World Darts Championship: Peter Wright gets title defence off to winning start at Alexandra Palace
Peter 'Snakebite' Wright makes winning start - Watch the 2023 PDC World Darts Championship - live on Sky Sports Darts; we are back for a double session on Friday at 12pm and 7pm with Adrian Lewis and Michael Smith in action, while Beau Greaves takes on Willie O'Connor
By Raz Mirza at Alexandra Palace
Last Updated: 16/12/22 11:40am
Defending champion Peter Wright got a festive feast of arrows up and running with a comfortable 3-0 win on the opening night of the World Darts Championship at Alexandra Palace.
The Scot withdrew from last month's Players Championship Finals with his wife Jo in hospital, but after receiving positive news last week, Wright was back and in bullish mood on the big stage as he began his bid for a third Sid Waddell Trophy in four years with a comfortable victory over Northern Ireland's Mickey Mansell.
Thursday, December 15 - Results
|Mickey Mansell||3-1||Ben Robb (R1)|
|Keane Barry||1-3||Grant Sampson (R1)|
|Jermaine Wattimena||2-3||Nathan Rafferty (R1)|
|Peter Wright||3-0||Mickey Mansell (R2)|
- As it happened on opening night at Ally Pally
- Your ultimate guide to the World Darts Championship
- How to watch the World Darts Championship
Mansell had become the first winner at this year's Worlds, defeating Ben Robb 3-1 to set up the meeting with Wright.
'Snakebite' rattled off a cracking 121 on the bullseye to lay down an early marker as he won the opening set 3-1.
The writing appeared to be on the wall for former World Cup semi-finalist Mansell when the reigning champion sailed through the second set in three straight legs to double his advantage despite a modest 92 average.
And Wright continued the onslaught in the third set, pinning a majestic 126 out-shot before cleaning up 68 on tops to sweep into the third round in style.
"Not happy with the performance, but it's a win," said Wright, who now has 12 days off before his third-round clash against Kim Huybrechts or Grant Sampson. "The defending champion is still in and it's Christmas."
South African debutant Sampson caused the first big shock of the tournament by knocking out a below-par display from UK Open semi-finalist Keane Barry 3-1.
'Samurai', who eliminated nine-time World Championship qualifier Devon Petersen en route to booking his spot on the grandest stage of them all, threw four maximums and a superb 125 checkout to stun Irishman Barry.
The 40-year-old, who will earn £15,000 for reaching the second round, will hold no fear when he takes on 'The Hurricane' Kim Huybrechts in Friday's afternoon session.
"Back home we play in front of 30 people but this is another thing," said Sampson. "I was very, very, very nervous. My darts were not going in straight at all so I was just trying to focus, but it was difficult. Now that I've got the first game out of the way I can only get better because that was horrible."
Jermaine Wattimena also made an early exit as he lost 3-2 to emerging star Nathan Rafferty.
Wattimena failed to hit the bullseye to win the opening set and that allowed Rafferty to sink double 2 to claim it, but the Dutchman soon sparked into life with a 97 checkout in the deciding leg of the second set to square things up.
Former World Youth Championship runner-up Rafferty moved one set away from dumping out Wattimena by sweeping through the next set with three consecutive 17-leg darts, but 'The Machine Gun' took the match the distance thanks to an opening 108 finish, a 14-dart leg and a crucial 101 checkout.
However, it was 22-year-old Rafferty who showed exceptional composure - one week after surgery to remove his appendix - to make it through to a date with Grand Slam of Darts champion Michael Smith after sinking double 10 with his fifth match dart.
"I wasn't nervous leading up to the tournament but when I came up the road I had butterflies in my stomach," Rafferty revealed. "It's been my dream since I was 15 to be playing on this stage; it's what we all play for.
"Considering I had my appendix removed a week ago today, I'm so happy to win this game against a tough opponent.
'I'm looking forward to taking on Michael [Smith], he's one of the best players in the world but I think I can give him a game if I play my proper stuff."
- Get Sky Sports | Download the Sky Sports App
- Follow us @skysportsdarts I Love The Darts Podcast
- Rock: Beau will bring a lot of trouble at Worlds I The players talk 'Beau 'n' Arrow'
"I think he said he was going to toy with a few new sets of darts between now and Christmas. Maybe get some new ones even. Who knows? But he'll try and get comfortable, and maybe just get the darts that are going to feel good. The scoring wasn't as good as he could have. But the doubling was more of an issue there, to me. He'll want to get the doubling right, and then he'll get the scoring touch"
John Part on Peter Wright
Friday at Ally Pally
The first double session of this year's World Championship will take place on Friday, as two-time runner-up Smith takes on Rafferty in his opener.
Friday, December 16 - Fixtures (1230 GMT)
|Alan Soutar||vs||Mal Cuming (R1)|
|Boris Krcmar||vs||Toru Suzuki (R1)|
|Adrian Lewis||vs||Daniel Larsson (R1)|
|Kim Huybrechts||vs||Grant Sampson (R2)|
Friday, December 16 - Fixtures (1900 GMT)
|Rowby-John Rodriguez||vs||Lourence Ilagan (R1)|
|William O'Connor||vs||Beau Greaves (R1)|
|Keegan Brown||vs||Florian Hempel (R1)|
|Michael Smith||vs||Nathan Rafferty (R2)|
Two-time world champion Adrian Lewis faces Sweden's Daniel Larsson in the afternoon session, before eight-time PDC Women's Series winner Beau Greaves makes her highly-anticipated Ally Pally bow against Willie O'Connor in the evening session.
Watch the 2023 PDC World Darts Championship - live on Sky Sports Darts - from December 15 to January 3.