MICHAEL VAN GERWEN hit a maximum 180 with the opening three darts of the defence of his William Hill World Darts Championship before beating Christian Kist 3-1 with the third-best first round average in tournament history.

Van Gerwen hit the ground running on the opening night of the tournament in some style as he produced a standard-setting 106.17 average to fire out a warning to his rivals that he will not be relinquishing his title easily.

That opening 180 helped Van Gerwen take the first leg in 14 darts before he followed up with a 15-darter and capped off the first set with a 12-darter, highlighted with a 141 finish.

Kist needed to reply with in a 13-darter just to finally get a leg on the board as he went two sets down, but in a quality third set Kist withstood two 12-darters, two 180s and a 138 checkout from Van Gerwen to reduce the deficit to 2-1.

That sniff of danger was all the reigning champion needed though to move up another gear as he checked out 114 at the start of the fourth set, and once in front he never looked back as he powered to the winning line and set up a second round clash with James Wilson.

"It's always nice to come back to Alexandra Palace for the World Championship and a great game like this to start the tournament off is good for your confidence," said Van Gerwen, who has now won 30 successive matches.

"I also want to say well done to Christian Kist as well because he put me under pressure, he played well, he had over a 100 average. It was a nice start for me and I'm glad I won this game.

"I knew my form was there but at some points it didn't really come out. I can't really complain because I think I put on a fantastic performance for everyone and also for myself - it's a nice way to start off the tournament, it gives you a good feeling.

"I know what he can do, lately he's been struggling with a bit of trouble with his arm, but I think he's over it because he played a great game - I think anyone else he would have played tonight he would have given them a great game, but I did an step extra when I had to.

"It was a phenomenal performance for the first round as the first round is always difficult. I like to start straight away in top gear because if you underestimate people they can kill you - you have to perform round after round, game after game and leg after leg because it's the most important tournament of the year."

Next up for Van Gerwen on December 22 is James Wilson, with the Huddersfield thrower coming out on top in his first round encounter with Poland's Krzysztof Ratajski - the reigning World Masters winner - with a 3-1 victory.

"It's a good win for me and I've got massive confidence going forward," said Wilson. "I wasn't nervous but I was getting a few bounce outs and I had to put it in my mind that it wasn't me.

"I tried throwing a bit harder and they just went haywire, so I just went back to my natural throw and hope that they went in and stayed in."

Former Lakeside Champion Steve Beaton kicked-off this year's event on his 27th straight World Championship appearance with a reasonably comfortable 3-1 victory over Irish debutant William O'Connor.

"I know William can play well," said Beaton. "But I sneaked the first set and I thought after I got the second set, he didn't get off the stage - he tried to get himself focused.

"I thought the last two sets we both played how we can play. He's just got to learn, I mean I'm still learning! I still get the butterflies and I'm tense and everything.

"I couldn't believe the ending there, we were both banging them in and I just came out on top."

UK Open finalist Gerwyn Price closed the opening night as he enjoyed his first-ever World Championship victory by overpowering youngster Ted Evetts during his 3-0 straight sets victory.

Development Tour product Evetts won through the PDPA Qualifier in Milton Keynes last month to secure his World Championship debut, but the 20-year-old struggled to settle on the big stage against the more experienced Price.

"I was anxious all day and I'm just thankful to play well tonight and come through the game," said Price. "I haven't won a game on that stage so I put the pressure on myself to be honest.

"I felt good when I was practicing and I felt good when I was up there. It could have gone to 1-1 in the second set but fortunately I came through that.

"I put pressure on myself in this event because I hadn’t won a game, I've lost first round for the first three years so I felt it. I don't feel like that at any other tournament.

"At the UK Open I'd never really come through a first round but once I did that I made the final, so the rest better watch out!"

The action continues at Alexandra Palace on Friday when legendary 16-time World Champion Phil Taylor opens his challenge in the 57-year-old's final tournament before retiring by taking on youngster Chris Dobey.

Stephen Bunting takes on new World Youth Champion Dimitri Van den Bergh, while shooting star Rob Cross makes his World Championship debut against the winner of the preliminary round tie between Japan's Seigo Asada and Australia's Gordon Mathers.

William Hill World Darts Championship
First Round

Thursday December 14
Steve Beaton 3-1 William O'Connor
James Wilson 3-1 Krzysztof Ratajski
Michael van Gerwen 3-1 Christian Kist
Gerwyn Price 3-0 Ted Evetts
Best of five sets

CLICK HERE FOR MATCH STATS FROM SPORTRADAR

Match Reports
Steve Beaton 3-1 William O'Connor
(3-1, 3-0, 0-3, 3-1)
Veteran star Steve Beaton made a winning start to his latest William Hill World Darts Championship campaign with a reasonably comfortable 3-1 victory over debutant William O'Connor.

The 53-year-old former Lakeside Champion, making his 17th appearance in the event and 27th straight World Championship challenge overall, was outscored early on and only hit three 180s to O'Connor's five, but made the most of some shaky double hitting by the Irishman.

O'Connor missed 16 shots at double in the first set after looking good with a 14-darter early on, and he found it hard to shake off the after-effects of those misses as he lost the second set without getting a dart at double.

Beaton was still not scoring heavily though, averaging just around 80, and O'Connor regained his confidence to average 105 when taking out 97 and then 86 for a 13-darter to sweep the third set and get on the board.

Both men hit some decent form in the fourth set but it was Beaton who took command at 2-0 before O'Connor took out a classy 155 checkout to stay alive.

O'Connor then opened leg four with a 180, but Beaton responded in style with a maximum of his own and took out 52 to ensure he avoided a sixth first round exit to move into the last 32 at Alexandra Palace.

"I know William can play well," said Beaton. "But I sneaked the first set and I thought after I got the second set, he didnt get off the stage - he tried to get himself focused.

"I thought the last two sets we both played how we can play. He's just got to learn, I mean I'm still learning! I still get the butterflies and I'm tense and everything but I love it.

"I couldn't believe the ending there, we were both banging them in and I just came out on top."

James Wilson 3-1 Krzysztof Ratajski
(1-3, 3-2, 3-1, 3-2)
Number 32 seed James Wilson won a hard-fought battle with Poland's Krzysztof Ratajski 3-1 to book his place in the second round of the William Hill World Darts Championship.

The 45-year-old, now known as the Lethal Biscuit, was the underdog with the bookies against World Masters winner Ratajski and those odds looked justified as the Polish thrower hit an 11-darter in the opening leg en route to taking the first set with the minimum of fuss.

Wilson was scoring well, though, and hit 12 tons in the second set alongside finishes of 87 and 60 to scrape the set 3-2 and level the match.

More big scoring moved Wilson 2-0 up in the next, but he let Ratajski back into the set with three missed doubles, before settling himself in leg four to go ahead 2-1 in sets.

Ratajski hit six perfect darts in a powerful start to the fourth set, which strangely included the first four legs all going against the throw.

Ratajski missed double 16 for the set to stay in the match, and after Wilson took that leg the writing was on the wall as the Huddersfield man took out a 95 finish to seal a 3-1 victory and passage into the second round.

"It's a good win for me and I've got massive confidence going forward," said Wilson. "I wasn't nervous but I was getting a few bounce outs and I had to put it in my mind that it wasn't me.

"I tried throwing a bit harder and they just went haywire, so I just went back to my natural throw and hope that they went in and stayed in."

Michael van Gerwen 3-1 Christian Kist
(3-0, 3-1, 2-3, 3-0)
Defending champion Michael van Gerwen produced the third highest first round average in tournament history as he made a flying start to his William Hill World Darts Championship campaign with a high-quality 3-1 victory over Christian Kist.

On another night, against another opponent, former Lakeside Champion Kist would have had a great chance of winning with his 100 average, but Van Gerwen's blistering 106.17 was just too hot to handle.

The reigning champion came bursting out of the traps and hit a 180 with his first visit of the tournament and cleaned up a 14-dart leg after Kist missed the bull and a double four to hold his throw.

Kist's solid start continued, but another shot at the bullseye was all he got as Van Gerwen produced a 15-darter and capped off the set with a 12-darter highlighted by a 141 finish to take the opener with a 109 average.

A closer contest in the second set saw Kist land a 13-darter to finally get a leg on the board but, as Van Gerwen's level dropped just a touch the Vroomshoop ace was left cursing a missed double 16 as the top seed took out 74 for the set.

The third set was one of real quality from both men as they combined for four 180s, three 12-darters and a 138 checkout.

Van Gerwen answered Kist's opening 12-darter with one of his own and then capped a second leg with a 138 outshot, but could not stop Kist from taking the set as the underdog showed real belief that he could cause a huge upset.

That sniff of danger was all Van Gerwen needed, though, to move up another gear as he checked out 114 at the start of the fourth set, and once in front he never looked back as he powered to the finish line and set up a second round clash with James Wilson.

"It's always nice to come back to Alexandra Palace for the World Championship and a great game like this to start the tournament off is good for your confidence," said Van Gerwen, who has now won 30 successive matches.

"I also want to say well done to Christian Kist as well because he put me under pressure, he played well, he had over a 100 average. It was a nice start for me and I'm glad I won this game.

"I knew my form was there but at some points it didn't really come out. I can't really complain because I think I put on a fantastic performance for everyone and also for myself - it's a nice way to start off the tournament, it gives you a good feeling.

"I know what he can do, lately he's been struggling with a bit of trouble with his arm, but I think he's over it because he played a great game - I think anyone else he would have played tonight he would have given them a great game, but I did an step extra when I had to.

"It was a phenomenal performance for the first round as the first round is always difficult. I like to start straight away in top gear because if you underestimate people they can kill you - you have to perform round after round, game after game and leg after leg because it's the most important tournament of the year."

Gerwyn Price 3-0 Ted Evetts
(3-0, 3-2, 3-1)
Gerwyn Price moved into the second round of the William Hill World Darts Championship for the first time as he proved far too strong for youngster Ted Evetts during his straight sets victory.

Development Tour product Evetts had won through the PDPA Qualifier to earn a World Championship debut, but the 20-year-old struggled to settle on the big stage against the more experienced Price.

The Welshman stamped his authority on the match with a 180 on his first throw, and he added a second during a comfortable set as he won all three legs.

Price made it four legs on the bounce before Evetts finally made his mark on the contest, and once on the board he quickly added a second and had a sniff of the set before the UK Open finalist took the decider for a 2-0 lead.

Although Evetts showed great heart to take out 76 to stay in the match in the third set it was not enough as Price sealed the 3-0 win as he finished with a 101.55 average.

"I was anxious all day and I'm just thankful to play well tonight and come through the game," said Price. "I haven't won a game on that stage so I put the pressure on myself to be honest.

"I felt good when I was practicing and I felt good when I was up there. It could have gone to 1-1 in the second set but fortunately I came through that.

"I put pressure on myself in this event because I hadn’t won a game, I've lost first round for the first three years so I felt it. I don't feel like that at any other tournament.

"At the UK Open I'd never really come through a first round but once I did that I made the final, so the rest better watch out!"

Steve Beaton

Steve Beaton (Lawrence Lustig, PDC)

William O'Connor

William O'Connor (Lawrence Lustig, PDC)

James Wilson

James Wilson (Lawrence Lustig, PDC)

Krzysztof Ratajski

Krzysztof Ratajski (Lawrence Lustig, PDC)

Michael van Gerwen

Michael van Gerwen (Lawrence Lustig, PDC)

Christian Kist

Christian Kist (Lawrence Lustig, PDC)

Gerwyn Price

Gerwyn Price (Lawrence Lustig, PDC)

Ted Evetts

Ted Evetts (Lawrence Lustig, PDC)

The William Hill World Darts Championship will be broadcast live worldwide through the following broadcast partners:
PDCTV-HD - PDC Website for Rest of the World Subscribers
Sky Sports - UK & Ireland – dedicated “Sky Sports Darts” channel
RTL7 - Netherlands
Sport1 - Germany
DAZN - Germany, Japan, Canada
Fox Sports - Australia
Sky - New Zealand
Nova - Czech Republic
Viasat - Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Bulgaria, Baltic States
Pragosport - Hungary
OSN - Middle East & North Africa
Kwese - South Africa & Sub-Saharan Africa
Eleven Sports - Belgium
BBC America - North America (excluding Canada)
Fox - Italy, Greece, Turkey, Malta, Israel
TVP - Poland
CCTV - China
RTL - Croatia (Dec 28 onwards)
Eurosport - France, Romania, Spain
Eurosport Player - Andorra, Estonia, France & Monaco, Georgie, Israel, Latvia, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Turkey & CIS (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgystan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan)