Zonneveld ousts Wade at Players Championship Finals as Van Gerwen, Wright and Price all go through
Niels Zonneveld produced the upset of the first round at the Players Championship Finals, beating James Wade 6-3 in Coventry.
Zonneveld could be coming to the end of his first spell on the ProTour, thanks in part to a positive Covid-19 test earlier this year, but the Dutch youngster played excellently to see off the Grand Slam of Darts runner-up, closing it out with a 122 finish.
Elsewhere, World Champion Peter Wright survived a scare from the impressive Ryan Meikle. ‘Snakebite’ averaged 104 and didn’t miss a single dart at double, but was pushed all the way by ‘The Barber’, who took out 167 to send it to that 11th leg.
Michael van Gerwen, the defending champion, and the man he beat in that final, Gerwyn Price, both came through fairly comfortably against Darius Labanauskas and John Henderson respectively.
Other surprising results on the opening day came from the likes of Karel Sedláček, Callan Rydz and Ryan Murray.
Sedláček denied his fellow Eastern European thrower, Krzysztof Ratajski, coming from 3-1 down to win 6-4. Rydz ensured Daryl Gurney’s woes went on, while Murray also overturned a two-leg deficit to see off Stephen Bunting.
Newly-crowned Grand Slam of Darts champion José de Sousa was tested by Belgium’s Mike De Decker, but took the match 6-3 to continue a dream run of form.
His fellow top 16 players Nathan Aspinall, Gary Anderson, Michael Smith and Rob Cross also won through to the last 32 unscathed.
World number four Smith survived a big scare from the brilliant Boris Krčmar. The Croatian posted the highest losing average in Players Championship Finals history, 107.79, but it wasn’t enough to beat ‘Bully Boy’ as Smith prevailed in a deciding leg.
Cross hit six of his seven darts at doubles to beat the dangerous Jason Lowe, while Aspinall had to survive five match darts against Scott Waites.
Former champion Anderson is still struggling with a knee injury, but reeled off five straight legs to beat Keegan Brown 6-4.
Simon Whitlock and Dimitri Van den Bergh were both in impressive form in making the semi-finals last week in Coventry, but had differing fortunes on Friday.
Van den Bergh suffered defeat to a 100 average from Ryan Searle, while Whitlock continued his superb record on TV of late by beating Adrian Lewis 6-4.
It was a good day for the Dutchmen in Coventry as seven of them booked their places in the second round.
Danny Noppert and Jeffrey de Zwaan both averaged in three figures to overcome veterans Steve Beaton and Darren Webster respectively.
Dirk van Duijvenbode played very well to take a thriller against William O’Connor, while Vincent van der Voort came through an all-Dutch affair against Derk Telnekes.
Mervyn King had the second-highest average of the last 64 as he hit eight 140s and 50 percent of his checkout attempts to secure victory against Dave Chisnall.
Premier League champion Glen Durrant displayed improved form following the Winter Series and Grand Slam, though, Wayne Jones was still too good for him, running out a 6-3 winner in his first appearance in the tournament since 2013.
Luke Woodhouse and Andy Boulton will play each other on Saturday afternoon after ‘Woody’ beat Brendan Dolan 6-4 and ‘X-Factor’ saw off Ryan Joyce 6-4, both on Stage Two.
There were 6-1 wins for Ross Smith, Damon Heta and Jermaine Wattimena, while Luke Humphries came through a thriller against South African ace Devon Petersen.
Gabriel Clemens and Martijn Kleermaker also provided a high-quality contest, which ‘The German Giant’ edged to set up a meeting with Ian White, who beat young Scotsman William Borland by six legs to four.
Finally, there were victories for Joe Cullen and Jonny Clayton, with those two facing former world champions in Cross and Van Gerwen respectively in round two.
The second round takes place across two sessions on Saturday at Coventry’s Ricoh Arena, with coverage from both boards once again being broadcast throughout the day.
2020 PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP FINALS
Ricoh Arena, Coventry
Friday November 27
Dirk van Duijvenbode 6-4 William O’Connor
Michael Smith 6-5 Boris Krčmar
Rob Cross 6-3 Jason Lowe
Joe Cullen 6-3 Adam Hunt
Devon Petersen 3-6 Luke Humphries
Ryan Searle 6-2 Dimitri Van den Bergh
Adrian Lewis 4-6 Simon Whitlock
Dave Chisnall 3-6 Mervyn King
Brendan Dolan 4-6 Luke Woodhouse
Ryan Joyce 4-6 Andy Boulton
Stephen Bunting 4-6 Ryan Murray
Krzysztof Ratajski 4-6 Karel Sedláček
Gabriel Clemens 6-5 Martijn Kleermaker
Ian White 6-4 William Borland
Jonny Clayton 6-2 Mickey Mansell
Daryl Gurney 2-6 Callan Rydz
Nathan Aspinall 6-5 Scott Waites
Gary Anderson 6-4 Keegan Brown
James Wade 3-6 Niels Zonneveld
Peter Wright 6-5 Ryan Meikle
Michael van Gerwen 6-3 Darius Labanauskas
Gerwyn Price 6-2 John Henderson
José de Sousa 6-3 Mike De Decker
Vincent van der Voort 6-2 Derk Telnekes
Ricky Evans 2-6 Jamie Hughes
Ross Smith 6-1 Kim Huybrechts
Damon Heta 6-1 Maik Kuivenhoven
Jermaine Wattimena 6-1 Steve Lennon
Madars Razma 6-3 Chris Dobey
Glen Durrant 3-6 Wayne Jones
Darren Webster 3-6 Jeffrey de Zwaan
Danny Noppert 6-1 Steve Beaton
Saturday November 28
Afternoon Session (12.45pm GMT)
16 x Round Two (two stages)
Evening Session (7pm GMT)
8x Round Three (two stages)
By Jamie Cameron
(Featured Image: Lawrence Lustig/PDC)