Van Gerwen survives scare in Ratajski thriller as World Grand Prix commences in Coventry
Michael van Gerwen survived a scare as he began the defence of his World Grand Prix crown on Tuesday evening at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry.
Van Gerwen, who defeated Dave Chisnall to lift the unique double-start tournament for a fifth time 12 months ago, was the stand-out performer on the opening night by a considerable distance as he edged past Krzysztof Ratajski.
Despite the world number one claiming the opening set in irresistible fashion without the loss of a single leg, a resilient Ratajski battled back and forced a deciding set.
‘The Polish Eagle’ would pounce on multiple missed attempts at double from Van Gerwen to lead for the first time, before squandering a handful of darts on the outer ring himself to double his set three advantage.
The Dutchman proceeded to convert a table-turning 103 checkout, prior to landing a 12-darter with an 82 checkout to move on the brink of the second round.
Ratajski hung in there and claimed the subsequent leg to level up proceedings at two apiece in the deciding set, but the Pole failed to get off the mark quick enough in leg five.
Van Gerwen once again landed double tops first dart in hand, and from there, Ratajski’s hopes were pulled away by the three-time world champion – who averaged 98.64.
Elsewhere, Gary Anderson came through a battle between two former world champions as he comfortably saw off a mediocre Rob Cross to the loss of a mere three legs.
The Scotsman fired home a mesmerising 103 checkout to claim the opening set of the clash, before surviving darts at double in every leg of the second to progress.
Reigning World Matchplay champion Dimitri Van den Bergh was closest to producing the numbers recorded by Van Gerwen, averaging over 96 in a shock victory over Michael Smith.
Both players held and broke throw in the opening four legs of a mouth-watering affair, but a scintillating 11-darter from Van den Bergh gave him the ascendancy.
The second set would also go to the distance, with the Belgian ace this time converting an exceptional 132 checkout on the bullseye to seal another impressive scalp.
The two-time world youth champion now faces Dirk van Duijvenbode after the Dutch debutant downed three-time semi-finalist Mensur Suljovic in a lacklustre encounter.
Neither the flamboyant Dutchman nor the Austrian produced a standard anywhere near their usual heights, with both averaging slightly in excess of the 70 mark.
It was a dream double-start debut for Petersen (Photography: Taylor Lanning/Darts World)
Newly-crowned German Darts Championship winner Devon Petersen denied eight maximums from Portuguese sensation Jose de Sousa to reach the second round on his double-start debut.
The South African came through a tremendous contest between two dangerous debutants, with his reward being a second hurdle tussle against world number one Van Gerwen.
The equally impressive Mervyn King defeated former champion James Wade for the second successive year at the World Grand Prix, bringing Wade’s campaign to a halt in straight sets.
Former BDO World Championship finalist Danny Noppert surpassed the opening round for the second consecutive year, overcoming a valiant Ryan Searle in Coventry.
Searle raced out of the gates, whitewashing the Dutchman in the opening set, but Noppert claimed two in succession to prevail and face Anderson in the second round.
Adrian Lewis and Stephen Bunting were forced to exit the Ricoh Arena ‘bubble’ before the tournament began after unfortunately receiving positive Covid-19 tests.
The World Grand Prix continues on Wednesday evening with nine matches to be played, providing late replacements Simon Whitlock and Jeffrey de Zwaan field negative tests.
WORLD GRAND PRIX
Ricoh Arena, Coventry
Tuesday October 6
Danny Noppert 2-1 Ryan Searle
Dirk van Duijvenbode 2-1 Mensur Suljovic
Devon Petersen 2-0 Jose de Sousa
Mervyn King 2-0 James Wade
Gary Anderson 2-0 Rob Cross
Michael van Gerwen 2-1 Krzysztof Ratajski
Dimitri Van den Bergh 2-0 Michael Smith
Wednesday October 7 (6pm)
Brendan Dolan v Kim Huybrechts
Jonny Clayton v Ian White
Dave Chisnall v Glen Durrant
Daryl Gurney v Joe Cullen
Peter Wright v Ryan Joyce
Gerwyn Price v Jermaine Wattimena
Nathan Aspinall v Gabriel Clemens
Simon Whitlock v Chris Dobey
Jamie Hughes v Jeffrey de Zwaan
(Featured Image: Taylor Lanning/Darts World)