight matches, including world number two Michael van Gerwen's clash with Belgium's Kurt Van De Rijck.
Two-time World Champion Adrian Lewis faces Austria's Mensur Suljovic, 2012 European Championship finalist Wes Newton meets Jelle Klaasen and Andy Hamilton will take on Terry Jenkins.
Finland's Jani Haavisto opens up against Justin Pipe, German teenager Max Hopp plays Paul Nicholson, Ronnie Baxter faces Mervyn King and Kevin Painter will come up against three-time World Champion John Part.
Full coverage of the tournament is available in the UK through www.LIVEPDC.TV, with ITV4 broadcasting live coverage from the majority of the tournament.
Coverage is also live through RTL7 in the Netherlands, Sport1 in Germany, Fox Sports in Australia and Sky New Zealand.
Thursday July 4
Stuart Kellett 3-6 Ronny Huybrechts
Jamie Caven 6-0 Dave Chisnall
Colin Lloyd 6-4 Peter Wright
Robert Thornton 6-2 Brendan Dolan
Simon Whitlock 6-4 Kim Huybrechts
Phil Taylor 6-3 Vincent van der Voort
Raymond van Barneveld 6-1 Tomas Seyler
James Wade 6-2 Mark Webster
Friday July 5
8pm-12pm Local Time (7pm-11pm UK Time)
Jani Haavisto v Justin Pipe
Max Hopp v Paul Nicholson
Andy Hamilton v Terry Jenkins
Ronnie Baxter v Mervyn King
Wes Newton v Jelle Klaasen
Michael van Gerwen v Kurt Van De Rijck
Adrian Lewis v Mensur Suljovic
Kevin Painter v John Part
All games the best of 11 legs.
Stuart Kellett v Ronny Huybrechts
0-1 - Huybrechts makes a fine start by taking out 24 for a 14-darter.
0-2 - Huybrechts breaks throw by superbly finishing 121 on the bullseye.
1-2 - The high standard continues as Huybrechts opens with a 180, but when he misses three darts at a double, Kellett finishes 64 on double eight to break throw.
1-3 - Kellett misses a dart at double 16 to level with a 110 finish, and the Belgian takes out 66 on double 18 to regain his two-leg lead.
1-4 - Huybrechts lands another maimum and finishes tops to move three legs clear.
2-4 - Kellett hits back by landing double eight.
3-4 - Double 16 sees the UK Masters finalist hit back with a break of throw.
3-5 - Huybrechts lands a 180 but opens the door for his opponent by missing the bull for another 121 finish, but Kellett is also off-target on the middle double to allow the Belgian in to move a leg away from victory.
3-6 - Double eight sees Huybrechts seal his place in the last 16.
Jamie Caven v Dave Chisnall
1-0 - Caven breaks throw immediately with a fine 14-darter, hitting double 18.
2-0 - Chisnall hits a 180 but misses tops for a 105 finish, allowing Caven back in to hit tops for a 13-darter.
3-0 - Caven lands a maximum and breaks again on double top to move three legs up.
4-0 - Caven hits another 180, and posts double 16 for a 13-darter to continue his sensational start - tipping his average to above 115.
5-0 - Chisnall posts his second maximum of the game, but can only watch on as Caven takes out 118 on tops to win a fifth straight leg.
6-0 - Chisnall, needing 124, hits a treble 20 but misses the single 14 to leave the bullseye to keep his hopes alive, and Caven seals a brilliant whitewash win by finishing double eight for a 106.09 average and safe passage into the second round.
Colin Lloyd v Peter Wright
0-1 - Wright makes a strong start by opening with a 13-darter, which he completes on tops.
1-1 - Lloyd lands a 180 as he hits back to level.
2-1 - Tops sees the Essex thrower break to move ahead.
2-2 - Wright hits back by finishing 84 on the bullseye.
3-2 - Lloyd moves back ahead by hitting tops for a 13-darter.
4-2 - Lloyd finishes another 13-dart leg on tops to move two clear.
4-3 - Wright finishes 157 superbly to retain his flawless finishing ratio as he hits back.
5-3 - Lloyd opens with a 171 and also lands a 180 before pinning double seven for another 13-darter to move a leg away from the win.
5-4 - Wright takes out 86 on double 16 to keep his hopes alive.
6-4 - Lloyd seals victory with a superb 116 checkout, finishing on tops.
Robert Thornton v Brendan Dolan
1-0 - Thornton opens well, breaking throw by landing a 180 and double 12.
2-0 - The Scot again hits double 12 at the first time of asking to move two legs up.
3-0 - Thornton takes out 80 on tops to move three legs clear.
4-0 - Thornton lands double nine to win a fourth successive leg - despite being in obvious pain from a pulled muscle in his upper back.
4-1 - Thornton posts a maximum, but misses tops for a 116 finish to allow Dolan back in, following a miss at double 16, to win his first leg.
5-1 - The Scot hits a 180 to leave 100, and takes out the finish to move to the brink of victory.
5-2 - Double 16 from Dolan sees him hit back.
6-2 - Dolan opens with a 180 and is given a chance to continue his fightback when Thornton misses two darts at double ten for the match, but the Northern Irish ace misses double 16 and the former UK Open champion hits double ten to progress.
Simon Whitlock v Kim Huybrechts
0-1 - Huybrechts opens the game by landing double 16.
1-1 - Whitlock misses double 16 for a 152 finish, but Huybrechts is unable to capitalise with two darts at double 12 and the reigning champion hits double eight to level.
2-1 - Whitlock lands scores of 180 and 140 to be first to a finish, initially missing three darts at double nine but being allowed back by a miss at tops from Huybrechts to finish double four.
3-1 - Double ten sees the Australian move two legs clear.
4-1 - Huybrechts misses the bull for a 126 finish and is unable to clean up as Whitlock returns to pin double 18 for a three-leg cushion.
4-2 - Huybrechts lands a 180 and punishes four misses from Whitlock at double ten by stepping in on double eight to hit back.
4-3 - Both players post 180s, but Huybrechts takes a key leg on double eight, with Whitlock waiting on 20.
4-4 - Huybrechts adds his third maximum, and holds his nerve with a third-dart double five to level the contest.
5-4 - Whitlock lands a maximum to leave 147, but misses double 18 for the combination - only for Huybrechts to miss double 12, six and three to allow the reigning champion back in to post double nine for a break of throw to regain the lead.
6-4 - Whitlock takes out 110 on double 18 to seal a great win.
Phil Taylor v Vincent van der Voort
1-0 - Taylor takes the opening leg on double two to make a winning start.
2-0 - van der Voort lands a 180 but misses a dart to level, and Taylor steps in on double eight.
3-0 - van der Voort this time misses double nine, and Taylor again makes him pay, this time by taking out 100 on tops.
3-1 - Taylor this time misses his doubles, and van der Voort takes out 68 on double eight to hit back with his first leg of the game.
3-2 - Taylor misses two darts at tops, and van der Voort punishes him by landing the same bed to reduce the gap to one leg.
4-2 - Taylor regains his range on tops to regain his cushion over the Dutchman.
5-2 - The four-time European Champion takes out 70 in two darts to move a leg away from the win.
5-3 - van der Voort opens with a 180 and 140 and posts double nine to keep the game alive with a 14-darter.
6-3 - van der Voort lands a 180, but Taylor finishes 88 on double seven for the win.
Raymond van Barneveld v Tomas Seyler
1-0 - van Barneveld, making his first competitive appearance since the UK Open last month, takes the opening leg to lead.
1-1 - Seyler is initially off-target with his doubles before levelling the game.
2-1 - van Barneveld posts a 180 and double four to move back ahead.
3-1 - Double four again helps the Dutchman as he breaks throw to lead by two legs.
4-1 - van Barneveld misses double eight for a 136 finish, but has enough cushion to return on double four.
5-1 - The Dutch ace lands a 180, and when Seyler misses double 12 with three darts, he steps in on double eight to move a leg away from the win.
6-1 - van Barneveld seals the win with a 68 finish, as double four once again helps him to progress into the last 16.
James Wade v Mark Webster
1-0 - Wade finishes 80 on tops to make a confident start to the game.
2-0 - Wade scores 140 and 180 before winning the leg on double two.
3-0 - Wade initially misses tops to finish 90, but again has enough cushion to return and hit the winning double at the second time of asking.
3-1 - Webster takes out 32 to pick up his first leg of the game.
4-1 - Wade fires in a 180 and pins tops to regain his cushion with a 13-darter.
4-2 - Webster hits back to reduce the gap on tops.
5-2 - Webster, who hits a 180, misses a dart at the bullseye to finish 85, and Wade returns from a miss at tops to land double ten.
6-2 - Webster lands another maximum, but misses darts at double 16 and eight, and Wade finishes 96 for a 14-darter to seal the triumph.