A review of Sunday's action at the Betfred World Matchplay in Blackpool, as Glen Durrant set up a clash with a sloppy Michael van Gerwen and James Wade survived a sudden death leg.
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Wade rides his luck
James Wade produced his trademark battling qualities in a thrilling scrap with Jeffrey de Zwaan in which he survived five match darts before keeping his cool in sudden death leg.
The Machine looked down and out at 9-6 down but won three legs on the spin - but only after the 2018 semi-finalist had missed three match darts across two of those - to force a tie-break situation in which either player has to win by two clear legs.
In the dramatic six legs that followed, Wade spurned the next chance to seal the victory when leading 11-10 but he blew his attempts to take out 117 when dragging a poor attempt at tops low and de Zwaan made him pay.
This gave the young Dutchmen a new lease of life as he rattled in an 11-dart leg to break the Machine's throw before blowing two more darts at tops to kill off Wade, who then pinned double five with his last dart in hand to force the sudden death leg.
Throwing first, the 2007 champion left himself 80 after 12 darts and despite the pressure of de Zwaan waiting on 32 after a visit of 131, he followed up a pair of single 20s with tops before going very big with his celebrations.
Wade averaged 96.16 compared to his opponent's 95.26 and hit one more 180 with eight while his finishing was also superior as he converted 13 of his 26 attempts as de Zwaan spurned 20 of his 32.
The highest checkout of the match came as early as the opening leg when Wade nailed a superb 160 although that would be the last time he led until he went 11-10 up in extra-time.
European and World Series of Darts Finals champion Wade, who has won four PDC titles this season, told www.pdc.tv: "I'm so excited to be through. I should have got it over sooner but I stuck in there and did the job.
"I'm happy to win but not happy with how I played, so it's a relief."
MVG through despite double troubles
Michael van Gerwen was well below his best once again as he spluttered past Steve Beaton to reach the second round in Blackpool.
Van Gerwen's average of 93 in this clash was the 12th match in a row in which he's averaged under 100 - which is unheard of in his incredible career - while it was perhaps more worrying that he missed 28 darts at doubles.
The Dutchman's woeful finishing didn't seem to matter when leading 4-0 but eventually it allowed Beaton to battle his way back to 5-4 down as the crowd sensed a potential shock to eclipse the one that saw him crash out to Jeffrey de Zwaan 12 months ago.
It was not to be, however, with van Gerwen upping his game slightly to win five of the next seven legs that including a 10, 13 and a pair of 14 darters, but he still ended the match with a checkout percentage of 27.03%.
Beaton, appearing on this stage for the 19th year in a row, hit the same number of 180s as MVG with four but his average was just 89.86 and missed 11 darts at doubles.
Debut delight for Duzza on debut
Glen Durrant showed no sign of stage fright on his Winter Gardens debut as he averaged 101 in a highly impressive 10-4 thrashing of Adrian Lewis to set up a mouthwatering clash with Michael van Gerwen.
The BDO world champion, who won an historic third Lakeside crown in a row back in January, has enjoyed a meteoric rise up the rankings since earning his PDC Tour Card and his two Players Championship titles helped him fulfil his dream of qualifying for this prestigious event.
And the Teesider made the most of his opportunity in a one-sided affair, backing up his consistent high scoring by pinning 10 of his 19 attempts at doubles and managing a high checkout of 101.
Jackpot struggled throughout the contest and although he hit five more 180s with six, he averaged just 94.69 and missed six of his 10 double attempts.
Durrant won't feat the challenge of MVG given the Dutchman's poor recent form while the Middlesbrough thrower won their only other previous meeting this season en route to claiming his second PDC title.
Machine Gun more like pop gun
Mensur Suljovic cruised into the second round of the World Matchplay although his job was made a whole lot easier by a dreadful display from Jermaine Wattimena.
In an intriguing clash of styles, it was Suljovic that imposed his his slow style on proceedings far more effectively than Wattimena's rapid throwing as he made it six victories out of six over the Dutchman with consummate ease.
Last year's runner-up, who hasn't reached a final anywhere since his Blackpool epic with Gary Anderson, averaged 96.76 compared his opponent's 82.02 although the pair both hit three 180s, with two of Suljovic's coming at the start of ninth leg as he threatened a nine-darter.
Whereas Suljovic pinned 10 of his 18 attempts at doubles, including one at tops for a match high checkout of 80 in the sixth leg, Wattimena missed six of his seven.
"I'm feeling good," said Suljovic. "It's a very hard game against Jermaine but I was focused tonight. Jermaine is a very nice player, but he wasn't himself.
"Last year was very nice for me and this year I just wanted to win the first round. This is the best crowd and I have a lot of respect for them."
White-wash win for Diamond
Ian White underlined his status as a contender for World Matchplay glory by thrashing Joe Cullen 10-0 in an awkwardly one-sided encounter at the Winter Gardens.
As well as Diamond played, it was hard to watch his opponent struggle so badly on the big stage, as a visibly embarrassed Cullen averaged just 88.63 and missed all 10 of his darts at doubles.
The Rockstar's first opportunity missed came when he was just 2-0 down but seven of his other nine came in the calamitous ninth leg, such was White's dominance throughout the contest.
White, backed on these pages at 40/1 each-way for the title, started as he meant to go on with an 11-darter and went on to average 98.6 and hit two more 180s than Cullen with four while his high checkout was the 121 to complete a 12-darter in the seventh leg.
Diamond, who has won two European Tour titles this season thanks to dramatic final victories over both Michael van Gerwen and Peter Wright, told www.pdc.tv: "I didn't expect this result but you take it and it feels good to be through. Joe let me in there in three or four legs but I still had to take my doubles out and I played well.
"It's a strong field and you knew any draw was going to be hard because it's a strong field, but the European Tour has given me a lot of confidence this year."
Bully Boy bounces back against Hughes
Michael Smith came from 4-1 and 6-3 down to defeat World Matchplay debutant Jamie Hughes in an entertaining clash at the Winter Gardens.
Hughes was widely fancied to potentially pull off a shock against the World Championship runner-up having enjoyed a superb first season as a PDC Tour Card holder so far and recently won the Czech Darts Open to seal his spot in Blackpool at the last possible opportunity.
Sure enough, the former BDO star from Tipton made a superb start to take advantage of Smith's early jitters and although his opponent recovered, he then took out 128 to complete a 12 darter that moved him 6-3 up.
The St Helens man, who has never gone beyond the last 16 in Blackpool, then kicked into life and followed up an 11-darter with another in 12 thanks to an 86 checkout on the bullseye before another three legs on the spin put him 8-6 up.
Hughes, who had missed four costly darts at a double in the 13th leg, did pull one back but that would be the last he won as Smith, who was also tipped on these pages at 25/1, finished with a flourish, checking out from 120 and 130 back-to-back to complete a fine success.
Smith averaged 98.78 compared to Hughes' 97.54 while he hit two more 180s with four and pinned 10 of his 19 darts at doubles, with his opponent missing 12 of his 19.
"I'm happy to win that," said Smith. "My throw doesn't feel good but I was pleased with how I played in the second half of the game.
"At 4-1 down I had to fire and when I got it back to six-all I had to put the pressure on Jamie. The 120 was a big shot and the 130 was a nice way to win it.
"This tournament has never been good to me, so I want to get to the quarter-finals this year to finally get past the second round stage."
Max hopps into round two
Max Hopp claimed his first victory on the Winter Gardens stage as he held his nerve to see off Dave Chisnall 11-9 in a tie-break to reach the last 16.
The German number one looked in danger of a first-round exit in Blackpool for the second year running when trailing 7-4 against an the 180-happy Chisnall, who fired in 10 maximums during a thrilling clash, but fought back brilliantly.
Hopp won four legs on the spin to move 8-7 up before the five-time quarter-finalist from St Helens checked out from 84 to complete a 12-darter and then took the next for a 9-8 lead.
However, while waiting for his chance on 40 for the match after fluffing his lines somewhat from 97, the Maximiser held his composure with a dramatic 100 checkout to force the tie break.
Chisnall, who arrived here with confidence of winning his first televised crown having claimed two Players Championship titles this season, was then punished for missing six darts at doubles in the next before Hopp sealed victory with his fourth match dart in a nervy 20th leg.
Hopp said: "It was a thriller and a really difficult game to win. I knew it was going to be tough today but I took my chances. In parts today I averaged well over 100, I fought back into the game and I'm glad to win 11-9 in the end.
"It's in the top five wins for me, the Winter Gardens is an amazing venue and I can't wait for Tuesday - I'm excited to be in the next round.
"I'm still 22 but I'm more mature now. The nerves are settling now on stage and I think I can go far."
Demolition Man fails to bring down the Eagle
Krzysztof Ratajski won on his Winter Gardens debut as Darren Webster became the latest seeded player to fall in the opening round.
However this 10-5 success won't be seen as a shock given how impressive the Polish Eagle has been on the circuit this season, adding a fourth PDC title to the three he won last year when he didn't even have a Tour Card.
Ratajski opened up a 3-1 lead early on before Webster responded with a 105 checkout en route to getting the scores back level at 5-5 but from there it was one way traffic.
The Polish number one, who will play Rob Cross next, said: "It's a great moment and I'm really happy that I won. To win my first match is big for me and I hope I can play better in the next round because I was very nervous today.
"The venue is amazing, the most beautiful I've played in. It's a big tournament so to win on this stage is great."
Sunday results & Monday schedule
Sunday July 21
Afternoon Session (1300 BST)
First Round (best of 19 legs)
TV Channel: Sky Sports
- Darren Webster 5-10 Krzysztof Ratajski
- Dave Chisnall 9-11 Max Hopp
- Ian White 10-9 Joe Cullen
- Michael Smith 10-7 Jamie Hughes
Evening Session (1900 BST)
First Round (best of 19 legs)
TV Channel: Sky Sports
- James Wade 13-12 Jeffrey de Zwaan
- Mensur Suljovic 10-1 Jermaine Wattimena
- Michael van Gerwen 10-6 Steve Beaton
- Adrian Lewis v Glen Durrant
Monday July 22 (1900 BST)
First Round (best of 19 legs)
TV Channel: Sky Sports
- Jonny Clayton v Keegan Brown
- Simon Whitlock v John Henderson
- Daryl Gurney v Ricky Evans
- Peter Wright v Vincent van der Voort