2018 Unibet Premier League Darts: Week 1 Round-Up

 

2018 Unibet Premier League Darts: Week 1 Round-Up
Photo: Lawrence Lustig/PDC

World Number 1 Michael van Gerwen exacted a measure of revenge for his defeat at the hands of Rob Cross in their epic World Championship semi-final by easily dispatching with ‘Voltage’ in the standout attraction on night one in Dublin of a new-look Premier League.

Elsewhere, there was a hugely impressive victory from Simon Whitlock, who returned to the Premier League with a 7-5 victory over debutant Mensur Suljovic while Michael Smith pulled off a dramatic comeback against an out-of-sorts Gary Anderson to register his first points of the campaign at the first attempt.

Mensur Suljovic 5-7 Simon Whitlock

The 2018 tournament kicked off in sensational fashion with, what proved to be, the match of the night as Whitlock edged out a game Mensur Suljovic.

The debuting Austrian started well, hitting a 121 checkout in the opening leg as he raced into a 3-1 lead. Just as things were all looking rosy for Suljovic though, the Aussie turned the tables with brutal efficiency on his doubles.

It was not just the doubles that Whitlock excelled on however as ‘The Wizard’ averaged a superb 106.49, his highest ever Premier League average, to overpower Suljovic and take five straight legs.

Despite a late fightback from ‘The Gentle’, Whitlock, courtesy of a thrilling 160 checkout, once again pulled away and secured a 7-5 win.

Gary Anderson 5-7 Michael Smith

In a remarkable, but not exactly high quality, contest Gary Anderson slipped from a 5-1 lead and near-certain victory to a 7-5 defeat, losing six legs in a row to his former apprentice Michael Smith.

Anderson, by no means vintage but just about doing enough, had Smith on the ropes after capitalising on ‘Bully Boy’s’ early errors.

In a quite unbelievable turnaround, however, Smith reeled off six legs in succession to win thanks to Gary Anderson missing 21 darts at double, ten of which came in one disastrous leg for the Scot.

While the match was not of great quality, Anderson averaging a meagre 82, Smith took the opportunities when they presented themselves and so gets off to the best possible start this year after a nightmare beginning to his 2016 campaign.

Daryl Gurney 6-6 Raymond van Barneveld

In one of the night’s two draws, Daryl Gurney was pegged back by Barney, who trailed 6-3 but managed to secure the final three legs of the match to ensure he left Dublin with a point.

Gurney, who started quickly, missed four darts for a 3-0 lead early on and was then made to pay as van Barneveld fought his way into the contest.

With four 180s and a 94 average this was far from the Dutchman at his best but he opportunely hit doubles when Gurney left the door open, as he did in stumbling to claim what looked like a certain victory for the Northern Irishman.

Gurney will know this was a case of a point dropped rather than one gained at the 3Arena.

Michael van Gerwen 7-2 Rob Cross

The night’s main event rather failed to live up to its massive hype as the reigning Premier League Champion proved why he is still the man to beat by dismantling World Champion Rob Cross in the former electricians first ever Premier League contest.

Van Gerwen never let Cross settle as he hit the turbos from the off and took a commanding 3-0 lead. Rather uniquely, three separate 114 checkouts from ‘Mighty Mike’ were the highlights of his push for victory which saw him halted only twice by Cross legs.

In truth, Cross did not play particularly badly but was simply outgunned and found wanting at the crucial moments in the match.

For MvG, it was an enjoyable exorcism of some pretty big demons left following his defeat at the hands of Cross in the World semi-finals.

Peter Wright 6-6 Gerwyn Price

The final match of the night was somewhat of a damp squib as both players struggled. Peter Wright, debuting new darts, was inconsistent and looked uncomfortable with his new equipment however Gerwyn Price was, largely, unable to capitalise.

Price missed far too many doubles in falling 5-1 and 6-3 behind to an off-colour ‘Snakebite’. The Welshman showed his mettle and calmness under pressure, though, to turn an almost certain defeat into a draw, even if it arguably should have been more.