MICHAEL VAN GERWEN kicked off the BetVictor World Matchplay with a hard-fought 10-7 win over Steve Beaton in Blackpool on Saturday night, as Ian White, Simon Whitlock and James Wade joined him in enjoying first round victories.

World Champion van Gerwen, the pre-tournament favourite with sponsors BetVictor, opened up his challenge to win the prestigious World Matchplay title for the first time by seeing off Beaton in a see-saw contest.

After Beaton hit back from 2-0 down to level, van Gerwen took leads of 5-2, 7-4 and 8-5 – taking out checkouts of 134 and 102 – before the former World Champion hit back to within a leg as the Dutchman struggled with his doubles.

Finishes of double 18 and double ten gave van Gerwen the next two legs as he sealed the win, but after missing 24 darts at a double in the game the world number one insisted he must improve ahead of his second round tie with White.

“I was disappointed with my missed doubles and it was strange for me, but the most important thing was that I won the game,” said van Gerwen. “The first game is always the most difficult and I can look forward to the second round now.

“I’m not really happy with performance but it was an okay game and I know there’s a lot of progression left for me. I want to up my game because winning this is a big target of mine this year.”

Stoke ace White, the number 16 seed, was the night’s most impressive winner as he averaged over 100 throughout his high-quality 10-4 win over Terry Jenkins.

White kicked off the game with a 180 in an 11-dart leg and also took out 160 as he took control before ending the contest by hitting ten doubles from 14 attempts.

“I’m very happy with that,” said White. “It turned out to be a cracking game, we both hit plenty of 180s and big scores and I want to take that into the second round now.

“I felt quite confident coming here and I’ve kept up my run of not losing in the first round in Blackpool. I’ve moved my the form which I’ve shown for a while in the floor tournaments onto the big stage now, and it’s going well for me at the moment.”

2007 World Matchplay champion James Wade cruised through to the second round with a 10-5 win over Andy Smith, who hit back from 6-1 down to pull back to 7-5 before the five-time finalist regained his range to seal victory.

“I was very nervous and I probably didn’t know what to expect, but I played really well in the first three or four legs and probably lulled myself into a false sense of security,” admitted Wade, who now faces either Brendan Dolan or Richie Burnett.

“I thought it was going to be a close game but that I’d play better than I did. I came out well and whacked him into a corner but I let him get back into the game.

“Andy missed a lot of doubles and I don’t think the scoreline reflected the game in the end, but if I can play how I’m feeling and how I’m thinking then I can mix it with anyone.”

Australian ace Simon Whitlock, the number four seed, progressed to the last 16 in another topsy-turvey encounter, as he overcame Kevin Painter 10-6 with a trio of ton-plus finishes.

After the Australian took out 104 in moving 3-0 up, Painter took the next four to move ahead.

Whitlock finished 154 to level, and after Painter edged in front again at 5-4, the former European Champion powered through to claim the win by winning six of the next seven legs.

“It felt like a much closer game than 10-6 but I’m delighted with that win,” said Whitlock. “I did well in the latter part of the game and when Kevin missed a few doubles I was able to punish him.

“It’s another boost to my confidence and my form is great at the moment. I feel amazing and it will take a very good performance to beat me this week.”

The first round continues on Sunday with a double session at the Winter Gardens in Blackpool, with the afternoon session kicking off with Dave Chisnall’s clash with Dean Winstanley before Brendan Dolan meets Richie Burnett, Robert Thornton plays Paul Nicholson and Andy Hamilton faces Wayne Jones.

Justin Pipe, a quarter-finalist for the past two years, kicks off the evening session against former World Youth Champion Michael Smith, before Fleetwood’s Wes Newton challenges Blackpool’s Ronnie Baxter in a local derby.

Reigning champion Phil Taylor then begins his bid for a seventh successive Blackpool triumph as he faces Darren Webster, before the all-Dutch clash between Raymond van Barneveld and Vincent van der Voort completes the action.

BetVictor World Matchplay Darts Results

Saturday July 19
First Round
Ian White 10-4 Terry Jenkins
Simon Whitlock 10-6 Kevin Painter
Michael van Gerwen 10-7 Steve Beaton
James Wade 10-5 Andy Smith

Sunday July 20
Afternoon Session (1pm-5pm)
First Round
Dave Chisnall v Dean Winstanley
Brendan Dolan v Richie Burnett
Robert Thornton v Paul Nicholson
Andy Hamilton v Wayne Jones

Evening Session (7pm-11pm)
First Round
Justin Pipe v Michael Smith
Wes Newton v Ronnie Baxter
Phil Taylor v Darren Webster
Raymond van Barneveld v Vincent van der Voort

First Round – Best of 19 legs
* Each game must be won by two clear legs, with up to a maximum of five additional legs being played before the sixth “extra” leg is sudden-death.

MATCH INFORMATION
Ian White v Terry Jenkins
0-0 – Terry Jenkins wins the bull and will throw first
1-0 – White kicks off the match with a 180 and takes out an 11-darter to break throw immediately.
2-0 – White doubles his lead with a stunning 160 checkout.
2-1 – Jenkins opens with a180 and adds a second maximum in the leg before taking out double ten to hit back.
3-1 – Jenkins fires in another maximum, but White takes out 100 on double ten to regain his edge.
3-2 – The roles are reversed as White posts his second 180 of the game, only for Jenkins to hit back.
4-2 – White lands another maximum and finishes double 18 to move two legs clear.
5-2 – White breaks throw again by taking out 24.
6-2 – Another maximum for White edges him clear before he takes out 65 on tops.
6-3 – Jenkins hits a 180 and finishes tops to win his first leg in four.
7-3 – White takes out 86 in two darts.
8-3 – An 80 finish moves White two legs away from the win.
9-3 – Tops moves White to the brink of victory,
9-4 – White misses the bull for a 93 finish and the match, allowing Jenkins to keep his hopes alive.
10-4 – White takes out 60 to seal a superb win, hitting ten doubles from 14 attempts and averaging over 100 throughout the game.

Simon Whitlock v Kevin Painter
0-0 – Simon Whitlock wins the bull and will throw first.
1-0 – The Australian takes the opening leg on double ten.
2-0 – Painter opens with a maximum, with Whitlock replying with a 180 before breaking throw with a 61 finish on double 18, after Painter misses a dart at tops to level.
3-0 – Painter misses the bull for a 161 checkout, and Whitlock finishes 104 to move three legs clear.
3-1 – Painter hits a 180 before finishing 46 to get off the mark.
3-2 – Painter finishes 68 to break throw and reduce the gap to one leg, following one miss at tops from Whitlock.
3-3 – Double ten sees Painter level the game with a third successive leg.
3-4 – Painter takes out 92 on the bullseye to move in front for the first time.
4-4 – Painter lands a 180, but Whitlock finishes a superb 154 combination to win his first leg in five.
4-5 – Whitlock fires in his second maximum of the game, but wires tops to allow Painter back in following an earlier missed bullseye to land double eight to move back ahead.
5-5 – Whitlock hits his third 180, but fires in double 12 to level the game once again.
6-5 – The Australian posts a fourth maximum in three legs, and when Painter misses tops Whitlock posts double eight to regain the lead.
7-5 – A huge leg sees Painter miss two darts at tops, with Whitlock posting double ten to break throw and move two clear once more.
8-5 – Painter lands a 174 score, but misses four darts to win the leg as Whitlock takes out a third-dart double ten to move two legs away from the win.
8-6 – Painter finishes tops to win his first leg in five.
9-6 – Double five moves Whitlock a leg away from the win.
10-6 – Whitlock lands a fifth 180 before taking out 111 to seal victory.

Michael van Gerwen v Steve Beaton
0-0 – Michael van Gerwen wins the bull and will throw first.
1-0 – The World Champion opens the game with a 15-dart leg, taking out 72 on tops.
2-0 – van Gerwen fires in the game’s first 180 before hitting double four to break throw and move two legs up.
2-1 – van Gerwen misses four darts at doubles as Beaton capitalises on double 16 to get off the mark.
2-2 – Beaton fires in his first maximum of the game, before returning to pin double eight to level.
3-2 – van Gerwen replies with a 180 before finishing double 12 for a 12-dart leg to move back in front.
4-2 – Beaton misses double 12 for a 141 finish, and van Gerwen steps in to finish double 18.
5-2 – van Gerwen again takes advantage of a miss from Beaton – at double 15 for a 110 finish – by hitting double ten to win a third successive leg.
5-3 – van Gerwen opens with a 180, but misses the bull for a 170 finish and further darts at double eight and four to allow Beaton in on tops to hit back.
5-4 – The pattern of the eighth leg is repeated as van Gerwen lands a maximum, but misses double 19 for a 155 finish and subsequent darts at double eight and four, with Beaton this time taking out 122 on the bull as he breaks throw in style.
6-4 – van Gerwen regains a two-leg cushion with a big finish of his own, taking out 134 on double seven.
7-4 – The World Champion hits a maximum and finishes double eight to move three legs clear again.
7-5 – Beaton replies by finishing 70 on double eight.
8-5 – van Gerwen takes out 102 on double 18 to move two legs away from a second round place.
8-6 – van Gerwen opens with 140 and 180, but Beaton finishes 76 on double eight to hit back once more.
8-7 – The pair trade 180s – van Gerwen with his seventh of the game – before both faltering on double 12 and six, with van Gerwen then missing double three and one before Beaton returns to finish six on double two.
9-7 – Beaton fires in a 171 score, but van Gerwen hits double 18 to move to the brink of victory.
10-7 – Beaton battles to stay in the game as he lands a third 180, but van Gerwen posts double ten to progress.

James Wade v Andy Smith
0-0 – Andy Smith wins the bull and will throw first.
1-0 – Wade takes out 48 to win the opening leg against the throw.
2-0 – Wade doubles his lead by finishing 20.
2-1 – Smith hits back by taking out 44 to get off the mark.
3-1 – Wade finishes a third-dart double six to regain his cushion.
4-1 – Wade posts the game’s first 180 before finishing 61 on double 18 to move three legs clear with a second break of throw.
5-1 – Wade finishes tops to win a third straight leg.
6-1 – Smith misses five darts at doubles, and Wade pounces to take out tops, on his second visit for the finish.
6-2 – Smith hits back to win his second leg of the game with a break of throw.
6-3 – Smith finishes 76 on double 18 to win back-to-back legs.
7-3 – Wade takes out 44 on tops to regain his four-leg lead.
7-4 – Smith’s resurgence continues as he finishes 120.
7-5 – The Studley ace cuts the gap to just two legs by landing double 18.
8-5 – Wade settles any nerves by finishing 64 on tops.
9-5 – The 2007 World Matchplay winner again lands tops, this time to finish 50.
10-5 – Wade lands two 180s in the leg before sealing victory on double four.