World Grand Prix 2021: Gerwyn Price beats Michael Smith on opening night
Gerwyn Price joined by James Wade and Dave Chisnall as seeds moving into the last 16 but Dimitri Van den Bergh is the highest-profile name to crash out- coverage of the World Grand Prix continues on Monday night with Michael van Gerwen, Gary Anderson and Peter Wright all in action
By Paul Prenderville at the Morningside Arena, Leicester
Last Updated: 04/10/21 6:25am
Gerwyn Price against Michael Smith is a match more likely to be found at the end of a tournament rather than the start, but on opening night at the World Grand Prix the Iceman served up a sparkling display to send 'Bully Boy' packing.
Price kickstarted his run to a maiden world title and the world No 1 ranking with victory in this tournament last year, but faced the toughest possible start to his attempt to become just the third man to defend the title.
Phil Taylor and Michael van Gerwen are the only players to have claimed back-to-back titles in the unique tournament - which requires players to start and finish on a double - and Price is as good as they come on the outer ring as he showed in a blockbuster first-round match.
It's the time of year where darts becomes busier with the run in to the World Championship and Price arrives in prime form having won the last two ranking titles of the year - and his marker on opening night will have captured the attention of Van Gerwen and Peter Wright, who start their campaign on Monday evening.
World Grand Prix 2021: Sunday's First Round results
|Martijn Kleermaker 0-2 Mervyn King|
|Dirk van Duijvenbode 0-2 Luke Humphries|
|Stephen Bunting 2-0 Daryl Gurney|
|Joe Cullen 0-2 Ross Smith|
|Dave Chisnall 2-1 Mensur Suljovic|
|James Wade 2-1 Damon Heta|
|Gerwyn Price 2-0 Michael Smith|
|Dimitri Van den Bergh 1-2 Ryan Searle|
Price sees off Smith in high profile opener
Price recovered from losing the first leg of the match - to Smith's brilliant 126 - to win the next three legs with a couple of three-figure finishes of his own that took him into the lead.
Having taken out 116 and 105 on his way to the first set, Price didn't need to be quite as emphatic in the second, his heavy scoring proving enough to keep pace with an equally impressive Smith.
A thrilling second set went the distance, but in a deciding fifth leg it was Price who prevailed, pouncing after Smith missed three darts to level the match and allowing the Welshman to complete a 2-0 victory over Smith who was powerless in the face of just the seventh 100+ average recorded in the tournament's history.
Price will face Mervyn King in the last 16 after the 2012 runner-up made slightly harder work of his contest with Dutch debutant Martijn Kleermaker, who had settled first for an early 2-1 lead.
However in a match that featured plenty of missed doubles King's experience was enough to see him fight back and after both men had already missed chances to claim the first set, King pinned double two for the lead.
Kleermaker's struggles on the outer ring continued and despite heavy scoring he managed just one more leg as King booked his place in the second round and a meeting with Price.
Brilliant Bunting serves up stellar display
After reaching the semi-finals on his World Grand Prix debut in 2014, Stephen Bunting has managed just two wins in his last five appearances at the event - and he missed out entirely last year after returning a positive coronavirus test on the eve of the competition.
However he served up the performance of the opening night to send 2017 champion Daryl Gurney packing amid a barrage of 180s and three-figure finishes and set up a second-round match against James Wade, who won a thriller against debutant Damon Heta.
A run to the World Championship semi-final in December has kickstarted Bunting's career and the former BDO world champion piled in three maximum 180s on his way to the first set which he sealed with a brilliant 100 check-out.
There was no let-up, he added another 180 and two more big finishes as Gurney had no answer, winning just one more leg as Bunting's 113 and 104 check-outs helped him to a brilliant 99.05 average.
Up next for The Bullet is a two-time champion in the shape of Wade who had to dig deep to see off Heta in arguably the match of the night.
Heta raced into a 2-0 lead, but proceeded to miss darts for the set in the third and fourth leg, allowing Wade to nip in and not only level but claim the opening set.
Undaunted, Heta levelled the match when he claimed the second set with a brilliant 121 the highlight. However in a final set that went all the way, Wade claimed the victory with a superb 121 finish on the bull.
Smith and Humphries dazzle on debut
Ross Smith conjured up the first major shock of the tournament, knocking out the world no 13 Joe Cullen with a stellar display that saw him win 2-0 and set up a date with two-time runner-up Dave Chisnall.
Smith has made a habit of winning against the big names - he has a high profile win over Michael van Gerwen under his belt - but as he said in his interview on stage it's about following up those wins.
He has the form to do it this year, winning his first PDC title earlier this year on the Pro Tour and he swept to the first set as Cullen managed just a solitary dart at a double.
The Rock Star fared little better in the second, and it was the ability to hit the double early that proved the difference, Smith was hitting 70 per cent of his darts to start, in comparison to Cullen's 23 per cent and Smith eased through the second set.
Chizzy, runner-up in 2019 and 2013, was given a much tougher test by in-form Mensur Suljovic, eventually knocking out the experienced half of Austria's World Cup of Darts runner-up pairing with a hard-fought 2-1 victory.
Luke Humphries had set the tone for the debutants early on, impressing hugely as he has done all year with a 2-0 victory that sent last year's runners-up Dirk van Duijvenbode packing.
The Dutchman had dazzled in Coventry to reach the final on his debut last year, but he was playing catch-up throughout against UK Open runner-up Humphries who has reached four finals already this season as he chases his maiden PDC title.
'Cool Hand' claimed the first set after van Duijvenbode had missed 10 of his 11 darts at double. Despite an improved showing in the second set from his opponent, Humphries was far too consistent and on his own Grand Prix debut will hope to emulate Van Duijenbode's impressive run last year.
Humphries' reward is a showdown with Ryan Searle as the draw opens up for both men following Searle's impressive 2-1 victory over former World Matchplay champion and world No 5 Dimitri Van den Bergh.
Searle started fast in a thrilling contest with the best, taking the opening set with a brilliant 150 finish, but showing trademark composure Van den Bergh hauled himself back into the match and forced a deciding set.
A thrilling final set went to the fifth and final leg, where both men missed a dart for a three-figure finish that would have won the match. However Van den Bergh missed three more darts for his sport in the second round and with the door open Searle booked his showdown with Humphries.
Don't miss a dart with seven days of live World Grand Prix action from Leicester's Morningside Arena getting under way on Sunday October 3 - join us from 6pm on Sky Sports Arena.