Cross comes through thriller while Dekker denies Ashton
Defending William Hill World Darts Champion Rob Cross came from behind against a brilliant Jeffrey de Zwaan as the 2018/2019 edition of the tournament kicked off at the Alexandra Palace in North London.
After ‘The Black Cobra’ eased past Indian qualifier Nitin Kumar in the opening game of the event, he put 15 points on his average later on in the evening but it wasn’t enough against Cross as last year’s winner produced his form of last year to take out 96 to win the second set and 121 to win the third set under immense pressure. The Dutchman’s losing average of 106.09 was the second highest ever in PDC World Championship history.
The game started with an 18-dart opening salvo from De Zwaan, but it improved significantly from there as the World Matchplay semi-finalist finished 11 and 13-dart legs to ease to the first set, allowing ‘Voltage’ only one dart at double, in the very first leg. Cross was averaging only just below 100 at 1-0 down, so it always looked likely that he would get himself back into the game, although De Zwaan’s average hardly relented at all throughout the rest of the game.
A crucial 78 checkout from the Hastings man got himself on the board, although a poor next leg allowed ‘The Black Cobra’ back in. Cross then did brilliantly to leave double 8 after ten darts, and eventually took it out, although De Zwaan followed that with a 12-darter of his own to send the second set to a deciding leg. Despite a shaky start to said leg from Cross, he found consecutive 140s and a superb 96 checkout to make it 1-1 in sets.
A similar pattern ensued in the third set with the quality still astronomical – Cross winning two of three 14 dart legs to go within one of a 2-1 lead, although De Zwaan left 36 after nine darts looking to send another set all the way. ‘Voltage’ had other ideas, though, taking out 121 on the bull. A 116 finish from the Dutchman got the fourth set off to a flying start, but that would be the last leg he won after missing two darts in the fourth leg of the set. The reigning World Champion took out 52 to survive an almighty scare and progress to face either Cristo Reyes, Ricky Evans or Rowby-John Rodriguez on Sunday 23 December.
Elsewhere, another reigning World Champion in Lisa Ashton stormed to the first set against two-time Lakeside semi-finalist Jan Dekker in 42 darts, although the Emmen man overcame the crowd’s support of ‘The Lancashire Rose’ to survive a scare in the second set, before he eased to the final two sets to progress to the second round, where he will take on Mervyn King in ten days’ time.
Back-to-back 15-darters from Ashton were followed by a sensational 12-darter, won with a 121 checkout to seal the first set, not allowing Dekker a single dart at double and averaging 107 , something any dart player would be delighted with. The Dutchman eased the nerves with a 180 early on in the second set before going 2-0 up after Ashton missed a crucial three darts at double. The Ally Pally debutant missed a dart at the bull for a 127 checkout, and Dekker capitalised on double 8 to make it 1-1.
The ProTour qualifier took the lead for the first time in the third set, although Ashton took her chance at double 16 and then double 10 to keep him in sight. A tight deciding leg ended up being the turning point as Dekker took out tops to move ahead. After ‘The Lancashire Rose’ won the first leg of the fourth set, Dekker averaged 100.25 in the last three legs to put out one of the main attractions of the tournament on the first night. No-one expected her to go through, though, so her efforts, especially the first set, are something to be proud of for everyone in women’s darts.
Jeffrey de Zwaan was able to set up that thriller against Rob Cross by defeating Nitin Kumar in the opening game of the night at Ally Pally. The Indian recovered from a score of 1 in the first dart of the tournament to set up double 18 in the first leg, but missed three at it to allow ‘The Black Cobra’ to capitalise on double 20. He then closed out the first set with 15 and 14 dart legs. Kumar next got a dart to win a leg half way through the second leg, taking out double 10, and he send the set to a decider recovering from a superb De Zwaan 11-darter. It was the Dutchman who came through in straight sets, winning four of the final five legs to win a game at Ally Pally for the first time. His average fell to 91 after a couple of dodgy legs on the double, but barring those two, his performance continued onto the Cross match-up, although it still wasn’t enough with the second highest losing average in this tournament.
Cody Harris and Martin Schindler both lost in the last 64 of last year’s William Hill World Darts Championship, and they met on the opening night for the right to have another shot at that stage of the competition. It was the New Zealander who took the first set after a superbly-timed 180 set up tops for him to win it 3-1. Schindler replied with a 13-darter of his own to set himself on his way to levelling, which he did on a bizarre 95 checkout as he didn’t seem to know that was what he required.
That wasn’t as bizarre as some of the going-ons in the fourth set, though. After Harris eased to the third in straight legs, he went for a questionable 17-bull outshot on 67 before busting 134 in the next leg. That spurred Schindler on as he found double 5 to set-up the first fifth set of the tournament. The German missed five darts to take the lead in the decider, but Harris punished him with double 8 and produced two 15-darters to win for the second time at Ally Pally and move through to a second round clash with Jamie Lewis tomorrow afternoon.
That clash in one of the highlights of Friday’s eight matches, as two-time World Champion Gary Anderson enters the fray against either Paul Nicholson or Kevin Burness. If day two is anywhere near as good as the opening night, then we’re in for another treat.
2018/2019 William Hill World Darts Championship
Schedule of Play
Thursday December 13 (1900 GMT)
Jeffrey de Zwaan 3-0 Nitin Kumar (R1) (3-0, 3-2, 3-1)
Martin Schindler 2-3 Cody Harris (R1) (1-3, 3-1, 0-3, 3-1, 1-3)
Jan Dekker 3-1 Lisa Ashton (R1) (0-3, 3-0, 3-2, 3-1)
Rob Cross 3-1 Jeffrey de Zwaan (R2) (0-3, 3-2, 3-1, 3-1)
Friday December 14
Afternoon Session (1230 GMT)
Michael Barnard v José De Sousa (R1)
Alan Tabern v Raymond Smith (R1)
Paul Nicholson v Kevin Burness (R1)
Jamie Lewis v Cody Harris (R2)
Evening Session (1900 GMT)
Danny Noppert v Royden Lam (R1)
Simon Stevenson v Ted Evetts (R1)
Chris Dobey v Boris Koltsov (R1)
Gary Anderson v Nicholson/Burness (R2)