The 23rd Betvictor World Matchplay Darts tournament got under way at a jam-packed Winter Gardens in Blackpool with three thrilling sessions over the weekend – and one huge upset .
James Wade was knocked out in the first round for the first time last night as clinical Mervyn King claimed a stunning 10-5 success.
The 2007 winner had never failed to reach at least the quarter-finals in 10 previous Winter Gardens appearances, winning through to six finals in the process.
However, he was left stunned as King, the 2009 semi-finalist, produced a brilliant performance to knock out the world number six.
King said: “My finishing was great but I’ve been playing like that all year and not getting the results, so hopefully now it’s going to start going my way.”
Rampant Michael van Gerwen had begun his defence of the title on Saturday with a ruthless 10-0 whitewash of Jamie Caven on Saturday.
Qualifier Caven missed four darts at a double in leg two but didn’t get another shot at a finish all match as the world number one’s Betvictor odds to keep his crown were cut to 5-4 on.
Van Gerwen added ominously: “I played a fantastic game but I can do better than this and I didn’t feel 100 per cent. That means I’ve got great confidence.”
He next faces Australian Kyle Anderson, who caused an upset in the opening match by knocking out 16th seed Vincent van der Voort 10-4.
Having led 3-0, Anderson saw the Dutchman close the gap to 5-4 before he won five legs in a row for his first-ever Blackpool triumph.
World Grand Prix champion Robert Thornton celebrated his first-ever win at the World Matchplay at the seventh attempt as he overcame debutant Josh Payne 10-7.
The 22-year-old qualifier from Kent had led 5-4 in a nip-and-tuck contest but eighth seed Thornton won the next three and never lost the lead.
Thornton’s second-round opponent will be Dave Chisnall, who also came back from 5-4 down to win 10-7 against Dutch youngster Benito van de Pas.
Ninth seed Chisnall said: “If I start like I did today I can give anyone a game and it should be a cracker against Robert.”
In yesterday’s afternoon session, Gerwyn Price defied three ton-plus checkouts from Kim Huybrechts to edge their clash 10-8. The Welsh ace was a sensation on his World Matchplay debut last year and won another thriller, hitting back from 6-4 down. The Belgian levelled at 8-8 but paid for missed doubles in the final two legs.
Austria’s Mensur Suljovic beat Stephen Bunting, who never led after the first leg despite an average of 102. Suljovic s set to break into the world’s top 16 for the first time.
Two-time finalist Terry Jenkins punished Justin Pipe for 32 missed doubles as he claimed a 10-7 win.
Pipe opened with a 160 checkout and also hit an 11-darter as he took a 6-5 lead.
Stoke’s Ian White landed eight 180s in a fine display to overwhelm debutant Daryl Gurney 10-2.
The Northern Irishman looked to be getting into the game at 3-2 but didn’t win another leg.
In last night’s other matches, none of the other seeds went the way of Wade. Adrian Lewis overcame Mark Webster 10-6, Gary Anderson overwhelmed Alan Norris 10-1 and the final tie of the weekend saw Peter Wright move past Joe Cullen 10.5
The first round concludes this evening, when 15-time winner Phil Taylor will be among the eight players in action from 7pm.
Tonight’s matches: Jelle Klaasen v Steve Beaton, Raymond van Barneveld v Brendan Dolan, Phil Taylor v Robbie Green, Michael Smith v Simon Whitlock