2016 PDC World Darts Championship: First round assessment
Sam Barnard, Assistant Sports Editor | December 24, 2015
First round plus prelims round-up
- 10 of 32 seeds exit, three being in the top 10
- No preliminary round qualifier made it past last 64
- 19 Englishmen left in draw of remaining 32
- Eight different nationalities still in tournament
- Klaasen only one to average over 100 so far
- Newton wins with just 77.80 average over Reyes
- Barney and Bunting in crunch clash rematch
- Read Coral’s reactions of ALL the sessions so far
- Check out our tournament schedule too
Seven sensational days of darting drama
After a thrilling seven days of the first round at the 2016 PDC World Darts Championship, Coral writers provide a round-up of the action so far while fans gather themselves for the next couple days during the mid-tournament break over Christmas.
We’ve witnessed high-quality clashes, shock exits, courageous comebacks, board misses, colourful characters, a 170 checkout – everything bar a nine-darter.
So, below Coral darts writers assess the Alexandra Palace tournament so far, and check out our preview for the Boxing Day second round session too…
Are the big-guns firing?
The ambiguous answer is: not really; especially in the cases of world number one Michael van Gerwen and title holder Gary Anderson.
But, it is still very early in the event – even after a week – and no doubt the main men will be practicing even harder during the two-day break, when time in-between Christmas dinners allows them.
Even still, Van Gerwen could have easily gone out after losing concentration and perhaps becoming a bit complacent in his duel with Rene Eidams, who was woeful in his preliminary round qualifying match.
But the German, nicknamed The Cube, did put up a fightback that would have knocked over many others, coming back from 2-0 down against the incredibly in-form world number one. So, perhaps it will be a good lesson for MvG and can spur him on to regain the title, which he is the 11/10 favourite to lift for a second time.
Defending champion Anderson (6/1), meanwhile, may have gained the second-highest average of the event to date with 99.55, but looked nervous before and throughout against prelim qualifier Andy Boulton.
The Flying Scotsman’s 34.62 checkout percentage – his highest finish of which was just 81 – will probably not be good enough to beat Daryl Gurney (9/2 match outsider). Northern Irishman Dude recently made light work of Anderson at the Players Championship Finals despite even admitting he wasn’t in great touch himself.
Both Van Gerwen and Anderson will also not be relishing upcoming duels in their respective quarters. The likes of five-time world champion Raymond van Barneveld and Michael Smith are potential successive opponents for Mighty Mike, while Vincent van der Voort and James Wade are likely to await the Scot.
Which stars look most hungry for title?
Phil Taylor has had a bit of criticism from pundits about his choice of darts and attitude now that he’s no longer the centre of attention.
The Power may not have looked as fluid and accurate with his new arrows, but the simple fact is that gained a very good first round average of 98.39 and he saw off Japan’s Keita Ono, who got the highest average in the prelims of 91.79, with ease.
Taylor is also the only one to have lost just one leg so far, and has time and time again proven doubters wrong, so who’s to say he won’t do so again aged 55 and claim a 17th world title? Coral still have him down as the firm 4/1 second-favourite.
With Peter Wright; while he came onto the oche to do his trademark dance to his walk-on song, he had a serious look about him while doing so – if that is at all possible – and that carried on throughout his potentially deadly opening tie with Keegan Brown.
Snakebite knew that he could make minimal errors if he were to beat the former World Youth champ, even though Armageddon turned out to have a complete off-day, and he did so in style 3-0.
Perhaps this is finally the time where Wright can make the next step and claim his first major TV event title, having reached the final here in 2014. His price of 16/1 is very tempting indeed at this stage.
A total of 10 out of 32 seeds have already dropped at the first stage, with top 10 stars Simon Whitlock, Ian White and Robert Thornton, as well as number 12 Kim Huybrechts, all being shocked.
The loss of the popular Wizard to quick-fire Ricky Evans was particularly disappointing, as the emotional Aussie looked at if he was finally on his way back to his best after a lacklustre last 18 months.
Whitlock went two sets up and even had two darts to finish, but in the end Rapid treated the crowd to a thrilling 3-2 comeback.
Elsewhere, many had predicted that recent rugby convert Gerwyn Price had the potential to go reasonably far in this event, after reaching the latter stages of the World Matchplay and Players Championship Finals this year. The Iceman, however, succumbed to Andrew Gilding, who is now in unchartered waters.
Youngsters Brown and Max Hopp will still have plenty of chances in the next two or even three decades to progress far at the Ally Pally. But, even though they were handed tough first tests against Wright and Benito van de Pas respectively, they and their fans will be disappointed the last two World Youth champs couldn’t go further.
Young-guns out in force at Ally Pally
This year has seen a remarkable number of young talent, under the age of 25, turn out at the Ally Pally, and five have even made it to the last 32.
Seeds Michael Smith and Benito van de Pas are the standout names still in, and could even go up against each other in the last 16, if they defeat respective opponents Steve Beaton and 21-year-old Dimitri van den Bergh.
Ricky Evans and David Pallett are the others to have made it to the second round, and will certainly be ones to watch after impressive wins over top stars Whitlock and Huybrechts.
As mentioned above, Evans and Pallett have caused two of the biggest upsets so far this tournament, with the former providing some draw-dropping moments with his super-quick throwing speed and the latter producing top checkouts to dispose of Belgian Huybrechts.
But, one man who certainly had the crowd and even pundits in awe was unknown 54-year-old Russian Aleksandr Oreshkin, who came over from his home country with his unique style and seemingly not fazed by the occasion one bit.
With his Whitlock-like hair style and blinged-up fingers, he was certainly a character but not many would have predicted that he could worry two-time BDO World Championship finalist Mervyn King.
But worry The King he did – after he knocked out another legend Paul Lim in the prelims – as he ran out to a two-set lead. King’s superior average eventually meant something, though, and he was able to send Oreshkin back to Russia by claiming the last three sets.
Last year’s surprise package Cristo Reyes, however, couldn’t reenact his win last year over Wes Newton, as he went down 3-1 this time to The Warrior despite the latter averaging a lowly 77.80 to the Spaniard’s 87.05.
It has only been the first round, but already we have witnessed some wonderful moments, none less so than Oreshkin’s exploits stated above.
As well as that, Evans’ unworldly throwing speed is something not to be missed, while Rene ‘The Cube’ Eidems‘ near-shock of Van Gerwen surely got everyone off their feet – also both mentioned earlier.
Elsewhere, meanwhile, Austrian youngster Rowby-John Rodriguez has so far provided the 2016 tournament’s only 170; though, the likes of Gilding, Adrian Lewis and Newton have also produced some high quality checkouts.
Bull, Bull, D16….What a checkout by Gilding! We're live on Sky Sports 1 and Sky Sports Darts now! https://t.co/TU1oGspoKV
— Sky Sports Darts (@SkySportsDarts) December 23, 2015
Potential tournament shocks?
Finally, looking ahead to the next rounds, we go through the ones to watch, those that can cause yet more shocks and what to look forward to.
If Gurney is on form, we all now he has the capacity to shock Anderson again, with the Scot being somewhat inconsistent since his Premier League triumph at the end of May.
Former BDO winner of this event in 2006, Jelle Klaasen (still the youngest ever world champion), meanwhile, was in imperious form against Joe Cullen, managing the only ton-plus average so far, with 102.54.
The Dutchman next takes on King, before a probable duel with Taylor. You would then feel the winner of that match would go on to reach at least the semis.
There’s not been much mention of double world champ Lewis yet, after his 3-0 demolishing of potentially tricky tie Jan Dekker, but that is due to the fact that his quarter is very difficult to get out.
With the likes of Wright, Dave Chisnall and giant-killer Mensur Suljovic all possible challengers, it is very difficult to see past Snakebite wiggling through to the semis, which he is 9/4 to do.
Van Gerwen has not got the easiest of quarters either, with at least six others still possessing the quality to make it to the last four.
Former world champs Van Barneveld or Stephen Bunting stand in Mighty Mike’s way, in what will first be the match of the second round in a repeat of their quarter-final clash here last year. The Bullet is 9/4 to avenge that defeat, but Barney is the odds-on 8/15 favourite to cap off a poor year for the Englishman.
A notable mention must go to former BDO Word Champion finalist Alan Norris too, as he saw off Robert Thornton 3-0 with ease, and now has a great chance of reaching the quarters.
But, for now, rest up well folks, enjoy your Christmas and get ready for the second half of the PDC World Championship that starts on Boxing Day!
Check out more from our dedicated darts archive, where you’ll find much more on the 2016 PDC World Darts Championship.