Danny Noppert edged out Dirk van Duijvenbode in a thrilling all-Dutch clash on the opening night of the 2023 Jack’s World Series of Darts Finals, as Raymond van Barneveld celebrated victory on his Amsterdam return.
Noppert and Van Barneveld were among the eight winners during Friday’s first-round action at AFAS Live, as 2021 champion Jonny Clayton also moved through to Saturday’s second round.
However, Noppert stole the show in a sensational encounter against Van Duijvenbode, averaging 105 and pinning 75% of his attempts at double to deny his compatriot, who bowed out with a 103 average.
The contest sparked into life in leg five as Van Duijvenbode landed a superb 121 finish to reduce the arrears to 3-2, only for Noppert to restore his two-leg buffer with an 11-dart break.
Van Duijvenbode followed up another 12-darter with a 77 finish to level at 4-4, although Noppert was undeterred, winning the last two legs in 16 and 14 darts to dump out last year’s runner-up.
“It felt really special to perform like this in front of a home crowd,” reflected Noppert, who will renew his rivalry with World Matchplay champion Nathan Aspinall in the last 16.
“This is a tournament that holds really good memories for me. I made the final here in 2019 when I had just begun in the PDC, and now I’m in the top ten of the world.
“Hopefully I can go one step further than 2019, but I’m taking one game at a time. Me and Nathan usually have really close games, but I think I have a good chance tomorrow if I play like this.”
Van Barneveld also enjoyed a memorable homecoming in the Dutch capital, reeling off five straight legs to complete a 6-2 success against US Darts Masters runner-up Jeff Smith.
The five-time World Champion – making his first televised appearance in the Netherlands since 2019 – found his range in the closing stages to triumph in front of a partisan home contingent.
“I was overwhelmed by the crowd,” admitted Van Barneveld, who now plays World Champion Michael Smith for a place in the quarter-finals.
“The atmosphere was absolutely amazing. My family was here tonight – my two daughters with my three grandchildren – that puts a little bit of pressure on and I didn’t play my A-game.
“I wanted to show what I can do. The will to win is still there, but you have to believe in yourself and that is what I do.”
Elsewhere, Clayton will face top seed Rob Cross in a blockbuster second round tie, after the Welshman defied four maximums from Martin Schindler to seal his place in the last 16.
Clayton punished Schindler’s double trouble to run out a 6-3 winner; converting six of his eight attempts at double to triumph in his first televised appearance since July’s World Matchplay final.
Schindler’s compatriot Gabriel Clemens was also condemned to an early exit in Amsterdam, as William O’Connor punished a below-par display from the German to cruise to a 6-2 victory.
Clemens endured a nightmare on the outer ring and was suitably punished by a clinical O’Connor, who wrapped up victory with a delightful 125 outshot – his second ton-plus finish of the contest.
“I’m happy to get through it. Gabriel beat me in the World Championship, so I wanted to get one back,” admitted O’Connor, who now faces Dutch superstar Michael van Gerwen in round two.
“Gabriel struggled at times with his finishing and I wanted to keep him under pressure. Fortunately it worked out okay.
“I’m really looking forward to tomorrow now. Michael is the man, but I’ve got nothing to lose. Win, lose or draw – I promise you I’m going to give it my all.”
Australian duo Damon Heta and Simon Whitlock were among the other first-round casualties on Friday, succumbing to Ricky Evans and Keegan Brown respectively.
Evans crashed in three 180s and registered a 14-dart hold to deny Heta in a last-leg decider, and his reward is a meeting against fifth seed Dimitri Van den Bergh in Saturday’s finale.
Meanwhile, Brown swept aside a struggling Whitlock to move through to a tie against reigning champion Gerwyn Price, running out an emphatic 6-1 winner against the veteran Australian.
In the evening’s opener, Krzysztof Ratajski recovered from a sluggish start to see off Germany’s Daniel Klose, winning six of the last seven legs to set up a showdown against Luke Humphries.
Klose – aided by a 128 checkout in the opening leg – raced into a 2-0 lead, but Ratajski responded with four straight legs, while a 120 finish in the penultimate leg inspired him to a 6-3 success.
Elsewhere, New Zealand’s Haupai Puha will play two-time finalist Peter Wright in the last 16, producing a stunning 151 outshot on his way to a 6-3 victory against TV debutant Graham Usher.
Saturday’s second round winners will return for Finals Day on Sunday, which will see the quarter-finals in the afternoon followed by the semi-finals and final in a bumper evening session.
The tournament is being broadcast live on ITV4 in the UK, through the PDC’s worldwide broadcast partners including DAZN and Viaplay, and on PDCTV (excluding subscribers based in the UK, Germany, Austria and Switzerland).
2023 Jack’s World Series of Darts Finals
Friday September 15
8x First Round
Krzysztof Ratajski 6-3 Daniel Klose
Haupai Puha 6-3 Graham Usher
William O’Connor 6-2 Gabriel Clemens
Keegan Brown 6-1 Simon Whitlock
Jonny Clayton 6-3 Martin Schindler
Raymond van Barneveld 6-2 Jeff Smith
Danny Noppert 6-4 Dirk van Duijvenbode
Ricky Evans 6-5 Damon Heta
Saturday September 16 (1900 local time)
8x Second Round
Rob Cross v Jonny Clayton
Luke Humphries v Krzysztof Ratajski
Gerwyn Price v Keegan Brown
Michael van Gerwen v William O’Connor
Michael Smith v Raymond van Barneveld
Nathan Aspinall v Danny Noppert
Peter Wright v Haupai Puha
Dimitri Van den Bergh v Ricky Evans