A review of day three of the Betfred World Matchplay, as Gerwyn Price suffered a huge upset against Danny Noppert in Milton Keynes.
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Iceman melts in Milton Keynes
Gerwyn Price crashed out in the first round of the World Matchplay for the fourth year in a row as Danny Noppert claimed a shock 10-7 victory in Milton Keynes.
The change of venue from the Winter Gardens, where he won just three matches in his five previous appearances, to the fan-less Marshall Arena failed to spark a change in his fortunes as he averaged just 90.73 in a surprisingly low-quality contest compared to others on this stage.
The 'supportive' piped-in crowd noises for all players this week were supposed to be a refreshing leveller for him compared to the heckles, boos and whistles that he usually does so well to rise above, but if anything that seemed to take the fire out of his performance.
The world number three fired in a 114 checkout to go 1-0 up and also weighed in with another from 122 on the bullseye when trailing 4-2 in an inconsistent start to the match which helped the steadier Noppert move 6-4 up by the second interval.
Noppie was statistically saving his best darts for the Price throw and two more successive breaks - either siding of losing his own to Price - saw him extend his advantage to 8-5 before a comfortable hold left him one leg from a big victory in his career.
The two-time Grand Slam of Darts champion, who lost to Michael van Gerwen in this year's UK Open final, refused to lie down with a 98 checkout to complete a 12-darter and then punished the nervy Dutchman for missing four match darts to reduce the gap to 9-7, but it was too little to late as Noppert sealed his spot in the next round with an 88 checkout.
Noppert averaged 90.95 and fired in three more 180s with five, although his doubling will need working on against Adrian Lewis after spurning 21 of his attempts at the outer ring.
Price's exit will undoubtedly come as a big boost to the rest of the players in the bottom half of the draw, including world champion Peter Wright and rising star Nathan Aspinall.
"It is a big win, I'm a really happy man," said Noppert. "He didn't play his best game, and it wasn't my best game but I'm really happy to win.
"It was different at the beginning of the match, a little bit strange without a crowd, but I'm always happy to play on stage and I can look forward to the next match.
"I won and that's the most important thing - I can play better and I need to perform better. I believe that I can beat everyone if I play at my best level but you need to learn from every game."
Rockstar plays comeback gig
Joe Cullen held his nerve in a sudden-death leg to exorcise his World Matchplay demons, but it was another tale of televised woe for Ian White.
Twelve months on from being humiliated 10-0 by Diamond on the Winter Gardens stage, the Rockstar appeared to be heading for yet another heavy defeat in the sport's second biggest major when his early 3-0 lead turned into a worrying 8-4 deficit.
But he launched a stunning comeback by reeling off five legs on the trot - albeit with the help of his opponent's double troubles - to go within one of victory although White finally got his act together again with an 89 checkout on the bullseye to force the tie-break.
Both players held their throws during the next six nerve-jangling legs, with Cullen spurning the first of his three match darts when leading 11-10 before White took out 70 under ever-increasing pressure to stay alive. Two more opportunities came and went on double 19 at 12-11 up and when the score reached 12-12, a sudden-death leg was required.
The 31-year-old had the advantage of throwing first and while he didn't really make it count on the scoring front, he was let off the hook by White also being saddled with nerves and eventually crept over the line with a 19-darter.
Many pundits and fans alike were expecting the crowd-less settings at the Marshall Arena to play to White's strengths due to the incredible performances he consistently delivers away from raucous atmosphere of the TV events, and despite some early jitters, it was all going pretty smoothly as he averaged in the high 90s when opening up his big lead.
The 13-time PDC tournament winner, whose run the last four of the Players Championship Finals last November was the only time he'd ever gone beyond the quarters of any major, also threw checkouts of 151, 118 and 100 during this stage of the match and also hit six of his seven 180s.
Suddenly, however, his form deserted him just two legs from victory and may have then started to get flashbacks to the way in which he lost to Stephen Bunting in last year's second round as Cullen began to claw his way back.
He blew six darts at double until he pinned the bullseye for 9-9 but never really threatened Cullen's throw during the tie-breaker and, more crucially, just couldn't find those trebles in a sudden-death leg.
"I felt great on the practice board and I genuinely thought I was going to blow Ian away, but that didn't happen when I got up there," admitted Cullen, who reached the quarter-finals in 2018. "At 8-4 to me it could have been the same score to me, but I had to tighten up my loose darts.
"I've put a lot of work in since the Summer Series and it's all a learning curve but the target was to beat Ian because of what happened to me last year and I've managed to do that."
Six of the best for SuperChin
Daryl Gurney overcame a slow start by winning six successive legs to seal a 10-5 victory over Ricky Evans.
The Northern Irishman found himself in a spot of bother when trailing 5-4 in a hard-fought affair that lacked real quality, but when he got his nose in front for the first time, he raced away to the finishing line as Rapid trailed in his wake.
Gurney, who is one of our outright tips at 40/1, headed back to the Marshall Arena after a highly-encouraging Summer Series and while he struggled to reproduce quite the same levels with a below-par average of 92.37, he did fire in most 180s with five and won all but two of his legs in 16 or fewer darts.
SuperChin hit 10 of his 22 attempts at doubles as Evans spurned seven of his 12, although the latter did weigh in with the high checkout of the match of just 65.
"I'm thankful to get the win because that's the kind of game I would have lost a few years ago," said Gurney. "Whenever I have a break I seem to play better, but those 14 or 15 weeks I had off was the biggest break I've ever had and it was welcome.
"I need to sharpen up but I'm very glad to be in the next round. There's something about this event - I always hang in there and give myself an opportunity."
Joy for Jackpot
Adrian Lewis came through an absorbing encounter with fellow legend Steve Beaton as he bounced back from a desperately disappointing Summer Series in style.
The match between the two players boasting the longest active runs of consecutive World Matchplay appearances fittingly went far and in the end it was Jackpot who triumphed 11-9 in the tie-breaker.
Lewis turned up at this major for the 16th year in a row with fewer people than ever talking up his chances of potentially winning it for the first time in his career but now Gerwyn Price is out, performances like this could see him venture further than most were expecting.
The 2013 runner-up bossed the game from a stats perspective as he averaged 97.27 compared to his opponent's 89.94, threw three more 180s with six and impressively pinned 11 of his 19 darts at doubles, but was still pushed all the way.
Beaton, who was appearing in his 20th World Matchplay in a row, produced a match high 111 checkout to restore parity at 8-8 after Lewis missed two darts at double and at that point you just wondered if there'd be a twist in the tale.
The next two legs were shared to force extra-time before Lewis produced a 104 finish to edge 10-9 up and then completed the job with a clinical checkout from 72.
"It's a massive win for me," said Lewis. "Every time I did my job and got ahead of him I let him off the hook, but fair play to Steve he took his chances. I didn't get going at the Summer Series, but it was a good experience which put me in good stead for this tournament.
"I'm playing well enough, I'm showing glimpses but to win this tournament I know I've got to have my head on the whole way through. I've had to make a few slight adjustments because of my weight loss but I feel better for it.
"Danny [Noppert] has been playing well for the last 18 months, so that's another match I will have to be up for."
Chizzy crashes out
Dave Chisnall's dreams of winning a maiden major title were ended at the first hurdle after succumbing to Vincent van der Voort's late burst.
The veteran Dutchman, who hadn't gone past the first round in any of his five previous appearances dating back to 2012, won five legs on the trot to turn a 6-5 deficit into a 10-6 victory.
Van der Voort struggled badly at the PDC Summer Series in Milton Keynes two weeks ago and was one of the worst performers compared to the other World Matchplay qualifiers, so this performance rewrote the form book.
He averaged almost 99 and fired in seven 180s while a high checkout of 101 completed a crucial 12-darter that edged him 7-6 up.
Chizzy suffered an alarming drop of form at Summer Series after blowing a big lead in the second Players Championship final against Ryan Joyce and that trend continued on his return to the Marshall Arena.
Having missed six darts at doubles in the opening three legs, the five-time major runner-up did initially bounce back with checkouts of 81 and 130 - both on the bullseye - to complete 12-darters in a run of four successive legs to lead 4-3.
But it would merely be a false dawn, with Chisnall only managing three more attempts at doubles in the rest of the match and made it far too easy for his opponent to take seven legs out of nine.
The St Helens man averaged just 94.2 and hit five 180s, while his checkout percentage of 33.33% was also inferior to van der Voort's 37.04%.
"A win is always great in such an amazing tournament, so I'm really happy," said Van der Voort. "My mindset was good today and I'm happy with my game. I haven't felt this good for ten to 15 years - the break has given me four months sleeping in my own bed and even though I still have some back pain it's a lot better.
"I enjoyed the time with my family but I missed the competitiveness. I wasn't ready when we started again but I put a lot of hard work in during the week before the World Matchplay."
World Matchplay: Monday results and Tuesday schedule
Monday July 20 (1800 BST)
First Round (best of 19 legs)
TV Channel: Sky Sports
- Dave Chisnall 6-10 Vincent van der Voort
- Ian White 12-13 Joe Cullen
- Daryl Gurney 10-5 Ricky Evans
- Gerwyn Price 7-10 Danny Noppert
- Adrian Lewis 11-9 Steve Beaton
Tuesday July 21 (1800 BST)
TV Channel: Sky Sports
- 1 First-round match (best of 19 legs)
- Nathan Aspinall v Dimitri Van den Bergh
- 4x Second-round match (best of 21 legs)
- Michael Smith v Mensur Suljovic
- Gary Anderson v James Wade
- Michael Van Gerwen v Simon Whitlock
- Gabriel Clemens v Krzysztof Ratajski
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