THE excitement starts at absolute fever pitch and builds up from there.
We can only be talking about the Betfair World Matchplay Darts, which got under way over the weekend at Blackpool’s Winter Gardens.
The wildly enthusiastic fans are, as usual, inspiring the players to give their best and, with eight of the 16 first-round matches now played, there has already been some outstanding action on the first two nights of the nine-day championship
James Wade began his challenge to win a second Betfair World Matchplay title with a clinical win over Richie Burnett on last night, as Steve Beaton, Mark Walsh and Michael van Gerwen all came from behind to clinch their places in the second round. .
2007 champion Wade looked in confident mood as he defeated Welshman Burnett 10-6, finishing ten of 18 attempts at a double during the contest.
Wade led 3-0 and 8-1 before Burnett rallied to threaten a fightback, but the world no.3 proved too deadly on double top as he progressed to a second round clash with Mark Walsh on Wednesday.
Wad said: “Richie’s been playing well recently, so I was nervous going into the game. I know I can improve but it’s great to get through.
Walsh had to show his battling qualities as he fought back from 6-3 and 7-4 down against Colin Osborne before taking a 10-8 win to progress to the second round for the seventh time.
A night of fightbacks also saw Beaton and van Gerwen hit back to set up a second-round clash following their wins over Kevin Painter and Simon Whitlock respectively.
Beaton trailed 2-0 and 3-1 against Painter, but won five successive legs to turn the game in his favour, and even though the no.11 seed fired in a 160 checkout it was not enough to save his hopes.
Van Gerwen knocked out sixth seed Simon Whitlock with a thrilling performance, winning five successive legs to come from 6-5 down to take a 10-6 triumph–hitting finishes of 110, 104 and 99 in that run.
The Dutchman said: “It was a big moment for me. It’s three years since I played her, and it’s a great venue and a great crowd.”
In Saturday night’s opening matches, world champion Adrian Lewis made a flawless start with a whitewash of Robert Thornton, but Terry Jenkins stole the limelight with a thrilling comeback to defeat Kim Huybrechts.
Lewis, who could take over from Phil Taylor as the world no.1 following the tournament, now plays Andy Smith in Wednesday’s second round, and said he was determined to make a statement in his clash with Thornton.
Two-time World Matchplay runner-up Jenkins recovered from 9-5 down to defeat Belgian ace Kim Huybrechts 11-9
Huybrechts had made a superb debut on the Winter Gardens stage by landing a 167 checkout in the opening leg.
Jenkins next plays five-time World Champion Raymond van Barneveld, who continued the form which saw him win the recent European Darts Open as he defeated another World Matchplay debutant, 21-year-old Michael Smith, 10-4.
Defending champion Phil Taylor begins his challenge against Mervyn King tonight, when 2005 champion Colin Lloyd plays ninth seed Mark Webster, last year’s semi-finalist Andy Hamilton takes on World Grand Prix finalist Brendan Dolan and Vincent van der Voort faces debutant Ian White.