Reigning champion and world No 1 Michael Smith survives opening-round scare to make it through at Ally Pally; the World Darts Championship runs all the way until the final on January 3, 2024 – we’re back on Saturday afternoon at 12.30pm, live on Sky Sports Darts
By Raz Mirza at Alexandra Palace, London
Last Updated: 16/12/23 12:00am
Defending champion and world No 1 Michael Smith began his World Darts Championship title defence with victory after surviving a scare to defeat Dutch debutant Kevin Doets on opening night at Alexandra Palace.
Smith created global headlines with his sensational triumph in January, producing an incredible nine-darter in a leg dubbed ‘the greatest of all-time’ on his way to a 7-4 success against Michael van Gerwen.
World Darts Championship: Friday’s Results
|Stowe Buntz (R1)
|Rusty-Jake Rodriguez (R1)
|Paolo Nebrida (R1)
|Kevin Doets (R2)
Doets, who reached the fifth round of this year’s UK Open after winning his PDC Tour Card for the first time in January 2022, dumped out Grand Slam of Darts quarter-finalist Stowe Buntz in the opening match of the tournament.
The world No 66 came into the meeting with St Helens star Smith on a high, but it was the reigning champion who made a strong start by sealing the opening set 3-1 with 60 per cent on the doubles.
The talented Dutchman responded by claiming the second set in a deciding leg against the darts for parity with a 100.3 average after Smith failed to hit tops to move clear of his opponent.
Doets, nicknamed ‘Hawk Eye’, continued to find the target and he despite a huge 150 checkout from Smith, he produced winning legs in 12, 14 and 13 darts to move within a set of causing a almighty upset.
However, Smith wrapped up set four 3-1, including a whopping 121 checkout to send it the distance.
Smith landed a majestic 142 checkout under immense pressure to regain the lead in the decider and despite missing five darts at a double, he eventually claimed victory with a 67 finish on tops.
“It’s one of them, I managed to fall over the line, no nerves, no pressure, I’ll have a good Christmas now,” Smith told Sky Sports.
Simon Whitlock, the 2010 runner-up, missed five darts before winning a slow-burner of a contest against former PDC Asian Championship finalist Paolo Nebrida to set up a showdown with two-time champion Gary Anderson on Saturday evening.
‘The Wizard’ was forced to dig deep to battle past Nebrida, using all of his experience to produce an escapologist act.
Whitlock said: “I’ve just been messing around with my darts too much. I’ve been like Peter Wright.”
Cameron Menzies came through a fiery encounter against Rusty-Jake Rodriguez to reach the second round.
The Scot, who is the partner of Fallon Sherrock, closed out a 3-0 success over Austria’s Rodriguez with four 180s and 50 per cent on the doubles to move through.
Live World Darts Championship
December 16, 2023, 12:30pm
Live World Darts Championship
December 16, 2023, 7:00pm
What’s happening on Saturday at the World Darts Championship?
The first double session at this year’s tournament will take place, as two-time world champion Gary Anderson opens his title challenge with a clash against Simon Whitlock.
World Darts Championship: Saturday Afternoon Fixtures
|Sandro Eric Sosing (R1)
|Krzysztof Kciuk (R1)
|Jules van Dongen
|Darren Penhall (R1)
|Cameron Menzies (R2)
World Darts Championship: Saturday Evening Fixtures
|David Cameron (R1)
|Reynaldo Rivera (R1)
|Haruki Muramatsu (R1)
|Simon Whitlock (R2)
Dave Chisnall, a 2021 semi-finalist, takes centre stage in the afternoon when he faces Cameron Menzies, while American No 1 Jules van Dongen makes his debut against DPA qualifier Darren Penhall.
The sport’s biggest event sees 96 players compete for the Sid Waddell Trophy and £2.5m in prize money at Alexandra Palace. You can watch all the action live on our dedicated Sky Sports Darts channel.
Watch the World Darts Championship all the way until the final on January 3, 2024 – live on Sky Sports Darts. NOW Sports Month Membership: £21 a month for 6 months
Source : Sky Sports