Day One got off to a great start with a cracking match and the first shock – Adrian Gray beating Ronnie Baxter 3-2. Has this game set the tone for the rest of the tournament? Was it actually that big a shock? Well on this afternoon’s evidence the seeds are not going to have an easy ride as three of the four afternoon tussles went to the unseeded player. Only Terry Jenkins survived afternoon one, beating Yorkshire player Mark Lawrence 3-1 in fairly comfortable fashion despite not hitting a maximum in the match.
Baxter was the biggest casualty, capping an extremely disappointing end to 2006. He was number three in the world just a couple of months ago but will now be outside the top 10 at the start of next year. Gray on the other hand is on the up, making his debut here and showing few nerves, He even dreamt the correct first set scoreline the night before! If he continues this form and controls the nerves he could find himself in dreamland more often and prove to be a nightmare opponent for the rest.
Baxter was joined on the scrap heap by two other seeds Steve Maish and Matt Clark. Clark was perhaps the least unexpected loser, coming up against the form player at the moment, Mick McGowan. Clark won the first set and looked like he might put paid to the fervour surrounding a potential boxing day belter between McGowan & Taylor. However McGowan soon found his range and went on to reel off three sets for victory. He had been in bed with ‘flu for two days but his post match quote showed that he is not going to be fazed by anything and Taylor had better beware – “I’ve got Phil next and if you can’t look forward to that game, on the biggest stage in the world, then there must be something wrong with you”.
Maish came closer to surviving but ultimately suffered the same fate as Clark and Baxter, losing 3-2 to South African Wynand Havenga in a fifth set tie break. Havenga is the first South African to appear in this championship and he played superbly to do himself real justice and progress to a second round match against Manley.
The evening matches were more straightforward for the favourites with John Part the only player to struggle. Part needed to find deep reserves to break the stubborn resistance of ‘DangerScouse’ Alan Green and eventually took the fifth set 6-4 in the tie-break. Having gone 2-0 up, Part then let Green back in to level at 2-2 and Green looked set to turn the match completely on its head. He gave it everything hitting the big scores and putting Part on the rack time after time. As so often happens in this arena though, the experience of being there year after year proved the difference. Green just couldn’t apply the pressure at the critical time, letting a relieved Part off the hook, who took full advantage to close out the match.
Chris Mason, Phil Taylor and Peter Manley all won easily by 3-0 scorelines. Mason looked impressive against Wayne Atwood averaging nearly 95, hitting eight 180’s and never looking in trouble. Taylor and Manley dropped just one leg between them in beating Austrian debutant Anton Pein and Yorkshireman Dave Jowett. Jowett got the one leg but was never in the game, Manley showboating with “double double top” to win one leg. Manley arrived to the familiar tune of Amarillo with plastic fingers in his ears to shut out the boos. In this pantomime season everybody loves a villain and three-time finalist Manley plays the role with apparent glee these days. He has decent route through the field this year and the smart money may be on him reaching yet another final. Can he go one better and win it?
So day one ended with the seeds showing the qualifiers who’s boss after being taught a lesson in the afternoon. A fascinating day of two contrasting halves – what will be in store for us tomorrow?
Day One Results – First Round – Monday 18 December
Ronnie Baxter 2-3 Adrian Gray
Steve Maish 2-3 Wynand Havenga
Terry Jenkins 3-1 Mark Lawrence
Matt Clark 1-3 Mick McGowan
Chris Mason 3-0 Wayne Atwood
John Part 3-2 Alan Green
Phil Taylor 3-0 Anton Pein
Peter Manley 3-0 Dave Jowett
Day Two Matches – First Round – Tuesday 19 December
Mark Walsh v Rico Vonck
Barrie Bates v Brian Cyr
Bob Anderson v Darren Webster
Denis Ovens v Steve Smith
Alan Warriner-Little v Alan Tabern
Colin Lloyd v Tomas Seyler
Raymond van Barneveld v Mitchell Clegg
Adrian Lewis v Anthony Fleet