MICHAEL VAN GERWEN won the match of this year’s William Hill World Darts Championship so far in a thrilling battle with Cristo Reyes, while Phil Taylor and Raymond van Barneveld also progressed to the last 16 with victories at Alexandra Palace on Tuesday.
Van Gerwen came out on top in a high-quality second round encounter against Spanish number one Reyes, with the pair posting the highest two averages of this year’s tournament.
The world number one and odds-on favourite to win the Sid Waddell Trophy won 4-2 with a 105.24 three-dart average against an inspired Reyes, who averaged a superb 106.07 to enhance his growing reputation.
Van Gerwen hit ten 180s and sensational finishes of 164 and 161 in the classic contest, which saw Reyes miss a dart at double 18 to force a deciding set before the 2014 champion finally closed out the win.
“Cristo played phenomenal darts,” said the Dutch star, who will take on Darren Webster in the third round on Thursday.
“I’m sure everyone enjoyed it. There was high averages and big finishes. It was a really good game of darts and what everybody wants to see.
“It gives me a good feeling for the rest of the tournament. I’m really glad I was prepared and showed everyone what I can do.”
Taylor, meanwhile, began his second round clash against Kevin Painter with a sensational 167 checkout and never looked back as he dropped just four legs in a routine triumph.
The 16-time World Champion, who is yet to drop a set in this year’s tournament, did survive three set darts in the third set but went on to win the fourth set 3-0 to complete the victory.
“I won four-nil but it was winning ugly,” said Taylor, after setting up a third round clash against either Kim Huybrechts or Max Hopp.
“I’ll move on and get ready for the next round and I know I will have to play better but I got the win. It’s a scrappy win but I’ll be practising tomorrow to make sure I improve.”
Dutch great van Barneveld dropped just two legs against Alan Norris in a classy display to set up a showdown with Adrian Lewis on Wednesday evening for a place in the quarter-finals.
The five-time World Champion averaged over 103, fired in seven 180s and produced a stunning 121 checkout on his way to another comfortable victory, following on from his first round success against Robbie Green.
“I was really focused and I really enjoyed the game,” said van Barneveld, who has been a semi-finalist at Alexandra Palace in three of the last four years.
“I practiced hard before this tournament but just rested over Christmas. I’ve been doing this a long time and I think I know what to do.
“I feel comfortable and confident. When you feel like that, you can beat all of them.”
Meanwhile, Mark Webster, Daryl Gurney and Dave Chisnall all progressed to the third round with wins in the afternoon session as the £1.65 million tournament resumed following the Christmas break.
Webster prevailed against number eight seed Mensur Suljovic with a solid display, in which he held off a fightback from October’s European Championship finalist.
The Welshman, a two-time PDC World Championship semi-finalist, led 3-1 in sets but was forced all the way to a decider by his tenacious opponent.
Webster, though, closed out victory in a confident fashion, taking the seventh set 3-0 to move into round three, where he will face Northern Ireland’s Gurney.
“There were some moments of brilliance and some moments of mediocrity,” said Webster, who hit eight 180s as he followed up his first round defeat of Joe Murnan with another good win.
“I didn’t play great but I kept steady and I hit my doubles well in the last set and that’s what won me the game.
“I’ve practiced really hard for this. I’m going to be an underdog for the next game again and I’ll relish it.”
Northern Ireland’s Gurney, meanwhile, fought off the challenge of ninth seed Robert Thornton in another clash that went the distance.
The Dutch Darts Masters runner-up made a flying start by winning the first six legs without allowing his opponent a dart at a double, but Thornton hit back to lead 3-2 in sets.
Gurney, however, refused to be denied his first ever appearance in the last 16 as he won six out of the last seven legs to progress.
“I’m so pleased to get through,” said the 30-year-old, who produced a spectacular 161 finish to overshadow Thornton’s 124 checkout.
“I’ve never got past this stage before and I’m really pleased to get that monkey off of my back. It feels so good and is such a relief.
“I knew the good darts would come from Robert and they did. I was very nervous towards the end but I did it and I’m over the moon.”
Number seven seed Chisnall also won six out of the last seven legs as he ended the hopes of Ally Pally debutant Dobey, who had impressed in his first round success over Justin Pipe.
Chisnall, who has reached three televised finals in 2016, had six 180s and a 110 checkout in the victory, which set up a third round clash with either Jelle Klaasen or Brendan Dolan.
“I had to dig deep again – a bit like in my first game,” said Chisnall, who defeated Rowby-John Rodriguez in a deciding set in round one.
“I’ve not really got going yet. I’ve managed to do the job twice so I’m happy and I know that there is more to come.”
Wednesday sees the second round conclude at London’s Alexandra Palace with the remaining four matches, opened with Belgian Kim Huybrechts’ tie against Germany’s former World Youth Champion Max Hopp.
English pair James Wade and Steve Beaton then clash before Dutch ace Jelle Klaasen faces Northern Ireland’s Brendan Dolan, with the evening session contest between Scotland’s Peter Wright and Wales’ Jamie Lewis ending the last 32 action.
The third round then begins as reigning World Champion Gary Anderson faces Dutch youngster Benito van de Pas before former World Champions Adrian Lewis and Raymond van Barneveld face off in the World Championship for a third successive year.
William Hill World Darts Championship
Tuesday December 27
Mensur Suljovic (8) 3-4 Mark Webster (25)
Robert Thornton (9) 3-4 Daryl Gurney (24)
Dave Chisnall (7) 4-2 Chris Dobey
Raymond van Barneveld (12) 4-0 Alan Norris (21)
Phil Taylor (4) 4-0 Kevin Painter
Michael van Gerwen (1) 4-2 Cristo Reyes (32)
Wednesday December 28
Afternoon Session (1pm)
Kim Huybrechts (13) v Max Hopp
James Wade (6) v Steve Beaton (27)
Jelle Klaasen (10) v Brendan Dolan (23)
Evening Session (7pm)
Peter Wright (3) v Jamie Lewis (30)
Gary Anderson (2) v Benito van de Pas (15)
Adrian Lewis (5) v Raymond van Barneveld (12)
Second Round – best of seven sets
Third Round – best of seven sets