World champs day 1

MICHAEL VAN GERWEN hit a maximum 180 with the opening three darts of the defence of his William Hill World Darts Championship before beating Christian Kist 3-1 with the third-best first round average in tournament history.

Van Gerwen hit the ground running on the opening night of the tournament in some style as he produced a standard-setting 106.17 average to fire out a warning to his rivals that he will not be relinquishing his title easily.

That opening 180 helped Van Gerwen take the first leg in 14 darts before he followed up with a 15-darter and capped off the first set with a 12-darter, highlighted with a 141 finish.

Kist needed to reply with in a 13-darter just to finally get a leg on the board as he went two sets down, but in a quality third set Kist withstood two 12-darters, two 180s and a 138 checkout from Van Gerwen to reduce the deficit to 2-1.

That sniff of danger was all the reigning champion needed though to move up another gear as he checked out 114 at the start of the fourth set, and once in front he never looked back as he powered to the winning line and set up a second round clash with James Wilson.

"It's always nice to come back to Alexandra Palace for the World Championship and a great game like this to start the tournament off is good for your confidence," said Van Gerwen, who has now won 30 successive matches.

"I also want to say well done to Christian Kist as well because he put me under pressure, he played well, he had over a 100 average. It was a nice start for me and I'm glad I won this game.

"I knew my form was there but at some points it didn't really come out. I can't really complain because I think I put on a fantastic performance for everyone and also for myself - it's a nice way to start off the tournament, it gives you a good feeling.

"I know what he can do, lately he's been struggling with a bit of trouble with his arm, but I think he's over it because he played a great game - I think anyone else he would have played tonight he would have given them a great game, but I did an step extra when I had to.

"It was a phenomenal performance for the first round as the first round is always difficult. I like to start straight away in top gear because if you underestimate people they can kill you - you have to perform round after round, game after game and leg after leg because it's the most important tournament of the year."

Next up for Van Gerwen on December 22 is James Wilson, with the Huddersfield thrower coming out on top in his first round encounter with Poland's Krzysztof Ratajski - the reigning World Masters winner - with a 3-1 victory.

"It's a good win for me and I've got massive confidence going forward," said Wilson. "I wasn't nervous but I was getting a few bounce outs and I had to put it in my mind that it wasn't me.

"I tried throwing a bit harder and they just went haywire, so I just went back to my natural throw and hope that they went in and stayed in."

Former Lakeside Champion Steve Beaton kicked-off this year's event on his 27th straight World Championship appearance with a reasonably comfortable 3-1 victory over Irish debutant William O'Connor.

"I know William can play well," said Beaton. "But I sneaked the first set and I thought after I got the second set, he didn't get off the stage - he tried to get himself focused.

"I thought the last two sets we both played how we can play. He's just got to learn, I mean I'm still learning! I still get the butterflies and I'm tense and everything.

"I couldn't believe the ending there, we were both banging them in and I just came out on top."

UK Open finalist Gerwyn Price closed the opening night as he enjoyed his first-ever World Championship victory by overpowering youngster Ted Evetts during his 3-0 straight sets victory.

Development Tour product Evetts won through the PDPA Qualifier in Milton Keynes last month to secure his World Championship debut, but the 20-year-old struggled to settle on the big stage against the more experienced Price.

"I was anxious all day and I'm just thankful to play well tonight and come through the game," said Price. "I haven't won a game on that stage so I put the pressure on myself to be honest.

"I felt good when I was practicing and I felt good when I was up there. It could have gone to 1-1 in the second set but fortunately I came through that.

"I put pressure on myself in this event because I hadn’t won a game, I've lost first round for the first three years so I felt it. I don't feel like that at any other tournament.

"At the UK Open I'd never really come through a first round but once I did that I made the final, so the rest better watch out!"

The action continues at Alexandra Palace on Friday when legendary 16-time World Champion Phil Taylor opens his challenge in the 57-year-old's final tournament before retiring by taking on youngster Chris Dobey.

Stephen Bunting takes on new World Youth Champion Dimitri Van den Bergh, while shooting star Rob Cross makes his World Championship debut against the winner of the preliminary round tie between Japan's Seigo Asada and Australia's Gordon Mathers.

William Hill World Darts Championship
First Round
Thursday December 14
Steve Beaton 3-1 William O'Connor
James Wilson 3-1 Krzysztof Ratajski
Michael van Gerwen 3-1 Christian Kist
Gerwyn Price 3-0 Ted Evetts
Best of five sets