Simon Whitlock will renew his rivalry with Michael van Gerwen at the Hungarian Darts Trophy, after producing some magical darts to defeat home favourite Janos Vegso on Friday’s opening night in Budapest.
Whitlock was one of several high-profile names in first round action at the BOK Sportcsarnok, and Australia’s World Cup winner delivered the goods as the European Tour resumed following a two-month hiatus.
The 53-year-old kicked off his campaign with a comprehensive 6-2 victory over host-nation qualifier Vegso, rattling in six maximums and converting 122 and 147 finishes in back-to-back legs.
Whitlock squandered a host of match darts in the latter stages, but he regained his poise to move through to a meeting against top seed Van Gerwen, as he eyes a sixth straight win against the Dutchman on Saturday night.
However, Daryl Gurney produced the performance of the day in Budapest, averaging 105.3 to dispatch his fellow countryman Nathan Rafferty 6-1.
Gurney was in merciless mood in the Hungarian capital, winning all six legs within five visits to the board to set up a blockbuster tussle against Michael Smith for a place in Sunday’s final stages.
Stephen Bunting was also in scintillating form on Friday, averaging 103.66 to whitewash Callan Rydz and secure a second round meeting with former UK Open winner Nathan Aspinall.
Bunting’s fellow St Helens star Dave Chisnall turned on the style in his 6-1 demolition of Daniel Larsson, producing a sublime 137 checkout to set up a mouth-watering showdown against Jonny Clayton.
Chris Dobey claimed a crucial win in his bid to seal European Championship qualification, recording a 6-3 success over World Youth Champion Ted Evetts, and he now plays Dirk van Duijvenbode tomorrow afternoon.
Ryan Meikle fired in a magnificent 11-darter to clinch a 6-4 win over German number one Gabriel Clemens, and Poland’s Krzysztof Ratajski now awaits Meikle on Saturday afternoon.
Elsewhere, Martin Lukeman maintained his impressive European Tour form to close out a hard-fought 6-4 victory over Ian White, and his reward is a meeting with Masters champion Joe Cullen.
All four Hungarian representatives crashed out in round one, as William O’Connor prevailed in a scrappy contest against Pal Szekely to create a match-up with 13th seed Dimitri Van den Bergh.
Jeffrey De Zwaan and Boris Krcmar also breezed past regional qualifiers Andras Borbely and Levente Sarai earlier in the day, to set up tussles against Rob Cross and Luke Humphries respectively.
Josh Rock continues to impress on the big stage, posting four 180s and taking out a brilliant 121 finish to dump out Darius Labanauskas and book a meeting against Australia’s number one Damon Heta.
Rusty-Jake Rodriguez will play UK Open champion Danny Noppert for a place in the last 16, firing in four maximums en route to a convincing 6-2 success against Canadian veteran Jeff Smith.
Jim Williams survived four match darts in an edgy affair against Brett Claydon to set up a showdown against World Champion Peter Wright, while eighth seed Ryan Searle awaits Karel Sedlacek, who defied a late rally to edge out France’s Thibault Tricole.
Madars Razma landed two ton-plus finishes – including a 108 skin-saver in the penultimate leg – as he reeled off four consecutive legs from 5-2 down to deny Germany’s Franz Roetzsch.
The Latvian was due to take on defending champion Gerwyn Price in the second round, but he now receives a Bye through to Finals Day after the Welshman withdrew on Friday.
Raymond van Barneveld also received a Bye following Rowby-John Rodriguez’s withdrawal, and Van Barneveld now takes on Jose De Sousa in a heavyweight second round clash.
The seeded stars will enter the fray on Saturday, before the tournament concludes on Sunday with the third round in the afternoon session ahead of the quarter-finals, semi-finals and final in the evening session.
Schedule of Play
Friday September 2
Madars Razma 6-5 Franz Roetzsch
Jim Williams 6-5 Brett Claydon
Boris Krcmar 6-1 Levente Sarai
Rusty-Jake Rodriguez 6-2 Jeff Smith
Josh Rock 6-4 Darius Labanauskas
Karel Sedlacek 6-4 Thibault Tricole
Jeffrey De Zwaan 6-2 Andras Borbely
Daryl Gurney 6-1 Nathan Rafferty
Martin Lukeman 6-4 Ian White
Dave Chisnall 6-1 Daniel Larsson
William O’Connor 6-2 Pal Szekely
Chris Dobey 6-3 Ted Evetts
Simon Whitlock 6-2 Janos Vegso
Stephen Bunting 6-0 Callan Rydz
Ryan Meikle 6-4 Gabriel Clemens
Bye: Raymond van Barneveld
Saturday September 3
Afternoon Session (1300 local time, 1200 BST)
Damon Heta v Josh Rock
Danny Noppert v Rusty-Jake Rodriguez
Ryan Searle v Karel Sedlacek
Dirk van Duijvenbode v Chris Dobey
Michael Smith v Daryl Gurney
Krzysztof Ratajski v Ryan Meikle
Dimitri Van den Bergh v William O’Connor
Jonny Clayton v Dave Chisnall
Evening Session (1900 local time, 1800 BST)
Rob Cross v Jeffrey De Zwaan
Jose de Sousa v Raymond van Barneveld
Luke Humphries v Boris Krcmar
Joe Cullen v Martin Lukeman
Peter Wright v Jim Williams
Michael van Gerwen v Simon Whitlock
Nathan Aspinall v Stephen Bunting
Bye: Madars Razma