Raymond van Barneveld began the defence of his William Hill Grand Slam of Darts title with a fine 5-2 win over Ricky Evans, while rivals Simon Whitlock, Robert Thornton and Scott Waites all picked up victories as the tournament kicked off in Wolverhampton.

Grand Slam of DartsDutch star van Barneveld had ended a five-year wait for a major individual title when he overcame Michael van Gerwen 16-14 in last year’s final of the cross-code event.

He continued his winning run on the Wolves Civic stage with a confident 5-2 victory over World Youth Championship finalist Ricky Evans in their Group E contest to kick off their challenge this time around.

“I felt great and I’m pleased to have come through my first game with a win and to get two points,” said van Barneveld. “It’s fantastic to be back here again and the crowd were awesome today – the atmosphere was unreal.

“Ricky is a young player coming through the ranks and I wasn’t underestimating him, and he played good darts, so I’m happy to win that.”

Van Barneveld now plays Tony O’Shea in their second Group E game on Sunday, after the Lakeside Championship finalist edged a thriller with Mervyn King 5-4, as the Norfolk ace came back from 4-1 down to force a decider.

“It’s a dream start winning against Mervyn,” said O’Shea. “I never seem to make it easy for myself and I was prepared for a battle – I knew that the game wasn’t over when I got 4-1 up and Mervyn showed his class to come back the way he did.

“I’ve got a terrific reception on every occasion I’ve played at Wolverhampton and today was no different. I really enjoyed playing in front of that atmosphere.”

2010 Grand Slam of Darts winner Scott Waites, the reigning Lakeside Champion, made a winning start to his challenge in Group H with a 5-3 defeat of Ted Hankey.

“It’s always a tough game against Ted as you never quite know what you’re going to get, but he got up there and threw some pretty good darts,” said Waites.

“There were a few nervous moments and I had a couple of darts at a match-winning double and let Ted back in the game, but I got the job done in the end.

“I love the crowd and love the stage here, and for some reason when I come to Wolverhampton I up my game, so to get off to a win is fantastic.”

Waites’ second group game will now see him face World Youth Champion Michael Smith, who impressed with a 103 average in his 5-3 defeat of Dave Chisnall, who led 3-1 before the youngster hit legs of 11, 12, 14 and 13 darts to storm to victory.

“It’s the best start I could have had,” said Smith. “I’m over the moon to beat Dave, who’s the number seven in the world and number one in St Helens and where I want to be.

“Since I won the World Youth Championship I knew I’d be in this, and I’ve been looking forward to it so much. My form dipped but it’s coming back again now and I’ve got confidence in my game at the moment.

“This is just one game and I’ve got another two left now, and if I can get through the group then I’ll concentrate on the knockout stages.”

Former Lakeside Champion Mark Webster opened his challenge with a confidence boosting 5-2 win over Wes Newton, who led 2-0 early on only to see the Welsh ace, aided by a brilliant 164 checkout, to reel off five successive legs.

“It’s a great win and to string five legs together against him is an achievement,” said Webster. “Nobody beats Wes easily so I’m really happy with that.

“Wes made a good start and things weren’t looking too good for me – maybe I was trying a bit too hard but you’ve got to take your chances and I managed to reel off five really solid legs there, and the 164 was a turning point.

“I’ve had a tough couple of years, so to come here and beat a player of the calibre of Wes is a big confidence boost. It’s been a frustrating time for me but I hope I can kick on from here and bring the glory days back.

“The job’s not done yet though – I learned the hard way last year when I won my first game and went out, so I’ve got to stay focused and concentrate for the rest of the group.”

Webster will now take on Simon Whitlock in their second Group G game, with the Australian having been a 5-2 winner against Ross Smith, the Challenge Tour Order of Merit winner making his Wolverhampton debut.

“It’s a great result for me and I played really solid darts there,” said Whitlock. “I got on top of Ross early on and held that advantage.

“It could have been a little bit better – leg difference cost me last year and I don’t want that to happen again. I need to continue my good form and concentrate on my next two games.”

Former UK Open champion Robert Thornton kicked off the tournament with a superb whitewash of former semi-finalist Mark Walsh, hitting finishes of 126 and 140 in a fine display.

“To win 5-0 takes a lot of pressure off and if I can keep that going, then I’ll be happy,” said Thornton. “It wasn’t as easy as it looked but I never gave Mark a chance to get going. and I’m very happy with that.

“If I can finish the way I did there then I’ll stand a good chance – but I’ll take one match at a time.”

Thornton’s second Group F opponent will be Justin Pipe, who celebrated his 42nd birthday with a 5-2 defeat of Andy Hamilton.

“It’s a very nice feeling to win on my birthday,” said Pipe. “Andy’s a very tough player to beat, he’s a real grinder, so to come through with a 5-2 win is very satisfying and I’m really pleased with that.

“I managed to get 4-1 up before Andy really started to produce some good scoring so I was glad to finish it when I did and if I can carry on that sort of finishing then I’ll be okay.”

Pipe had won through Monday’s Wildcard Qualifier in Wigan, and added: “Coming through the Wildcard Qualifier on Monday was an achievement in itself.

“There were players like Terry Jenkins, Jamie Caven and Steve Beaton there and it was really hard, so I was pleased to get through that.”

Four-time champion Phil Taylor and last year’s runner-up van Gerwen are in action on Saturday night as Groups A-D play their opening matches at the Wolves Civic.

William Hill Grand Slam of Darts Results

Saturday November 9
Afternoon Session (1pm-5pm)
Groups E-H First Games
Robert Thornton 5-0 Mark Walsh (F)
Andy Hamilton 2-5 Justin Pipe (F)
Scott Waites 5-3 Ted Hankey (H)
Dave Chisnall 3-5 Michael Smith (H)
Wes Newton 2-5 Mark Webster (G)
Simon Whitlock 5-2 Ross Smith (G)
Mervyn King 4-5 Tony O’Shea (E)
Raymond van Barneveld 5-2 Ricky Evans (E)

Evening Session (7pm-11pm)
Groups A-D First Games
Gary Anderson v Wesley Harms (B)
James Wade v Peter Wright (B)
Christian Kist v Ronny Huybrechts (C)
Adrian Lewis v Richie George (C)
Kevin Painter v Paul Nicholson (A)
Phil Taylor v Stuart Kellett (A)
Michael van Gerwen v Vincent van der Voort (D)
Kim Huybrechts v Dean Winstanley (D)

Match Information
Robert Thornton v Mark Walsh
1-0 – Walsh is first to a finish but is unable to take out 132, and Thornton finishes 92 on tops to break throw immediately.
2-0 – Thornton lands a 180 and wins the leg on double eight after Walsh is off-target with one dart at double top.
3-0 – The Scotsman continues his excellent form as he hits double six to complete a 126 checkout.
4-0 – Walsh is unable to make any impression on the game as Thornton lands the bullseye for a 76 finish.
5-0 – One missed dart at tops from Walsh is punished as Thornton wraps up the match in amazing fashion as he hits treble 20 and two double tops for a 140 checkout!

Andy Hamilton v Justin Pipe
0-1 – Pipe holds throw by landing double top for an early lead.
1-1 – Hamilton fires in the first 180 of the game before taking out 56 in two darts to level.
1-2 – Pipe takes out a clinical 101 finish to regain the lead.
1-3 – Hamilton lets three opportunties to level slip away and Pipe hits double nine with a pressure third dart to break.
1-4 – The Taunton ace holds throw thanks to a 14-darter to extend his lead.
2-4 – Hamilton defies a 180 from Pipe by landing a 14-dart-finish of his own to keep the game alive.
2-5 – Hamilton registers two maximums but a missed dart at bullseye allows Pipe a shot at 80 which he duly converts on tops.

Scott Waites v Ted Hankey
1-0 – Waites holds throw to take the opening leg comfortably. Hankey yet to find his range.
1-1 – The Yorkshireman wastes three chances at double 13 and Hankey hits double top to level.
2-1 – The former Grand Slam Champion regains the lead by taking a clinical 111 finish.
2-2 – Hankey squares the game thanks to an accurate attempt at double 17.
3-2 – Waites hits double top with his third dart to take out 78 and edge ahead for a third time.
4-2 – One missed dart at tops from Hankey proves expensive as Waites records a 121 checkout to break.
4-3 – Dramatic leg sees Waites miss five chances to win the match and Hankey lands double two with a pressure third dart.
5-3 – Waites lets a further opportunity to seal the match slip away but he returns to hit double two and claim an opening win in Group H.

Dave Chisnall v Michael Smith
0-1 – High quality first leg sees Chisnall lands a 180 but Smith holds thanks to landing double ten.
1-1 – The World Grand Prix Finalist takes out 68 to level the contest.
2-1 – Chisnall hits a second maximum and converts a 97 finish to complete a 15-darter to break.
3-1 – The world number seven adds another 180 to his tally and takes out 95 to pull further clear.
3-2 – Smith kicks-off with scores of 171 and 180 but hopes a nine-darter are ended as he drops below the treble 20 but the leg is won in 11-darts.
3-3 – Smith continues his puple patch as he lands the bullseye to complete a 121 checkout.
3-4 – Both players fire in 180s but Smith wins the leg on tops for a 14-darter.
3-5 – Chisnall wires the top wire of double 20 for a 111 checkout and Smith lands double 12 for a 13-dart-finish to end a thrilling contest between the two St Helens stars.

Wes Newton v Mark Webster
1-0 – The Fleetwood man starts well by breaking Webster’s throw on double 12.
2-0 – Newton hits double eight to increase his advantage over the Welshman.
2-1 – Two missed darts at tops from Newton see Webster get a leg on the board thanks to a successful first attempt at double 12.
2-2 – Webster hits the first 180 of the game and hits double seven to level the match.
2-3 – Webster kicks-off with a 180 and wins the leg on tops to lead for the first time.
2-4 – One missed dart at tops from Newton proves very costly as Webster converts a fabulous 164 checkout.
2-5 – The Welshman hits his third 180 of the game and goes on to hit ten to win his fifth straight leg and win the match.

Simon Whitlock v Ross Smith
1-0 – Whitlock holds throw with a clinical two-dart 68 finish.
2-0 – The Australian breaks throw by converting a 90 finish to leave his opponent under pressure.
3-0 – Whitlock continues his fine form as he hits a 170 to leave 72 which he takes out in just two-darts.
3-1 – Both players miss one dart to claim the leg before Smith lands double 16 to put a leg on the board.
4-1 – Whitlock fires in a maximum and hits double ten to restore his three leg lead.
4-2 – Smith keeps the game alive by landing double 16 with his opponent waiting on a two-darter.
5-2 – Whitlock takes out 56 on double top to win the match and claim the two points.

Mervyn King v Tony O’Shea
0-1 – O’Shea lands a 180 in the opening leg and goes on to break throw on double 16.
1-1 – King hits back immediately with a 15-darter to level the game which included a 180.
1-2 – O’Shea hits a second maximum to leave 99 which he takes out to regan the lead.
1-3 – O’Shea lands double ten at the first attempt to move two legs clear of King.
1-4 – The Stockport man hits a 134 to leave 32 which he takes out at the first time of asking to complete a 13-darter.
2-4 – King wins the sixth leg against the darts thanks to an accurate attempt at double 16.
3-4 – King takes out 64 in two-darts with O’Shea waiting on the same finish to keep the game alive.
4-4 – O’Shea is off-target with one dart at double 16 to win the match and King lands tops to set up a deciding leg.
4-5 – O’Shea hits a timely 180 before taking out 61 in two-darts on double 18 to edge an exciting contest.

Raymond van Barneveld v Ricky Evans
1-0 – The Defending Champion wins the first leg comfortably by landing double two.
2-0 – van Barneveld applies pressure on his young opponent by breaking thow at the first attempt on double 18.
2-1 – Evans hits a 180 before taking out 76 in two-darts to win the third leg in impressive fashion.
3-1 – van Barneveld restores his two leg advantage by taking out 56 to break Evans’ throw for a second time.
4-1 – The Dutchman hits double top to complete an excellent 13-darter.
4-2 – Evans continues to fight and lands double nine with his third dart to keep his hopes alive.
5-2 – van Barneveld confirms victory by landing double 18 at the first attempt.

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