MICHAEL VAN GERWEN continued his winning start to 2019 by claiming the Players Championship 1 title with an 8-4 triumph over Jermaine Wattimena in the final at Wigan's Robin Park Tennis Centre.
The first day of the 2019 ProTour season saw Van Gerwen post four 105-plus averages throughout the day to make extend his unbeaten run to 18 consecutive matches dating back to November 2018.
The Dutchman, who lifted his fifth consecutive Masters crown last weekend, began the day with victories over Luke Woodhouse, Gary Eastwood, Mickey Mansell and Mark Dudbridge for the loss of just eight legs as he reached the quarter-finals.
There, the world number one averaged 110.1 to blow Jonny Clayton away 6-1, before seeing off Scott Baker 7-5 in what turned out to be his toughest test of the day to make the final which saw him average 109.5 in the all-Dutch clash with Wattimena.
"I am proud of how I played today, especially in the final," said three-time World Champion Van Gerwen.
"It's always a big achievement to win a ProTour because there are 127 players who all want to beat me, there is a huge target on my back.
"I had to work really hard to win this today, you have to be at your best against these players and I'm already looking forward to tomorrow."
A high-quality start to the final set the tone for the match, as Wattimena's 105 finish in leg one was answered with a 106 from Van Gerwen in the next, both on throw.
With the players level at 2-2, Van Gerwen landed the first break of the match win an 11-dart leg, before Wattimena fired straight back with an 11-darter of his own to make it 3-3.
A third consecutive 11-dart break of throw followed for Van Gerwen to make it 4-3, and it proved decisive as Van Gerwen reeled off four of the next five legs to claim the £10,000 top prize.
Despite defeat at the final hurdle, Wattimena enjoyed a successful start to 2019 as he made his first ProTour final, claiming the scalps of Ian White in the last 16 and Peter Wright in the semi-finals.
A number of players were competing in their first PDC events, with Baker the pick of the bunch as he took out Rob Cross and Kyle Anderson on his way to the final four.
Harry Ward also enjoyed a successful debut as he made the quarter-finals, defeating Simon Whitlock in the opening round, while Challenge Tour players Andrew Gilding, Stephen Burton, Diogo Portela and Mick Todd all reached the last 16.
It was a disappointing start to PDC life for Glen Durrant who was edged out 6-5 by Alan Tabern in round one, while Mark McGeeney suffered the same fate at the hands of Gerwyn Price.
Michael Smith lost with a 112 average against Wright in the quarter-finals, while Premier League stars Cross, Daryl Gurney, James Wade, Price and Raymond van Barneveld all exited before the last 16 stage.
Sunday will see the second day of Players Championship action in Wigan, with live streaming from two boards simultaneously in the new-look PDCTV-HD. Follow fixtures, results and live match stats through Dart Connect.
See full Players Championship 1 results in DartConnect.
Players Championship 1
Saturday February 9, Robin Park Tennis Centre, Wigan
Michael van Gerwen 6-3 Mark Dudbridge
Jonny Clayton 6-4 Jeffrey de Zwaan
Kyle Anderson 6-4 Andrew Gilding
Scott Baker 6-0 Stephen Burton
Jermaine Wattimena 6-5 Ian White
Harry Ward 6-3 Diogo Portela
Michael Smith 6-0 Joe Cullen
Peter Wright 6-2 Mick Todd
Michael van Gerwen 6-1 Jonny Clayton
Scott Baker 6-3 Kyle Anderson
Jermaine Wattimena 6-3 Harry Ward
Peter Wright 6-5 Michael Smith
Michael van Gerwen 7-5 Scott Baker
Jermaine Wattimena 7-2 Peter Wright
Michael van Gerwen 8-4 Jermaine Wattimena