Dimitri Van den Bergh and Simon Whitlock enjoyed eye-catching victories on Day One of the Ladbrokes Masters in Milton Keynes on Friday.
Both Van den Bergh and Whitlock bounced back from second round exits at the World Championship by averaging over 100 in wins over Ian White and Dirk van Duijvenbode respectively.
Van den Bergh averaged a 105.31 in a superb 6-1 defeat of White, opening the tie with a 167 checkout before adding a 108 checkout during a dominant display.
Van den Bergh will now meet reigning champion Jonny Clayton in Saturday’s second round, and the Belgian was delighted to put his Alexandra Palace disappointment behind him.
“I’m chuffed to get through to the next round and I want to take a lot of confidence from this,” said Van den Bergh.
“My last game was at Ally Pally but in that game I didn’t take the little chances and my opponent didn’t miss, and today it went the other way.
“Jonny’s playing amazing darts and I’ll have to play as well as this, if not better, to beat him.
Experienced Australian Whitlock made the most of his call-up to replace Danny Noppert with a 6-2 defeat of Van Duijvenbode, moving him through to a tasty tie with World Champion Peter Wright.
“I’m over the moon with that performance,” said Whitlock. “I’ve been working hard over the last month because I know I need a big year.
“I’m feeling confident and Peter won’t be getting easy game, that’s for sure. I can’t wait for it.”
Joe Cullen was also in impressive form, averaging just under 100 in a 6-2 defeat of Daryl Gurney as he moves through to play Gary Anderson in round two.
“It’s always difficult coming into a TV tournament after a long lay-off – I’ve had a break but I played well tonight,” said Cullen.
“I had to get on top of Daryl because he’s a confidence player and it was a good performance.
“The game against Gary should be a great spectacle and I’ll be confidence going into it.”
Three-time World Championship quarter-finalist Luke Humphries continued his fine form with a convincing 6-1 win over Devon Petersen, who was a late replacement for Nathan Aspinall.
A near-perfect Masters debut from Humphries sees him advance to the last 16 where five-time champion Michael van Gerwen awaits.
“I felt good up there and this was a solid performance – I hit the right doubles at the right times,” said Humphries.
“I feel like I can play a bit better, but I can put that right tomorrow.
“The last time I played Michael at the Marshall Arena, I beat him in the semi-finals of the UK Open. I believe I can beat him, and I feel like I’m in a good place.”
Ryan Searle set up a tasty meeting with world number one Gerwyn Price by seeing off 2020 Masters finalist Mervyn King 6-1.
Searle, November’s Players Championship Finals runner-up, took the game’s first three legs without reply before back-to-back checkouts of 118 and 152 secured victory.
“It felt good today and I played a solid game,” said Searle. “I feel like I’ve still got another gear to go but I was good in patches.
“I’ve got nothing to lose tomorrow so hopefully I’ll step on stage and play my best stuff. Gerwyn’s the world number one so it will be hard but I’m looking forward to it.”
Former Masters finalist Dave Chisnall was in ruthless finishing form as he whitewashed Stephen Bunting 6-0 to set up a meeting with James Wade.
Krzysztof Ratajski survived seven missed match darts from Gabriel Clemens across the final two legs of their tight contest before pinning double 16 to progress to face World Championship finalist Michael Smith on Saturday.
European Champion Rob Cross moved through to a meeting with Jose de Sousa by dropping just two legs against Brendan Dolan.
The Ladbrokes Masters continues on Saturday with two sessions of last 16 ties, before Sunday’s final day of action plays host to the quarter-finals, semi-finals and final.
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 UK and Netherlands based subscribers).
2022 Ladbrokes Masters
Friday January 28
Krzysztof Ratajski 6-5 Gabriel Clemens
Dave Chisnall 6-0 Stephen Bunting
Ryan Searle 6-1 Mervyn King
Rob Cross 6-2 Brendan Dolan
Dimitri Van den Bergh 6-1 Ian White
Joe Cullen 6-2 Daryl Gurney
Simon Whitlock 6-2 Dirk van Duijvenbode
Luke Humphries 6-1 Devon Petersen
Saturday January 29
Afternoon Session (1245 GMT)
Jose de Sousa v Rob Cross
Gary Anderson v Joe Cullen
Michael Smith v Krzysztof Ratajski
James Wade v Dave Chisnall
Evening Session (1900 GMT)
Jonny Clayton v Dimitri Van den Bergh
Gerwyn Price v Ryan Searle
Peter Wright v Simon Whitlock
Michael van Gerwen v Luke Humphries
Second Round: Best of 19 legs
Lead Image: PDC
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