World Grand Prix 2020: MIchael van Gerwen beats Krzysztof Ratajski to reach second round

The World Grand Prix is known for its capacity for a first-round shock and the opening night provided some, but the headline was a return to form for defending champion Michael van Gerwen as he battled through.

Coventry’s Ricoh Arena is the venue for the tournament this year instead of the CityWest Hotel outside Dublin, but it made no difference to Van Gerwen who loves this event perhaps more than any other.

The five-time champion put his recent inconsistent form behind him to dispatch the awkward and very useful Krzysztof Ratajski 2-1 and avoid the same fate that befell all of the other seeds in his half of the draw.

Michael Smith, Rob Cross and James Wade all toppled at the first hurdle on a dramatic opening night that also saw the PDC return its first positive tests for coronavirus with Stephen Bunting and Adrian Lewis withdrawing as a result.

  • Lewis and Bunting test positive for coronavirus
  • World Grand Prix: Results, schedule & draw

Van Gerwen roars back to form to set up Devon date

‘MvG’ has missed out on the Premier League top four, suffered early defeats at the World Matchplay and the World Series Finals, but he put on a masterclass befitting his status as world No 1.

The Dutchman, who won his maiden major title in this tournament and has reached six finals in the last eight years, as well as winning the last two editions of the tournament – produced a breath-taking first set that put him in command.

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Van Gerwen needed just 41 darts and got better as the set went on, reeling off 17, 13 and 11-dart legs to hit the front.

He missed three darts for a fourth leg on the bounce and was punished by Ratajski who went on to claim the second set to leave Van Gerwen a little rattled.

Ratajski then hit the front when he claimed the first leg of the deciding set. ‘The Polish Eagle’ punished six missed Van Gerwen darts to edge ahead, but then missed three for a 2-0 lead and MVG swooped in a manner that we have not seen for a while.

Having levelled the set, Van Gerwen produced a masterful 12-dart leg to stand within one of the last 16 only to be forced to go the distance, where a 15-dart leg sealed the deal.

Up next is Devon Petersen, who marked his debut with a classy performance to see off Jose de Sousa in a high-class contest.

Petersen, who won his maiden title at the German Darts Championship last month, defied eight maximums from his Portuguese opponent to win 2-0. Petersen’s finishing proving the difference, and a nerveless 93 via the bullseye sealing the deal.

World Grand Prix – Tuesday’s first round results

Anderson too good for faltering Cross

The World Grand Prix is known for big-name early exits, so either Rob Cross or Gary Anderson was always going to be a big-name early casualty, and, in the clash of former world champions, it was Cross who faltered.

A high-class first set went the distance and when Cross failed to get away in his first couple of visits, Anderson was clear and wrapped up the opener with a brilliant 103 finish.

While Anderson went from strength-to-strength, ‘Voltage’ crumbled and could not live with Anderson who powered to the finish line and the perfect 2-0 winning start as he looks to win one of the few tournaments that has eluded him.

The Scot will face Danny Noppert next after the Dutchman produced a barnstorming run to beat debutant Ryan Searle 2-1 in the opening match of the tournament.

A remarkable 107 average gave Searle the lead in the opening set, which he chalked off in just 42 darts. But Noppert fired in finishes of 110 and 127 on his way to winning six of the next seven legs and a place in the second round.

Van den Bergh scuppers Smith

Dimitri Van den Bergh is out to prove his World Matchplay success is no flash in the pan, and he underlined that intent with a brilliant performance to beat world No 4 Michael Smith 2-0.

The brilliant Belgian, sporting a knee brace after a suffering an injury, was in classy form throughout, edging out ‘Bully Boy’ in an evenly-contested first set, before fighting back from 2-1 down in the second to seal his first win at the tournament.

Van den Bergh was beaten in the first round on his debut last year, but went one better in Coventry – taking out 132 to send Smith packing in the first round for the sixth time in his eight appearances at the tournament.

Dirk van Duijvenbode is next for ‘The Dreammaker’ after the Dutch debutant caused the biggest early surprise with a 2-1 victory over world No 15 Mensur Suljovic.

Neither man enjoyed much success on the doubles, either starting or finishing, but it was Van Duijvenbode who did enough to scramble over the line

World Grand Prix – Wednesday’s first round matches

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Classy King continues Grand Prix joy

Two men with bags of pedigree in this event duked it out for a place in the last 16, and the right to face either Chris Dobey or Simon Whitlock – and it was 2012 runner-up and last year’s quarter-finalist Mervyn King who prevailed 2-0.

Wade has twice won this title, in 2007 and 2010, but was well below his best and, having taken the opening leg, he managed just one more.

Like Dave Chisnall – and Wade – King enjoys this tournament and he pinned three of his first four darts at double to take the opening set. He maintained a steady showing, with rock-solid scoring and some clinical combination finishing seeing him through to the second round.

He will find out his opponent on Wednesday, with Dobey’s match pushed back 24 hours after his opponent Adrian Lewis tested positive for coronavirus and withdrew, to be replaced by Whitlock.

Darts is back on to Sky Sports throughout October with the World Grand Prix and the Premier League Play-Offs. Follow us @SkySportsDarts to stay up to date with all the news.

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