Tuesday, 4 October 2011

World Grand Prix 2011 - Night One

The notoriously short format of this tournament's opening stages makes it difficult for commentators to make predictions; a player who seemed dead and buried can, within a short time, stage a remarkable recovery, and obituary-reading commentators are suddenly compelled to back peddle furiously, pace Wayne Mardle and Rod Harrington.

Now, to be fair to them we should put John Part's comeback against Adrian Lewis into its proper context. Imagine arriving at a post-funeral buffet and discovering that the corpse is ahead of you in the queue for the sausage rolls; that's how surprising John Part's comeback actually was.

The Jackpot must be kicking himself this morning; for the first 5 legs he was playing as if he'd floated up to the oche on a cloud, the match was looking like the most unequal contest since Mike Tyson v. Jedward (I'd have paid to watch that one), and the doorman was outside shouting "Taxi for Mr. Part". And then it all went wrong. Doubles were missed and darts were loose, opening gaps in the Lewis battle-line that Part charged into like Marshal Ney's cavalry. Full credit goes to John Part - a recovery like that showed real bottle, even from a 3-time world champion - but the fact is that Adrian Lewis should have put him to bed and put on the night-light, and the rapid change from nonchalant brilliance to baffled impotence will be worrying for the reigning world champ.

Wes Newton provided another highlight; Colin Lloyd took the first set, and Newton came back at him less like a conventional warrior than a blood-crazed berserker, racking up a 95 average and a 110 checkout in some of the finest throwing of the evening. Newton is said to be eyeing a Premier League Wildcard, and if he keeps playing like that I, for one, hope he gets it. "Jaws" looked like the oxygen cylinder had just gone off in his mouth, and Newton rampaged through by 2 sets to 1.

James Wade cruised past Steve Brown in a match which, truth be told, had few fireworks apart from a magnificent 142 checkout from the Machine; it was a workman-like performance from the defending Champion, but it did the job. Equally workman-like, but equally assured, was Raymond van Barneveld, securing his last 16 spot at the expense of Mervyn King. King has recovered from a raft of troubles lately, including elbow problems, and wasn't throwing badly, but clearly has some way to go to get back to his best.

Vincent van der Voort managed to break his four-year duck at the World Grand Prix, defeating Kevin Painter in straight sets to reach the last 16 for the first time ever, Big John Henderson took out an out-of-sorts looking Justin Pipe (of the two, Henderson looks way scarier, but Pipe used to be a cage-fighter), Brendan Dolan comfortably beat Wanderer Wayne Jones and Andy Smith defeated Irish challenger William O'Connor.

All in all, a great start to a great tournament and more first round matches to come, including Phil Taylor v. Peter "Snake Bite" Wright, Gary Anderson v. Andy Hamilton and Paul Nicholson v. Ronnie Baxter.

Until tomorrow folks... :o)

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