Danny Noppert dumped out the returning Michael van Gerwen on an incredible opening night at the Viaplay Dutch Darts Masters, as six home stars progressed in Amsterdam on Friday.
The inaugural staging of the PDC World Series of Darts event saw six of the eight Dutch representatives prevail at the Ziggo Dome, with UK Open champion Noppert defeating Van Gerwen in the evening’s marquee match.
Van Gerwen, making his first appearance since undergoing wrist surgery last week, fell behind following an extraordinary start, which saw both players averaging over 110 after five legs.
Despite leaving a double after nine darts, Van Gerwen saw Noppert open his account with an 11-dart hold, but the Premier League champion replied with a wonderful 141 finish to level.
Noppert fired back with a classy 120 checkout, and after crashing in back-to-back 180s to hold in leg five, the World Cup semi-finalist extended his lead to 4-2 with a 90 checkout on the bull.
Van Gerwen restored parity at four apiece with consecutive 72 and 62 finishes, but Noppert stopped the rot via double 12, before following up his sixth 180 with a 14-darter to seal the deal.
“It was a crazy game. The trebles and finishes were going in early on,” said the 31-year-old, who will take on his compatriot Vincent van der Voort in the quarter-finals.
“I have so much respect for Michael. He is only just returning from injury, but he played really well.
“I just tried to focus on my own game. Everything is possible if you believe in yourself, and I believe in myself. This was a great start.”
Earlier in the night, Van der Voort raised the roof by edging out world number two Gerwyn Price in a dramatic 11-leg tussle.
Van der Voort rallied from 2-0 adrift with a trio of 13-darters, and though back-to-back legs from Price appeared to shift the pendulum back in his favour, the home favourite restored parity with a brilliant 102 checkout in leg eight.
Having wrestled back the throw, the former UK Open finalist then posted his fourth 13-darter of the contest to complete the job in the decider.
“I didn’t play particularly well, but that crowd is just amazing,” said Van der Voort, who averaged 96 to account for the 2021 World Champion.
“Any win against Gerwyn Price is special. He is the world number two, he’s one of the best players in the world. I’m very happy.”
World Champion Peter Wright was another big-name casualty in Amsterdam, as the Scot succumbed to Dirk van Duijvenbode in an entertaining affair.
The pair traded 11 maximums in just nine legs, but it was the former World Grand Prix runner-up who ran out a convincing 6-3 winner.
Van Duijvenbode posted seven perfect darts in leg four, before rattling in a delightful 11-darter to close in on victory, eventually wrapping up proceedings with a 96 average and six 180s.
“There were lots of friends and family supporting me, and if you beat the biggest names, you want to do it in front of the people you love,” said Van Duijvenbode, a semi-finalist at last week’s World Cup of Darts.
“I don’t look at my own opponent, I look at my own performance. Peter didn’t play his best game, but I know I can improve.”
Van Duijvenbode now faces Martijn Kleermaker, who continued the remarkable run for the Dutch qualifiers by firing in six maximums to set up a 6-4 win over top seed Michael Smith.
US Darts Masters winner Smith was punished for profligacy in the early exchanges, but successive 96 and 80 outshots saw the World Championship runner-up regain the lead.
Kleermaker came roaring back with a majestic ten-darter to level in leg six, before following up a sensational 124 finish on the bull in leg nine with a 78 combination on tops to sink the St Helens star.
“Michael Smith is the best player in the world right now, so to beat him in front of my home crowd is awesome,” reflected Kleermaker, who averaged 96 and missed just two darts at a double.
“This was an amazing game. That 78 finish is probably one of the best 78 checkouts I’ve hit in my life!”
Elsewhere, Jermaine Wattimena produced a superb display of finishing to stun World Series of Darts Finals champion Jonny Clayton in a deciding leg.
Finishes of 116, 95 and 122 saw Wattimena recover from a sluggish start to force a final leg, and the Dutchman held his nerve to prevail via double six, sparkling jubilant scenes of celebration.
“I haven’t played well in the last few months, so this is incredible,” Wattimena admitted.
“There was more pressure on me tonight, but the crowd really helped me. I think I played well. I have no words for this. It feels really special.”
Nordic Darts Masters winner Dimitri Van den Bergh began his bid for back-to-back World Series titles with a resounding 6-2 success against Ron Meulenkamp.
The Belgian fired in a classy 118 checkout in leg two, and reeled off the final three legs in 13, 14 and 16 darts to set up a meeting with Wattimena for a place in the semi-finals.
Meanwhile, fourth seed James Wade was the other PDC representative to advance, easing through to the last eight with a 6-2 victory over former World Matchplay semi-finalist Jeffrey de Zwaan.
Ten-time TV title winner Wade capitalised on De Zwaan’s outer ring woes in merciless fashion, drawing first blood with a sublime 125 checkout and winning five of the last six legs to triumph.
The world number five will now play Maik Kuivenhoven in Saturday night’s quarter-finals, after the Dutchman breezed past an out-of-sorts Fallon Sherrock 6-1 in his opener.
Saturday’s second day of action will see the quarter-finals, semi-finals and final played in one blockbuster evening session, as the remaining eight players battle it out for the £20,000 top prize.
Saturday's final stages will be broadcast live on Viaplay, through the PDC's international broadcast partners, including DAZN, and through PDCTV (excluding Germany, Austria & Switzerland).
UK viewers can watch through PDCTV, with a Summer Pass subscription option available, while ITV4 coverage will feature the first round from 1400-1800 BST on Saturday, ahead of the final stages live from 1800 BST.
2022 Viaplay Dutch Darts Masters
Friday June 24
Jermaine Wattimena 6-5 Jonny Clayton
Maik Kuivenhoven 6-1 Fallon Sherrock
James Wade 6-2 Jeffrey de Zwaan
Vincent van der Voort 6-5 Gerwyn Price
Martijn Kleermaker 6-4 Michael Smith
Dimitri Van den Bergh 6-2 Ron Meulenkamp
Danny Noppert 6-4 Michael van Gerwen
Dirk van Duijvenbode 6-3 Peter Wright
Saturday June 25 (1900 local time)
Martijn Kleermaker v Dirk van Duijvenbode
James Wade v Maik Kuivenhoven
Dimitri Van den Bergh v Jermaine Wattimena
Danny Noppert v Vincent Van der Voort
Best of 11 legs
Kleermaker/Van Duijvenbode v Wade/Kuivenhoven
Van den Bergh/Wattimena v Noppert/Van der Voort
Best of 13 legs
Kleermaker/Van Duijvenbode/Wade/Kuivenhoven v Van den Bergh/Wattimena/Noppert/Van der Voort
Best of 15 legs