DUTCH wonderkid Michael van Gerwen made a thrilling start to his Stan James World Matchplay challenge with a 14-12 win over Andy Hamilton on Tuesday afternoon.

The 19-year-old matched his undoubted talent with a newfound maturity to begin his challenge for the £60,000 title in Blackpool in a see-saw battle with Hamilton.

The Stoke man fought back from trailing 3-0 and 8-5 to give himself a shot at an 11-9 win, but two missed darts for the match cost him as van Gerwen edged home.

“I’d already missed four darts for the match, but I wasn’t going to miss a second time,” said van Gerwen.

“We were both a bit nervous at times and I can play a lot better than that, but I’ll look forward to playing Wayne Mardle next. He’s a fast player so it’s easier for me.”

Van Gerwen’s Dutch colleague Vincent van der Voort suffered disappointment on his World Matchplay debut with a 10-8 defeat to Alan Tabern, who won eight of the final ten legs to come from 6-2 down to take the win.

Blackpool-based Ronnie Baxter delighted his home crowd with a 10-4 win over Andy Smith, while Peter Manley produced some of his trademark ‘One Dart’ finishing to see off Denis Ovens by the same scoreline.

The tournament’s first round concludes on Tuesday night, when defending champion James Wade takes on Wayne Jones.

The second round then begins with two matches, as nine-time champion Phil Taylor faces Colin Osborne and Kevin McDine plays Mark Walsh.

Stan James World Matchplay
Tuesday 22 July – First Round
Ronnie Baxter 10-4 Andy Smith
Alan Tabern 10-8 Vincent van der Voort
Andy Hamilton 12-14 Michael van Gerwen
Peter Manley 10-4 Denis Ovens

Evening Session – 7pm Start
James Wade v Wayne Jones
Second Round – Best of 25 legs
Phil Taylor v Colin Osborne
Kevin McDine v Mark Walsh

RONNIE BAXTER 10-4 ANDY SMITH

RONNIE BAXTER swept past Andy Smith to reach the second round of the Stan James World Matchplay with a 10-4 victory.

Baxter, a runner-up in the 1998 World Matchplay, made an assured start to his bid in this year’s event against an under-par Smith.

Smith failed to match Baxter’s scoring throughout, and never recovered from the Blackpool-based star taking a 3-0 lead.

Smith kicked off the first and third legs with maximums, but a 14-darter put Baxter ahead, and double top and double eight put him in front.

Three missed darts at double eight allowed Smith to step in and get off the mark on double 11, but a double 17 finish put Baxter 4-1 up at the first break.

Smith took two of the next three to reduce the arrears to 5-3, but Baxter hit scores of 180 and 177 in moving 7-3 up.

He then took out double four and a 102 finish on double 16 to move within a leg of victory, before Smith landed double 16 to keep his hopes alive.

But Baxter was swift to wrap up the win, landing double 16 to set up a second round match with either defending champion James Wade or Wayne Jones.

“The scoreline made it look easy but it wasn’t,” said Baxter. “My performance was okay at times but Andy gave me a lot of rope and I wasn’t taking it.

“The win was a little bit of payback for when I lost to Andy in the World Grand Prix in the first round. On that day I wasn’t in form and today he wasn’t, but that’s first rounds for you.

“I’ve got James or Wayne next and I can have a nice sleep in on Wednesday, after being first game today, and get myself ready for tomorrow night.”

ALAN TABERN 10-8 VINCENT VAN DER VOORT

ALAN TABERN produced a brilliant comeback to edge out Vincent van der Voort 10-8 in the Stan James World Matchplay and gain his first win on the Winter Gardens stage.

Tabern has been a first round loser in the past two years in his previous appearances in Blackpool, and looked set to again suffer defeat when van der Voort opened up a 6-2 lead.

But the St Helens man – using a new set of darts for the first time – battled back to win eight of the next ten legs and set up a second round clash with World Champion John Part.

Van der Voort started the stronger, outscoring Tabern in the early legs to take a 3-1 lead, including two maximums and a double top to break his opponent’s throw in leg four.

Tabern hit back in 14 darts to break the Dutchman’s throw, only for van der Voort to win three in a row, including a sparkling 12-darter, to create a 6-2 lead.

A 13-darter from Tabern stopped the rot, and three successive 15-darters, including a 101 finish, saw him pull level.

Van der Voort won two of the next three with legs of 13 and 12 darts to lead 8-7, before Tabern landed double eight to level.

Crucially, the Dutchman missed four darts at a double in the next, and Tabern stepped in on double four to break.

And the Englishman wrapped up the win in style with a 13-darter to ensure his second round appearance.

“I’m pleased to get the win in the end but I wasn’t happy with my performance,” said Tabern.

“I had to keep plugging away but 6-2 wasn’t a fair reflection on the game. I’d missed a few doubles early on and Vincent took advantage, as any player of his quality would.

“It was a bit of a gamble using my new darts on stage for the first time, but I’d have to use them one day so that may as well have been today, and I got more comfortable as the game wore on.”

MICHAEL VAN GERWEN 14-12 ANDY HAMILTON

MICHAEL VAN GERWEN edged past Andy Hamilton 14-12 in a Stan James World Matchplay thriller to reach the second round of the Winter Gardens tournament.

The Dutch youngster twice went beyond the scheduled distance in his debut in Blackpool last year, and was again an extra time winner in a compelling battle with Hamilton.

The Stoke man fought back from trailing 3-0 and 8-5 to give himself a shot at an 11-9 win, but two missed darts for the match cost him as van Gerwen edged home.

Teenager van Gerwen edged the early legs to lead 3-0 before Hamilton produced a fantastic 140 finish to kick-start his challenge.

A 110 finish saw him pull level at three-all before van Gerwen hit double 16 to move back in front and then break the throw on double top.

Hamilton took leg nine, and hit a 180 for a second successive leg in the next only for three missed doubles to allow van Gerwen in to teal the lead on the bull.

A 72 finish put the Dutchman 7-4 up before Hamilton landed an 11-darter to hit back.

He then won three of the next four legs to level at eight apiece, and the pair traded double 16 finishes to remain locked and send the game beyond the scheduled best-of-19 leg distance.

A missed bullseye from van Gerwen allowed Hamilton in to break throw and lead 10-9, but misses at double top and double ten for the win saw van Gerwen level again.

The Dutchman edged back in front on double six, but it was then his turn to squander four match darts as Hamilton scrambled home double five.

Van Gerwen missed double top for a 160 finish in the next as Hamilton broke once more, only for the teenager to hit a pressure double top to make the scoreline 12-all, with his opponent waiting on 32 for the match.

A maximum from van Gerwen sent him clear in the next before double ten put him 13-12 up, and another 180 left him a finish in the next to set up double 16 for the win.

“I’d already missed four darts for the match, but I wasn’t going to miss a second time,” said van Gerwen. “I’m very happy now to get the win.

“I always want to win 10-0, but it doesn’t matter how you win as long as you get the win, but we didn’t play the board, we played each other.

“We were both a bit nervous at times and I can play a lot better than that, but I’ll look forward to playing Wayne Mardle next.

“He’s a fast player so it’s easier for me. We’ve played twice before I like playing against him.”

PETER MANLEY 10-4 DENIS OVENS

PETER MANLEY powered into the second round of the Stan James World Matchplay with a 10-4 win over Denis Ovens.

Manley was a semi-finalist in the Las Vegas Desert Classic earlier this month, and continued his good form with some excellent finishing in Blackpool.

Ovens took the opening leg in 13 darts, but four in a row put Manley 4-1 up before a 110 finish from the Stevenage man stopped that run.

Manley replied with an 11-darter, having hit seven perfect darts with a 180 and 177 setting up a possible nine-darter, only for his seventh dart to land in the treble 20 but block the bed.

Ovens won two of the next three legs to pull back to 6-4, but Manley took the 11th leg on double top and then punished two missed doubles to move 8-4 up.

Manley then kicked off leg 13 with scores of 180, 140 and 145, giving him the space to miss five darts at a double before taking out double four to move to the brink of victory.

Manley then landed a fourth maximum of the game in the next, before taking out 96 on double eight to set up a second round clash with Matt Clark.

“From the second leg onwards he missed doubles and let me in,” admitted Manley.

“I hadn’t settled and it was always going to be a tough game, but he missed crucial doubles and I’m quite happy to scoop them up all day.

“He’ll be disappointed because of the way the game went. It wasn’t fantastic but it was gritty.

“We’ve both gone all the way around the world playing darts and are still there at the top level. That’s full credit to Denis for doing that, but I have to credit myself today for hanging in there and taking advantage when he gave me chances.”

He added: “This was always going to be a hard game because the World Matchplay is second only to the World Championship for prize money and a lot of top players have already gone out.

“Maybe they were thinking about the Order of Merit because of the prize money we’re paying for and the difference one game can make, going from £4,000 to £8,000 by reaching round two.

“Denis was playing for that, I was and it’s hard on everyone. You have to forget it and concentrate on playing the game – but it’s easy to say that!”

Clark has battled a knee problem since last year and has adopted a more upright stance when throwing, but Manley added: “Matt’s going to be a difficult game.

“I played him in the final of a non-ranked event a couple of months ago and it was a good game, he beat me fair and square but it was probably one of the most boring games of my life.

“If it wasn’t for my wife Crissy I’d have shaken his hand and walked off after the first leg, because he was so slow. When you play a slow player you want to have a walk around but the stage is shorter this year and I won’t be able to do that!

“He’s going to have a little bit of the ‘One Dart’ treatment and he’ll need all the Kryptonite he can get to beat me!”

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