TWO-TIME winner Gary Anderson opened his William Hill World Darts Championship campaign with a convincing 3-0 victory over Canadian Jeff Smith on a frenetic Saturday at Alexandra Palace.

With a host of speedy players in action the darting drama came thick and fast in the first double session of this year's event, but there was no real scare for Scottish star Anderson.

Canadian ace Smith had opened the evening session with a 170 checkout as he defeated youngster Luke Humphries in straight sets in the preliminary round, but was unable to upset the odds against the number three seed.

Double champion Anderson produced some of his best scoring in his first round run-out, with seven 180s deflecting the attention from 18 missed doubles as he averaged almost 101.

The second set was other-worldly from Anderson though, and he averaged just under 132 courtesy of four 180s and the first ten-dart leg of this year's tournament in a run of ten, 11 and 12 darters.

Former Lakeside Championship finalist Smith had missed just one double against Humphries, but hardly got a sniff early on as he was bullied out of the contest.

"The 180s were flying in but I was making a mess of some counting - but I've done it before and we'll get over it," said Anderson, who is desperate to get his hands back on the Sid Waddell Trophy.

"When Michael beat me last year it was the best sleep I'd ever had - all the pressure was off me, but a few months into it I thought I want it back so I'm going to have to try now."

Anderson's own pace was made to like distinctly pedestrian by Jermaine Wattimena and Joe Cullen in their epic five-set showdown earlier in the evening.

Blink and you might have missed Wattimena beating Cullen 3-2 in a frantic contest that saw the first two sets played in under seven minutes - Cullen's second set whitewash coming in a breathtaking two minutes and 45 seconds.

A ding-dong battle swung both ways but Cullen was left cursing four missed darts for the match as Wattimena forced a tie-break and took full advantage to reach the second round for the first time.

"He played well," said Wattimena. "I think he won the second set quicker than mine! He hit two bull finishes and we both played very well and finished very well."

Jan Dekker came from a set down to win his all-Dutch battle with former Lakeside Champion Jelle Klaasen 3-1 as he showed why he has been a leading double hitter on the circuit this year to come from a set down.

Dekker, who hit nine of 14 attempts on the doubles, now has another mouth-watering clash in the second round as he takes on impressive World Youth Champion Dimitri Van den Bergh. 

"After the first set I played well and if I'm playing well I always hit my doubles," said Dekker. "I had to work really hard against Jelle but after the second set I had a feeling that I could beat him and I just kept fighting. I'm over the moon to win that one."

In the afternoon session, Robert Thornton beat Brendan Dolan 3-1 as the two men rolled back the years with some sparkling darts, including Dolan taking four legs on the bounce with ton-plus checkouts.

Both men won nine legs each but Thornton had that extra gear in the vital fifth legs to edge out Dolan, who had earlier earned his place in the first round with a straight sets victory over Croatian Alan Ljubic.

"Don't write me off," warned Thornton, the former UK Open and World Grand Prix champion. "I might be number 27 or 28 now but don't write me off, I'm not defending anything this week so I've got nothing to lose.

"The more rounds I win, the more I'll believe and the harder I'll be to beat."

Zoran Lerchbacher came from two sets down to defeat Mervyn King as the former Alexandra Palace semi-finalist saw a back injury hamper his challenge.

The Austrian won eight straight legs to clinch a place in the second round for the first time, and admitted: "It was unbelievable.

"I think I played well in the first two sets and lost them but I kept my focus and I thought I can turn this match. It's a party, I love to perform here for the fans and I'm so happy."

World number 14 Benito van de Pas was the second seed to crash out in the afternoon as he was beaten 3-1 by Steve West, who banished the ghosts of seeing a two-set lead slip against King last year to close out his first World Championship win.

"Last year I was 2-0 up and threw it away," said West. "To get over it this year is a massive turning point for me. I'm a different player and a different person this year. I'm getting the mental side of things right and I think this proves it."

West was sat on tops at 2-0 up when Van de Pas took out 124 in similar fashion to how King began his comeback last year - but the Essex thrower ensured that lightning did not strike twice as he took out 106 and 141 to win the match.

The day also saw Austria's 16-year-old Rusty-Jake Rodriguez defeat Dutch teenager Owen Roelofs 5-4 to win the final of the inaugural WDS Associates Junior World Darts Championship - click here for report.

Sunday sees the action at Alexandra Palace continue with another double session, including Auckland Darts Masters champion Kyle Anderson in action during the afternoon session against Peter Jacques, Players Championship Finals runner-up Jonny Clayton playing Kenny Neyens or Jamie Lewis and Alan Norris' meeting with Finland's Kim Viljanen.

Three-time semi-finalist James Wade plays Keegan Brown in the evening session, which also sees Dave Chisnall meeting Vincent van der Voort and Ian White up against either America's Willard Brugier or New Zealander Cody Harris.

William Hill World Darts Championship
First Round

Saturday December 16
Afternoon Session
Brendan Dolan 2-0 Alan Ljubic (P)
Benito van de Pas 1-3 Steve West
Mervyn King 2-3 Zoran Lerchbacher
Robert Thornton 3-1 Brendan Dolan

Evening Session
Jeff Smith 2-0 Luke Humphries (P)
Joe Cullen 2-3 Jermaine Wattimena
Jelle Klaasen 1-3 Jan Dekker
Gary Anderson 3-0 Jeff Smith

Sunday December 17
Afternoon Session (12.30pm)

Kenny Neyens v Jamie Lewis (P)
Alan Norris v Kim Viljanen
Kyle Anderson v Peter Jacques
Jonny Clayton v Kenny Neyens/Jamie Lewis

Evening Session (7pm)
Willard Bruguier v Cody Harris (P)
James Wade v Keegan Brown
Dave Chisnall v Vincent van der Voort
Ian White v Willard Bruguier/Cody Harris

Preliminary Round - Best of three sets
First Round - Best of five sets

CLICK HERE FOR MATCH STATS FROM SPORTRADAR

CLICK HERE TO SEE FULL EVENT INFORMATION

Match Reports
Afternoon Session
Brendan Dolan (Lawrence Lustig, PDC)
Brendan Dolan 2-0 Alan Ljubic

(3-1, 3-0)
BRENDAN DOLAN secured his place in the first round proper as he reached the first round proper of the William Hill World Darts Championship with a 2-0 preliminary round win over Alan Ljubic.

The former World Grand Prix finalist had to win through the PDPA Qualifiers just to secure a spot at Alexandra Palace after dropping out of the world's top 32, but had enough class to see off his Croatian opponent.

The start of the game summed up Dolan's form of late, as he opened up with a 12-darter including a 180 and 82 checkout but followed up with 21 darts as he lost the second leg.

Dolan took the next but only won the set after Ljubic missed three darts at double ten to stay alive - but it was plain sailing in the second as finishes of 104 and 76 helped him to a clean sweep to book a date with Robert Thornton.

Steve West (Lawrence Lustig, PDC)
Benito van de Pas 1-3 Steve West

(0-3, 2-3, 3-2, 0-3)
STEVE WEST overcame a worrying sense of darting deja vu as he overcame a Benito van de Pas comeback to beat the 14th seed 3-1 in the first round at Alexandra Palace.

West has never won a World Championship match before but roared into a 2-0 lead and then left himself double top for the match, only for the Dutch youngster to take out 122 to pinch the set.

The same had happened against Mervyn King last year as West went on to lose out in round one, but this time he was in no mood to relinquish his advantage and he stormed through the fourth set to progress.

West ripped through the opening set without reply as he took the first three legs in 14, 15 and 16 darts and landed a 180 as Van de Pas struggled.

Van de Pas - who has reached the third round in each of the last three years - got on the board in the second set and was more competitive - nailing a fantastic 122 finish to level in leg four only to miss a single nine to leave a double in the decider as West took a second set.

The Dutchman again squandered a chance in set three as he allowed West to draw level at two-all, but he then produced his best visit of the match in the decider as he took out 124 with West sat on tops for the match.

King took out a 136 finish before beating West in last year's first round, but West was not letting that happen again as he took out 106 at the start of the fourth set and went on to claim the set 3-0 with a fine 141 to win the match.

"It's brilliant," said West. "Last year I was 2-0 up and threw it away - fair play to Merv, he took out some big shots but I still lost it - and to get over it this year is a massive turning point for me.

"Last year I would have thought about it more but this time I just thought it's one shot. I'm a different player and a different person this year - I think differently, I play differently and that worked in my favour.

"I'm getting the mental side of things right and I think this proves it."

Zoran Lerchbacher (Lawrence Lustig, PDC)
Mervyn King 2-3 Zoran Lerchbacher

(3-2, 3-2, 1-3, 0-3, 0-3)
ZORAN LERCHBACHER reached the second round of the William Hill World Darts Championship for the first time as he came from two sets down to defeat Mervyn King 3-2.

Lerchbacher was the more consistent thrower throughout the match and was unlucky to be 2-0 down after having darts to win both of the first two sets.

After taking the opening leg of the third set, the players left the stage following a lighting issue, and after they returned things turned Lerchbacher's way as he claimed the set before King started to struggle against a back problem.

King's body seemed to give out just as Lerchbacher was getting back into the game, and the Austrian ruthlessly took advantage by claiming the next six legs to make it eight on the spin and nine out of the last ten.

The final set saw Lerchbacher clinically complete the win by averaging 116 to claim all three legs without reply.

"It was unbelievable," said Lerchbacher. "I think I played well in the first two sets and lost them but I kept my focus and I thought I can turn this match. It's a party, I love to perform here for the guys and I'm so happy."

Robert Thornton (Lawrence Lustig, PDC)
Robert Thornton 3-1 Brendan Dolan

(3-2, 0-3, 3-2, 3-2)
ROBERT THORNTON produced some of his best darts to win a top-notch first round clash against Brendan Dolan as both men rolled back the years at the William Hill World Darts Championship.

The pair have slipped down the Order of Merit in recent times but produced some vintage arrows in parts, with Thornton hitting six 180s, threatening a nine-darter and taking out a 144 finish.

In terms of legs won it was level at 9-9, but in set play Thornton just managed to win the important fifth legs while Dolan did his damage in a remarkable that run saw him hit his first six shots at a double and produce five ton-plus finishes - four of them coming in consecutive legs in a truly spellbinding run of darts.

A top-quality first set saw Dolan stick in his first ton-plus finish of 124 to go 2-1 up, only to watch Thornton hit a 13-darter and follow up with an 11-darter thanks to a 180 and 90 outshot on the bull.

Dolan started his mesmeric run in a blistering second set as he took all three legs courtesy of finishes of 126, 104 and 100 to level - before kicking off the third set with a 107 to make it four ton-plus checkouts in a row.

Thornton stopped the rot in style as he got in on the big finishing act with a 144 to make it five consecutive legs won by three-figure checkouts, before hitting two 13-darters to claim the set 3-2.

The Scot found an extra gear in the fourth set that Dolan was unable to match as he hit a 12-darter after back-to-back 180s, and although his double troubles let the Northern Irish ace back in, Thornton upped it again in the deciding leg with a 13-darter giving him the match.

"I reckon it's the best I've played in 18 months," said Thornton. "I was able to focus, I've got a new practice and focus routine and it seemed to work up there today.

"I hit the 180s at the right time, Brendan took the big finishes out but it was about hitting the right score at the right time."

Thornton says he'll grow into the tournament and warned the rest of the field that he'll be a danger this as he has little ranking money to defend.

"Don't write me off!" he added. "I might be number 27 or 28 now but don't write me off, I'm not defending anything this week so I've got nothing to lose.

"It's all down to your self belief and the people you've got behind you. My family has never doubted me - I've doubted myself but when I do doubt myself they pick me up and made me believe. 

"The more rounds I win, the more I'll believe and the harder I'll be to beat."

Evening Session
Jeff Smith (Lawrence Lustig, PDC)
Jeff Smith 2-0 Luke Humphries

(3-2, 3-1)
JEFF SMITH started the evening session with a bang as he impressed in a 2-0 victory over talented youngster Luke Humphries in their preliminary round encounter.

Arguably the tie of the preliminary round pitted former Lakeside Championship finalist Smith against rising star Humphries, who won the Development Tour Order of Merit following five wins this year.

Canadian star Smith banged in a maximum 170 finish in the very first leg, and that set the trend for some smart finishing from both men, who only missed one dart at a double each in the match.

Smith hit the bull again to take out 82 and completed a 3-2 win in the opening set with a 106 outshot as his experience seemed to be the difference.

Humphries started well in the second set with a 94 finish but had no answer to Smith's finishing as the former PDC Tour Card Holder took out 78, 126 and 74 to book a first round date with Gary Anderson.

Jermaine Wattimena (Lawrence Lustig, PDC)
Joe Cullen 2-3 Jermaine Wattimena

(0-3, 3-0, 2-3, 3-0, 2-4)
JERMAINE WATTIMENA won an astonishing first round clash with Joe Cullen in a final set decider after a truly breathless affair at the William Hill World Darts Championship.

The opening two sets went in the blink of an eye as Wattimena claimed the first in four-and-a-half minutes and Cullen replied to level in just two minutes and 45 seconds.

A frantic clash went one way and then the other and was packed with quality as well as the fast and furious pace, with both hitting two three-figure checkouts and averaging around 96.

After two one-sided sets, the third was more competitive with Cullen mixing in a 13-darter with two 180s, but it was not enough as Wattimena took out 111 in the opener and 70 in the decider.

Cullen then took his turn to dominate the see-saw encounter as he took out 66, 130 and 84 for yet another quick-fire set, and then added a fourth leg in a row with a 79 to start the fifth set.

Wattimena hit an amazing 141 to reply but Cullen then moved ahead and looked set to clinch the tie, only to miss four match darts and allow the Dutchman to force a tie-break at two-all in both sets and legs.

It was Cullen who then blinked first in extra legs, and Wattimena cleaned up the next two legs to reach the second round for the first time and secure a tie with Steve West.

"Great, wonderful, there's not a lot more I can say," said Wattimena. "I was very nervous but I'm now looking forward to playing in my first second round match.  

"He played well, I think he won the second set quicker than mine! He hit two bull finishes and we both played very well and finished very well."

Jan Dekker (Lawrence Lustig, PDC)
Jelle Klaasen 1-3 Jan Dekker

(3-0, 1-3, 1-3, 2-3)
JAN DEKKER came from a set down to win his all-Dutch battle with Jelle Klaasen 3-1 as he showed why he has been a leading double hitter on the circuit this year.

An outstanding opening from Klaasen saw the former Lakeside Champion claim the opening three legs without reply, but while doubles would later be his Achilles heel, they would be Dekker's method of victory.

Dekker had three ton-plus finishes and was brilliant on his doubles, hitting nine out of 14 to continue his clinical displays.

Outshots of 100 and 64 helped Dekker ease back into the match by taking the second set in four legs, and more brilliant finishing of 128, 120 and 74 put the youngster 2-1 ahead in sets.

Klaasen missed a host of chances in set four as Dekker made no mistake to claim the decider and send the 2016 semi-finalist crashing out at the first hurdle.

The win sets up another mouth-watering clash for Dekker in the second round as he takes on new World Youth Champion Dimitri Van den Bergh.

"In the beginning I wasn't good," admitted Dekker. "I lost that set 3-0 and I was just thinking that I have to fight more.

"After the first set I played well and if I'm playing well I always hit my doubles. I had to work really hard against Jelle but after the second set I had a feeling that I could beat him and I just kept fighting. I'm over the moon to win that one.

"When you're playing him, he plays so fast that you just have to take some time when you're on stage. It feels like he's in a hurry and I'm not in a hurry so I just needed to take some time."

Gary Anderson (Lawrence Lustig, PDC)
Gary Anderson 3-0 Jeff Smith

(3-0, 3-1, 3-1)
TWO-TIME winner Gary Anderson opened his William Hill World Darts Championship campaign with a convincing 3-0 victory over Canadian Jeff Smith.

Canadian ace Smith had opened the evening session with a 170 checkout as he defeated youngster Luke Humphries in straight sets in the preliminary round, but was unable to upset the odds against the number three seed.

Double champion Anderson produced some of his best scoring in his first round run-out, with seven 180s deflecting the attention from 18 missed doubles as he averaged almost 101.

The second set was other-worldly from Anderson though, and he averaged just under 132 courtesy of four 180s and the first ten-dart leg of this year's tournament in a run of ten, 11 and 12 darters.

Former Lakeside Championship finalist Smith had missed just one double against Humphries, but hardly got a sniff early on as he was bullied out of the contest.

"That's a bit better than what I thought it would be," said Anderson. "The 180s were flying in but I was making a mess of some counting - but I've done it before and we'll get over it.

"It's hard for both of us, Jeff played earlier on at seven o'clock and then he's got to wait. It's my first game and he's had a warm-up and I've not, so it's a very hard game to play the first round."

Anderson has reached the final in each of the last three years at Alexandra Palace, winning two titles before seeing Michael van Gerwen claim the trophy 12 months ago.

He added: "This is everything, you ask anyone and you'll get the same answer. Michael took it off me last year and I'd love to do the same to him this year.

"When Michael beat me last year it was the best sleep I'd ever had - all the pressure was off me, but a few months into it I thought I want it back so I'm going to have to try now."

TV Coverage
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)