SIMON WHITLOCK began his challenge for Ladbrokes.com World Darts Championship glory with a straight sets win over Steve Evans at Alexandra Palace on Saturday night.
Australian ace Whitlock, along with eight other players and over 1,000 fans, braved the snow in north London to arrive at Alexandra Palace for his opening game, and dropped only two legs against Evans.
He hit a 110 finish and a 13-darter in taking the victory, although he admitted: “I was really nervous but thankfully I came through with the win.
“There’s a lot of pressure on the first round and I know how Phil Taylor felt on Thursday now. The important thing is that I’m back after Christmas and I will be able to relax and enjoy the second round.”
Meanwhile, 2005 finalist Mark Dudbridge ended a 12-month gap without a televised victory by coming from a set down to defeat Alex Roy 3-1.
Dudbridge will now take on Adrian Lewis in the second round after Christmas, while Andy Hamilton and Gary Anderson also progressed to the last 32.
Hamilton ground out a 3-0 win against Dennis Smith, while Anderson was another straight sets winner in his clash with Japan’s Morihiro Hashimoto.
Hashimoto had overcome Derbyshire’s Matt Padgett 4-2 in the preliminary round, but could not match Anderson’s brilliance when he returned to the stage, with the Scot averaging 103 in a whitewash victory.
The first round continues on Sunday evening, with three-time World Champion John Part in action when he faces Denmark’s Per Laursen or Croatia’s Boris Krcmar.
Kirk Shepherd, who lost to Part in the 2008 final and was a late replacement for Australia’s Rob Modra, meets Wayne Jones, Robert Thornton takes on Nigel Heydon and Wes Newton plays America’s Darin Young.
Ladbrokes.com World Darts Championship
Saturday December 18
Andy Hamilton 3-0 Dennis Smith
Matt Padgett 2-4 Morihiro Hashimoto (Preliminary Round)
Mark Dudbridge 3-1 Alex Roy
Simon Whitlock 3-0 Steve Evans
Gary Anderson 3-0 Morihiro Hashimoto
Sunday December 19 (7pm)
Wayne Jones v Kirk Shepherd
Per Laursen v Boris Krcmar (Preliminary Round)
Robert Thornton v Nigel Heydon
Wes Newton v Darin Young
John Part v Laursen/Krcmar
ANDY HAMILTON 3-0 DENNIS SMITH
(3-1, 3-0, 3-2)
ANDY HAMILTON reached the second round of the 2011 Ladbrokes.com World Darts Championship with a straight sets victory over Dennis Smith at Alexandra Palace.
Hamilton, who missed a dart at double 18 to beat James Wade in last year’s competition, will now take on either Robert Thornton or Nigel Heydon after the Christmas break.
Both players struggled to get into any kind of form in the early stages of the match, holding their opening throws without any great conviction.
Hamilton secured a break of throw in the third leg by hitting double two after Smith missed two darts at double four.
The fourth leg proved to be difficult to win for both players as they both missed several opportunities before Hamilton closed out a forgettable set of darts by hitting double five.
Hamilton, a former semi-finalist at this event, stepped up a gear at the start of the second set, winning the first leg with a 14-darter.
The Derby-based thrower then won the second against the darts by hitting double 18, and an accurate attempt at double eight in the next leg gave Hamilton a two sets advantage and six successive legs.
Smith won his first leg in seven at the start of the third set by hitting double 18, before Hamilton levelled after the Smith was guilty of wasting two darts at double top for a two leg lead.
Smith, a former semi-finalist himself back in 2000, held throw to win the third leg but missed a dart at double 16 to win the set and Hamilton hit double top at the first attempt to set up a deciding leg.
Smith had the advantage of throw and put some consistent scores to be first to the double, but five more chances to keep the game alive went begging and Hamilton made him pay by hitting a 106 checkout to end the contest.
“I was probably too relaxed at times but the important thing was that I got the job done and won, which I’ve done,” said Hamilton. “I never got into top gear but I wasn’t put under a huge amount of pressure.
“I know I’ve got the game if I am pushed and I can enjoy Christmas now and come back for the second round. For me, the tournament starts after Christmas.”
MORIHIRO HASHIMOTO 4-2 MATT PADGETT
JAPAN’S Morihiro Hashimoto defeated Matt Padgett with an excellent 4-2 triumph in the preliminary round of the Ladbrokes.com World Darts Championship.
From 2-1 down, Hashimoto produced some fine darts to win the next three legs and set up a clash against Scotland’s Gary Anderson later on Saturday night.
Padgett, making his World Championship debut, managed to hold throw in the opening leg of the match for an early lead after Hashimoto missed a dart at the bullseye to break.
The Japanese qualifier levelled the game at one apiece by hitting double nine with his last dart before Padgett, a 28-year-old bowling alley technician from Derby, led for a second time by hitting tops.
Hashimoto won the fourth leg by hitting a pressure double top with Padgett waiting to pounce on a two-dart finish.
An excellent 180, followed by a two-dart 61 finish secured a break of throw for Hashimoto to win the fifth leg in 14 darts and lead 3-2.
Hashimoto missed two darts at double 12 to close out the game in the next, but Padgett could not set up an opportunity at a double and the Japanese ace returned to the oche and hit double 12 for victory.
MARK DUDBRIDGE 3-1 ALEX ROY
(1-3, 3-2, 3-1, 3-1)
MARK DUDBRIDGE came from a set down to end Alex Roy’s challenge in the first round of the 2011 Ladbrokes.com World Darts Championship at Alexandra Palace.
Former finalist Dudbridge, seeded 28th for this year’s competition, withstood an impressive start from Roy to book a place in the last 32, where he will face Adrian Lewis after Christmas.
Roy burst out of the blocks in blistering fashion, hitting two maximums in the process of winning the opening leg of the match in 13 darts.
Dudbridge hit a 77 finish to level after Roy missed a dart at bullseye, but the Watford man was soon back in the lead with a successful attempt at double ten.
Roy, who came through the PDPA Qualifier to earn a 13th consecutive World Championship appearance, then broke his opponent’s throw with a clinical 64 finish to open up an early lead.
Dudbridge kicked off the second set with a 180 and won the opening leg in 12 darts before Roy took the second courtesy of a 68 finish.
Dudbridge, who hit a nine-darter at a Players Championship in Barnsley last month, took the third leg by hitting double top but Roy kept the pressure on by winning the next by hitting double 16 at the first attempt.
The deciding leg saw Dudbridge begin with another maximum and the Bristolian completed the leg superbly in 12 darts, for the second time in the set, to square the game.
Set three began with Roy holding throw after Dudbridge missed a dart at double 16 for a 112 checkout.
Dudbridge won the second by hitting double ten and then secured his first break of throw of the match with an accurate attempt at double 16.
The 2005 runner-up then won his third leg in succession with an excellent 85 finish, completed on the bullseye, to win the third set and lead the match for the first time.
Roy had a chance to win the opening leg of the fourth set against the darts but he was off-target with his attempt at double 16 and Dudbridge stepped in to hit tops for a 1-0 lead.
Roy hit double four to win the second leg after Dudbridge had missed chances to double his advantage.
Dudbridge won the third leg despite a 180 from his opponent to go one leg away from victory, and that was duly secured when he hit double four with his third dart.
“It’s great to win, but I’m more pleased with how relaxed I felt on that stage,” said Dudbridge, who had not won a televised game since last year’s World Championship.
“Alex started superbly in that first set. He blew me away and for a while I thought it was going to be another early exit and I’m delighted with how I kept myself together after that.
“I’m delighted to have won but I’ve got to look forward to the second round now after Christmas, and I can’t get too carried away.”
SIMON WHITLOCK 3-0 STEVE EVANS
(3-1, 3-1, 3-0)
SIMON WHITLOCK opened up his bid for Ladbrokes.com World Darts Championship glory with a straight sets victory over Wales’ Steve Evans.
The Australian ace, fancied by many to lift the title after reaching last year’s final, never reached top form during the game, but it was enough to defeat qualifier Evans, who was making his second appearance at Alexandra Palace.
Whitlock won the opening leg by hitting eight before Evans hit back to win the second despite the Australian recording the first maximum of the game.
Evans missed a chance to win the third leg after he was off-target with his attempt at double 13, and Whitlock won it on double 16 before sealing the set in the next leg by hitting the same bed.
Evans took the first leg of set two by hitting double ten before Whitlock won the second to level with the aid of his second maximum of the game.
In the third leg Whitlock hit a superb 168 to leave 36, which he duly took with his first attempt at double 18.
Whitlock also nearly recorded a 170 checkout in the next leg, but his attempt at bullseye landed agonisingly into the 25, and he missed further doubles before landing double one for a two-set cushion.
Whitlock held throw to win the first leg of the third set and then doubled his advantage by taking out 80 after a frustrated Evans had missed two chances at double 16.
Whitlock then ended the game in the next leg by hitting double eight to seal a place in the last 32.
“I was really nervous but thankfully I came through with the win,” said Whitlock. “There’s a lot of pressure on the first round and I know how Phil Taylor felt on Thursday now.
“The important thing is that I’m back after Christmas and I will be able to relax and enjoy the second round.”
GARY ANDERSON 3-0 MORIHIRO HASHIMOTO
(3-0, 3-0, 3-0)
GARY ANDERSON laid down a marker to the rest of the field with a first round whitewash victory over Japan’s Morihiro Hashimoto at the Ladbrokes.com World Darts Championship.
Hashimoto did not disgrace himself on the big stage but Anderson was in a class of his own as he won the match with a three-dart average over 103.
Hashimoto, who obtained crowd favouritism after his preliminary round victory against Matt Padgett earlier in the evening, thrilled his fans with a 180 in the opening leg.
But it was Anderson who held throw for an early lead and then doubled his advantage with a 14-darter, which included a maximum of his own.
Anderson fired in another 180 in the third leg and took out an excellent 122 checkout to seal the first set in double-quick time.
The second set began with Hashimoto missing two chances to win his first leg of the match, and Anderson was ready and waiting as he stepped in by hitting double 18.
That gave the Scotsman a break of throw and a 76 finish to win the second leg and he kept the momentum going with his third 180 of the contest in the next leg only for Hashimoto to reply with one of his own.
But Anderson was still in front in the leg and hit double top to complete a 13-dart finish and establish total command of the game.
Anderson took out 80 to win the opening leg of the third set and he then won the next two legs in comfortable fashion, ending the contest with another successful attempt at double top to win the game.
“There’s a lot of good dart players in countries like Japan and Morihiro did great,” said Anderson. “It will be a big boost for darts in his country.
“I hit my doubles at the right times and I had to because he was hot on my heels, and he played really well.
“I’m very pleased that I’m through and with my performance. I saw I was averaging 109 at one point and I wanted to break the 110 mark, but it was a good performance anyway.”