PETER WRIGHT and Daryl Gurney were among the four players to make it through to the second round of the 2019 Betfred World Matchplay in Blackpool on Monday.
Night Three of the summer’s biggest darts event saw the final four first-round matches take place, with 2017 runner-up Wright safely navigating his way into the last 16 thanks to a 10-5 victory over Vincent van der Voort.
World Cup winner Wright came into the tournament in sensational form, and after going 2-0 down the Scot produced a roof-raising 164 checkout to get his first leg on the board.
From there Wright warmed to his task and soon found himself 4-2 ahead, but a dogged Van der Voort stuck with the number six seed to trail 6-5.
That was as good as it got for the Dutch stalwart as Wright put his foot to the floor to reel off the final four legs, ending the tie with a 102 average, to set up a meeting with Simon Whitlock.
“I had to play really well because Vincent was fantastic,” said Wright, who posted the highest winning average of round one.
“It’s about time I come into this tournament feeling good, I normally come into it feeling tired and its felt like hard work. This time I’m feeling nice and fresh.
“Whoever I play in this tournament will have to play well, otherwise they’re going home.”
Earlier in the night, two-time World Matchplay semi-finalist Whitlock defied a six-point deficit in the averages to battle his way to a 10-8 success over John Henderson, with the Australian number one now having the chance to avenge his crushing quarter-final defeat to Wright in 2018.
A 112 checkout from Whitlock put him into a 5-3 lead, only for Henderson to burst into life and rattle off the next three legs to go in front for the first time at 6-5.
The pendulum then swung back in Whitlock’s favour as he won four successive legs, the last of which was won with a 124 checkout, to go within a leg of the match.
Henderson rallied with finishes of 97 and 81, but after the Scottish crowd favourite missed four darts to take the match to a tie-break, Whitlock found double eight with his last dart in hand to seal his path through to round two.
“That was a fantastic game,” said Whitlock. “Hendo is the nicest guy on tour but, jeez, can that guy play darts!
“I felt so good in practice and I’ve been pretty good in Blackpool. I feel comfortable on this stage.”
Whitlock has been struggling with tendinitis around his elbow,, but said: “I’m good now. It’s really affected me in the last few weeks and I’ve been a bit restricted.”
Former semi-finalist Gurney landed nine 180s on his way to a 10-7 victory over debutant Ricky Evans.
Missed doubles from the number three seed allowed Evans to keep in touch at 4-3, before Gurney found his range on the outer ring to stretch his advantage to 7-3.
Evans then began to settle onto the famous stage, winning four of the next five legs to go within a leg of the Northern Irishman at 8-7.
With Evans waiting on 24 to level and take the game to a grandstand finale, Gurney showed composure to find double six with his last dart in hand, before sealing the win in the following leg with another third-dart checkout, this time on double two.
“If I had gone off the boil and he was getting six darts at double per leg then I would’ve been panicking, but as it was I always felt quite calm and confident of winning,” said Gurney, who will now face Keegan Brown.
“I’m happy with the win. You’ve got to be in it to win it, and I’m still in it. I’ve got another couple of gears to go through and I’ll need to unlock those if I’m going to win the tournament.
“I know I’m in for a tough game against Keegan, I saw him on the practice board earlier and he was hitting everything, but hopefully I can come out on top and progress to the quarter-final.”
Brown landed four ton-plus checkouts to edge out 14th seed Jonny Clayton 10-8 in a nip and tuck contest.
There was never more than a leg between the pair in the opening 11 legs, before leg 12 saw Clayton fire in a 14-darter to break throw.
However, the Welshman failed to press home the advantage and Brown punished him with a third successful visit to double 16 followed by a magnificent 127 finish on the bullseye, adding to his earlier checkouts of 148 and 134.
At 8-8 Brown struck a pivotal 109 checkout to break throw and go 9-8 in front, before the former World Youth Champion found double top to book his place in the last 16 for the second time in Blackpool.
The second round begins on Tuesday, as two-time World Matchplay winner Michael van Gerwen faces Glen Durrant, while reigning champion Gary Anderson continues his quest for back-to-back titles against Mervyn King.
2018 finalist Mensur Suljovic takes on 2007 champion James Wade, while World Championship finalist Michael Smith opens up against Germany’s Max Hopp.
2019 Betfred World Matchplay
Monday July 22
Keegan Brown 10-8 Jonny Clayton
Simon Whitlock 10-8 John Henderson
Daryl Gurney 10-7 Ricky Evans
Peter Wright 10-5 Vincent van der Voort
Tuesday July 23 (1900 BST)
Michael Smith v Max Hopp
James Wade v Mensur Suljovic
Gary Anderson v Mervyn King
Michael van Gerwen v Glen Durrant
Wednesday July 24 (1900 BST)
Daryl Gurney v Keegan Brown
Stephen Bunting v Ian White
Rob Cross v Krzysztof Ratajski
Peter Wright v Simon Whitlock
Written by Josh Phillips