REIGNING champion Michael van Gerwen started the defence of his William Hill World Darts Championship title with a hard-fought 3-1 victory over Joe Cullen at Alexandra Palace, where qualifier Cristo Reyes caused a huge upset by dumping out 13th seed Wes Newton in a sudden-death leg and Keegan Brown ousted John Part.

All five sets in van Gerwen’s first match back at Alexandra Palace since he claimed the Sid Waddell Trophy in January went the full distance, and they could have gone either way with Cullen twice missing set darts, but in the end the Dutchman raised his game at the right time.

Van Gerwen opened the game by scoring 140, 180 and 149 to leave himself on 32 for a ten-darter, but Cullen showed he would not be rattled by taking out 161 to stun the World Champion with a 12-dart leg.

Van Gerwen recovered to take the set despite struggling, and it was a similar story in the second as Cullen missed two darts for the set to level the game, enabling his rival to go 2-0 up.

Van Gerwen took out 104 in the third set after Cullen had moved two legs up, and although he missed further set darts the Yorkshireman recovered to take out 114 to finally get a deserved set on the board.

His visible celebration only served to give the Dutchman a jolt though, as he hit seven perfect darts when going ahead in the fourth set. Cullen stormed back with finishes of 128 and 104 to force another decider, but van Gerwen nailed 84 to seal the win.

“Joe made me play well – both of us also found it difficult with the pressure but a win is a win,” said van Gerwen. “He played really well

“In the first leg I was left on a double and he took that shot out and I thought today is not going to be my day – Joe’s a fantastic player I know that. I just want to do well and with all the pressure I’m happy to just get the win.

“Of course there’s more pressure as champion but I got through it and I’ve got a week off now so I’ll be happy to go home and then come back stronger for the rest of the tournament.

“I need to play more consistently, I made too many mistakes and sooner or later someone’s going to make you pay for that.

“I’m going home for Christmas, I’m flying back tomorrow and them coming back on Boxing Day so I’ll be enjoying my Christmas and then coming back stronger.”

Spanish qualifier Cristo Reyes won his preliminary match against Christian Perez with ease as he claimed a 4-0 whitewash victor, and that match on the big stage obviously gave him huge confidence as he returned for the last match of the night to win a sudden-death thriller against Wes Newton.

Tenerife’s Reyes, 27, quickly moved two sets up up on the three-time quarter-finalist, with a 126 finish helping matters, but Newton hit back with a 130 checkout on the bull as he hit back in the third set.

Newton then won three straight legs in the next to level the game as the dream upset victory for Reyes seemed over, but to his huge credit he went toe-to-toe in the deciding set, which kicked off with a 121 finish from Newton.

The two traded legs to force the match into a tie-break, but even then they couldn’t be separated as the game went to five legs all to force a sudden death final leg.

Following confusion on stage as to whether or not the players should throw for the bull again in the deciding leg, Reyes capitalised and hit double 16 at his first attempt to grab by far the biggest win of his career and a second round place at the World Championship.

“Playing in the preliminary round helped a lot with the nerves, I was far less nervous coming back than I was in the preliminary round,” said Reyes.

“I’ll be going back to Tenerife now for Christmas and then we’ll come back – I didn’t have a flight booked back obviously but we’ll sort that out. This is great for me and for Spanish darts.”

Another upset saw debutant Keegan Brown survive a strong comeback to knock out three-time World Champion John Part 3-2 in their first round tie.

Reigning World Youth Champion Brown stormed into a 2-0 lead by winning the opening six legs of the match, hitting two 180s as he bullied Part on scoring and gave him few opportunities on doubles.

A seventh leg on the spin to start the third set looked to spell the end for Part, but the Canadian came roaring back and produced three superb finishes of 109, 84 and 115 to level the game at two sets all, leaving Brown visibly stunned.

A deciding set promised drama, but it proved to be a step too far for Part as Brown raised his game again and took all three legs, despite a wobble on closing out the match on tops, to book his place in the second round – where he could face another World Champion in Adrian Lewis.

“John showed he’s a true World Champion by coming back from 2-0 down, not many players would be able to come back from 2-0 down but he showed his class there,” said Brown, who will return to his day job as a medical lab assistant on the Isle of Wight before his second round match.

“There’s no real time to enjoy it, I’ll be back at work on Monday morning and I’m working Christmas Day and Boxing Day as well!”

Jelle Klaasen overcame fellow Dutchman Christian Kist 3-1 in their battle of former Lakeside Champions to book his place in the second round.

There was not much between the two in the first two sets, which both went the distance, but Klaasen held his nerve edge them both.

Kist hit back with a 3-0 set, but Klaasen was a cut above in the next as he also took it without reply with a 109 checkout the highlight as he claimed his place in round two.

The first round continues on Friday, with Phil Taylor beginning his bid to win a 17th World Championship title as he takes on Germany’s Jyhan Artut.

Peter Wright, last year’s beaten finalist, takes on Welsh debutant Gerwyn Price, while 2012 runner-up Andy Hamilton meets Canadian newcomer Dave Richardson and Stuart Kellett plays either Finland’s Kim Viljanen or Germany’s Sascha Stein, who meet in the preliminary round.

WILLIAM HILL WORLD DARTS CHAMPIONSHIP
Preliminary & First Rounds
Thursday December 18
John Part (30) 2-3 Keegan Brown
Christian Perez 0-4 Cristo Reyes (P)
Jelle Klaasen (29) 3-1 Christian Kist
Michael van Gerwen (1) 3-1 Joe Cullen
Wes Newton (13) 2-3 Cristo Reyes

Friday December 19 (7pm)
Andy Hamilton (12) v Dave Richardson
Kim Viljanen v Sascha Stein (P)
Peter Wright (5) v Gerwyn Price
Phil Taylor (2) v Jyhan Artut
Stuart Kellett (32) v Kim Viljanen/Sascha Stein

MATCH INFORMATION
JOHN PART 2-3 KEEGAN BROWN
(0-3, 0-3, 3-1, 3-2, 0-3)

DEBUTANT Keegan Brown survived a strong comeback to defeat three-time World Champion John Part 3-2 in the opening game of the William Hill World Darts Championship.

Reigning World Youth Champion Brown stormed into a 2-0 lead by winning the opening six legs of the match, hitting two 180s as he bullied Part on scoring and gave him few opportunities on doubles.

A seventh leg on the spin to start the third set looked to spell the end for Part, but the Canadian came roaring back and produced three superb finishes to get a set back on the board.

He first took out 109 on double 16, before hitting 84 on double 12 and completing it with 115 on double 19, and that confidence led to him winning a scrappy fourth set to level the game at two sets all, leaving Brown visibly stunned.

A deciding set promised drama, but it proved to be a step too far for Part as Brown raised his game again and took three straight legs, despite a wobble on closing out the match on tops, to book his place in the second round – where he could face another World Champion in Adrian Lewis.

“John showed he’s a true World Champion by coming back from 2-0 down, not many players would be able to come back from 2-0 down but he showed his class there,” said Brown, who will return to his job as a medical lab assistant on the Isle of Wight before his second round match.

“There’s no real time to enjoy it, I’ll be back at work on Monday morning and I’m working Christmas Day and Boxing Day as well.

“But it’s been great on the Isle Of Wight – they love their darts and I can’t go anywhere without people coming up to me and saying hello or shaking my hand, it’s been brilliant.”

Match Information
First Set 0-3 – Flying start by debutant Keegan Brown as he takes all three legs, one against the darts, to storm into the lead against the three-time World Champion thanks finishes of 61, 62 and 36. Part didn’t even get a shot at a double while Brown hit three out of five and is averaging 95.94.
Second Set 0-3 – More of the same from Brown, who hits two 180s in the set and despite squandering one chance took out finishes of 24 and 36 again on double nine – just as he did to clinch the first set. Part has just three shots at double but can’t make any of them tell.
Third Set 3-1 – Out of nowhere Part finally finds some form after losing the opening leg – that’s seven in a row – as the Canadian hits back with checkouts of 109, 84 and 115 to get a set on the board.
Fourth Set 3-2 – The Part fightback continues and Brown is rattled. Brown hits a 180 and 140 in the same leg but only just takes it, before Part hits his first maximum of the match and then holds his nerve to take the decider with a 42 outshot.
Fifth Set 0-3 – The comeback comes to a disappointing end for Part as the set follows the same pattern as the game’s opening two, with Brown in total charge. Part missed double 16 in the first leg and then missed tops in the third – after Brown had already missed three match darts as nerves hit – but he remained calm to nail double ten and seal the win.

Christian Perez 0-4 Cristo Reyes (P)

SPAIN’S Cristo Reyes booked a place in the first round proper later on Thursday night with a comfortable 4-0 whitewash over Philippines qualifier Christian Perez.

Reyes managed a 93.94 average and hit 80 percent of his doubles in what was a one-sided contest.

Perez did manage a 180 on the big stage, but Reyes was a class above, especially when hitting a brilliant 142 outshot, which showed he could be a danger in his first round clash when he takes on Wes Newton.

JELLE KLAASEN 3-1 CHRISTIAN KIST
(3-2, 3-2, 0-3, 3-0)

JELLE KLAASEN overcame fellow Dutchman Christian Kist 3-1 in their battle of former Lakeside Champions to book his place in the second round of the William Hill World Darts Championship.

There was not much between the pair in the first two sets, which both went the distance, but Klaasen held his nerve the better to pinch them both.

Despite a 180 and 140 in the fifth leg of the match, Kist lost the opening set when Klaasen took out 81, with Alexandra Palace debutant Kist taking out 136 during the set.

Klaasen picked off a 127 in the second set to move 2-0 up, but just as in the first set Kist levelled matters only to fluff his lines in the decider by missing three darts at doubles to hand the opportunity to his rival.

Kist hit back powerfully to claim all three legs of the fourth set, but a 109 checkout helped Klaasen do exactly the same in the fourth set to seal his passage into round two.

Match Information
First Set 3-2 – A cracking start to this game sees Klaasen averaging 103.61 and needing every bit of it to edge the set. Kist hit a wonderful 136 outshot to tie it up but Klaasen pinched the decider, where both men hit 180s, thanks to an 81 checkout.
Second Set 3-2 – Another close contest sees Klaasen take the decider as he doubles his lead. Klaasen took out 94 and 127 to go 2-0 up and although Kist levelled he fluffed his lines in the decider, missing three darts at a double to allow Klaasen to move two sets up.
Third Set 0-3 – The third set is a simple win for Kist as Klaasen loses his range, a nice 72 checkout was the highlight and he hit his third 180 during the set.
Fourth Set 3-0 – Klaasen hits back in style, with a 109 checkout the highlight as he dominates proceedings in the fourth set to book his place in round two.

MICHAEL VAN GERWEN 3-1 JOE CULLEN
(3-2, 3-2, 2-3, 3-2)
REIGNING champion Michael van Gerwen started the defence of his William Hill World Darts Championship title with a hard-fought 3-1 victory over Joe Cullen at Alexandra Palace.

All five sets went the full distance, and they could have gone either way with Cullen twice missing set darts, but in the end van Gerwen raised his game at the right times.

The Dutch ace opened the game by scoring 140, 180 and 149 to leave himself on 32 for a ten-darter, but Cullen showed he would not be rattled by taking out 161 to stun the World Champion.

Van Gerwen recovered to take the set despite struggling, and it was a similar story in the second as Cullen missed two darts for the set enabling the top seed to move 2-0 up.

The reignig champion took out 104 in the next set after Cullen had moved two legs up, and although he missed more set darts the Yorkshireman recovered to take out 114 to finally get a deserved set on the board.

His celebration only served to give the Dutchman a jolt though, and he hit seven perfect darts when going ahead in the fourth set. Cullen stormed back with 128 and 104 finishes in forcing another decider, but van Gerwen nailed 84 to seal the win.

“Joe made me play well both of us also found it difficult with the pressure,” said van Gerwen. “He played really well.

“In the first leg I was left on a double and he took that shot out and I thought today is not going to be my day – Joe’s a fantastic player I know that. I just want to do well and with all the pressure I’m happy to just get the win.

“Of course there’s more pressure as champion but I got through it and I’ve got a week off now so I’ll be happy to go home and then come back stronger for the rest of the tournament.

“I need to play more consistently, I made too many mistakes and sooner or later someone’s going to make you pay for that.

“I’m going home for Christmas, I’m flying back tomorrow and them coming back on Boxing Day so I’ll be enjoying my Christmas and then coming back stronger.”

Match Information
First Set 3-2 – The World Champion started off in amazing fashion with 140, 180 and 149, but Cullen takes out 161 to take the lead! Van Gerwen hits back though and takes the lead by nabbing the decider.
Second Set 3-2 – Van Gerwen is again made to work hard to get the job done, but he does to double his advantage. He hit two 180s when taking the second leg, but Cullen forces a deciding leg, only to miss two darts for the set to allow van Gerwen to pinch it.
Third Set 2-3 – Cullen misses darts for the set again, but this time he recovers and takes the set in style by taking out 114 in the decider to pull it back to 2-1.
Fourth Set 3-2 – Cullen, fighting for all his worth after going 2-0 down, hits back with checkouts of 128 and 104 to force a decider, but van Gerwen steps it up to wrap up a 3-1 win.

WES NEWTON 2-3 CRISTO REYES
(1-3, 1-3, 3-1, 3-0, 5-6)

Spanish qualifier Cristo Reyes sprung a huge upset as he knocked out number 13 seed Wes Newton 3-2 in a thrilling sudden-death leg decider.

Reyes won his preliminary match against Christian Perez with ease, and that match on the big stage obviously gave him huge confidence as he returned for the last match of the night to win in a fifth-set tie-break against Newton.

Tenerife’s Reyes, 27, quickly moved two sets up on three-time quarter-finalist Newton, with a 126 finish helping matters, but Newton hit back with a 130 checkout on the bull as he won the third set.

Newton then won all three legs in the next to level matters, and the dream upset victory for Reyes seemed over – but to his huge credit he went toe-to-toe in the deciding set, which kicked off with a 121 finish from Newton.

The two traded legs to force the match into a tie-break to try to find a winner, but even then they couldn’t be separated as it went to five legs all to force a sudden death final leg.

Following confusion on stage as to whether or not the players should throw for the bull again in the deciding leg, Reyes capitalised and hit double 16 at his first attempt to grab by far the biggest win of his career and a second round place at the World Championship.

“Playing in the preliminary round helped a lot with the nerves, I was far less nervous coming back than I was in the preliminary round,” said Reyes. “I’ll be going back to Tenerife now for Christmas and then we’ll come back – I didn’t have a flight booked back obviously but we’ll sort that out!”

Match Information
First Set 1-3 – Is there a shock in the making? Reyes makes a fast start and takes out 126 as the highlight against a lacklustre Newton.
Second Set 1-3 – There’s more of the sae from Reyes as he doubles his lead – only just though after missing eight set darts before the ninth, into double two, gets the job done.
Third Set 3-1 – Newton stops the rot and stays in the match, pulling out the best finish yet with a remarkable 130 checkout on the bull to galvanise his challenge.
Fourth Set 3-0 – Newton levels the game, taking all three legs in the set, with the Spaniard now struggling to find his mark.
Fifth Set 5-6 – The game enjoys an amazing finish, with the two trading leg after leg in a tie-break as they go to five-all to send the game into a sudden-death leg, which Reyes managed to win with double 16 sealing a memorable upset.