Top seed Luke Humphries underlined his title credentials with a classy display on the opening night of the Cazoo European Championship, despite forgetting his darts in Dortmund.
Humphries’ preparations ahead of his first round clash against Krzysztof Ratajski were dealt a blow when he realised he’d left his darts at home, just hours before Thursday’s action got underway.
The 27-year-old was forced to use a brand new set of darts against Ratajski, but he produced the goods in a high-quality encounter, averaging 102 and landing four 180s to complete a 6-4 success.
“It was a rookie mistake, but I’m just really glad it didn’t cost me,” Humphries told Online Darts post-match.
“It wasn’t a bad performance with darts I had never thrown with before. I was surprised by how well they went!
“I think a year ago it would have been a disaster mentally. I would have been thinking: ‘I’ve got no chance here; I can’t throw with anything other than my darts.’
“With the throw I have now, it’s smooth and the way I’m playing, I feel I can throw with anything.”
Humphries comes into this year’s showpiece in buoyant mood, after celebrating the birth of his first child, Rowan, earlier this month.
The former UK Open runner-up has since competed in the Gibraltar Darts Trophy and four successive Players Championship events, and he revealed it’s been a whirlwind few weeks.
“It’s quite a surreal feeling. When he was born, it just brings emotions you never realised could happen,” added Humphries - one of three players to register ton-plus averages on Thursday.
“He’s three weeks old now and I’ve been away for about ten of those days, so it’s a bit unfortunate that I haven’t been able to enjoy as much time with him as I want to.
“He’s doing really well though. He is my greatest achievement.”
Humphries is now aiming to cap off a memorable month by landing his first televised title at the Westfalenhalle, as he prepares to take on Ryan Searle for a place in the last eight on Saturday.
Humphries defeated Searle to win his first senior PDC title in the year’s opening Players Championship event in Barnsley, and he’s gone from strength to strength since.
The Newbury ace has also scooped four European Tour titles in 2022 to break into the world’s top ten for the first time, courtesy of wins in Munich, Prague, Stuttgart and Trier respectively.
However, the former World Youth Champion faces a tough test against Searle, who also averaged 102 in his dramatic last-leg victory over debutant Martin Lukeman.
“This is a big tournament for me. It’s a chance to win my first major," Humphries continued.
“I think I deserve to be the number one seed for the way I’ve played this year. It’s been a fantastic year on the European Tour.
“There’s a little bit of added pressure, but I don’t think I’m the favourite to win it – Gerwyn [Price], Michael [van Gerwen] and Peter [Wright] are still the favourites to win these titles.
“This is going to be an interesting tournament. I’m looking forward to how it pans out, and I’m just hoping I am there in the latter stages like I can be.”
2022 Cazoo European Championship
Friday October 28 (1845 local time, 1745 BST)
8x First Round
Dave Chisnall v Stephen Bunting
Dimitri Van den Bergh v Daryl Gurney
Joe Cullen v Ross Smith
Jose de Sousa v Martin Schindler
Peter Wright v Ryan Meikle
Gerwyn Price v Rowby-John Rodriguez
Michael van Gerwen v Chris Dobey
Jonny Clayton v Gabriel Clemens
Best of 11 legs
Saturday October 29
Afternoon Session (1345 local time, 1245 BST)
4x Second Round
Vincent van der Voort v Danny Noppert
James Wade v Dirk van Duijvenbode
Luke Humphries v Ryan Searle
Michael Smith v Josh Rock
Best of 19 legs