Dimitri Van den Bergh made an ideal start to the defence of his Viaplay Nordic Darts Masters title with a brilliant 6-2 victory over Madars Razma in front of 2,500 fans at the Forum Copenhagen in Denmark on Friday.
The year's second World Series of Darts event saw all eight PDC stars overcome their Nordic & Baltic opponents to move through to Saturday's final stages, which will take place during a bumper double session.
Latvian number one Razma had taken the lead in the opening exchanges against reigning champion Van den Bergh, breaking in leg three as Van den Bergh missed two darts at double 15.
However, the Belgian then showed his class, responding in style with a beautiful 130 finish on double five to level at two apiece.
The 28-year-old then powered through, not allowing Razma another dart at a double as he closed out a comprehensive 6-2 victory.
It was a clinical display from Van den Bergh, as he averaged 101.95 - the highest of the tournament thus far - while he also converted 43% of his attempts at double as he bids to retain his title in the Danish capital.
World number two Peter Wright was given the biggest scare of the opening night as he was forced to a deciding leg against Dennis Nilsson in a dramatic 6-5 victory.
Wright, who lost in the quarter-finals of the inaugural Bahrain Darts Masters last weekend, was again staring at an early exit as he let a 5-3 lead slip against Nilsson.
The Swede had the darts in the deciding leg, but with 101 left for the match, the 48-year-old squandered the chance to find a double, and Wright breathed a sigh of relief as he snuck through on tops.
Despite not being at his blistering best, it was a comfortable evening for World Champion Michael Smith, as he blew away Lithuania’s Darius Labanauskas in a whitewash victory.
Smith only had to average 92 in the process, but he restricted his opponent to just three darts at the outer ring as he moved through to the last eight in quick-fire fashion.
There was also a whitewash success for Bahrain Darts Masters runner-up Gerwyn Price, as he comfortably swept aside local qualifier Benjamin Reus 6-0.
In a dominant display from the Welshman, Price averaged over 98, landed 54% of his doubles and didn’t afford his opponent a single shot at the outer ring.
In the evening's finale, it was a story of missed doubles for a returning Michael van Gerwen, despite a comfortable 6-3 victory over Andreas Harrysson.
Having missed the Bahrain Darts Masters due to a pre-arranged holiday, Van Gerwen overcame 19 missed darts at double to triumph in his first competitive appearance since losing to Smith in the World Championship final.
After kicking off proceedings with a delightful 12-darter, Van Gerwen looked refreshed in the early exchanges before his double-trouble set in.
Nevertheless, the 2021 Nordic Darts Masters Champion was never in danger as he moved through to set up a quarter-final clash against Wright.
It was a similar story for Jonny Clayton, who moved through to Saturday's quarter-finals with a 6-3 success against Swedish World Cup star Daniel Larsson.
The 48-year-old will be looking for vast improvement in his quarter-final clash with Rob Cross after averaging just 84, courtesy of 21 missed darts at double.
Meanwhile, in the evening's opener, Luke Humphries kicked off his second World Series of Darts event with a 6-1 victory over Finland’s Marko Kantele.
Kantele enjoyed a fleeting moment of joy as he took out 120 to level at 1-1, but Humphries kicked into gear and secured the next five legs to book his quarter-final spot and a clash with Smith.
Elsewhere, Cross made a comfortable start to proceedings as he beat Denmark's number one Vladimir Andersen 6-1, finding a 141 checkout en route - the highest of the tournament so far.
The Nordic Darts Masters is being broadcast through Viaplay, via ITV4 in the UK, through the PDC's worldwide broadcast partners including DAZN, and on PDCTV (excluding Germany, Austria & Switzerland based subscribers).
Please note that ITV4 will be broadcasting delayed coverage of Friday's first round from 0600 GMT on Saturday January 21.
2023 Viaplay Nordic Darts Masters
Schedule of Play
Friday January 20
Luke Humphries 6-1 Marko Kantele
Jonny Clayton 6-3 Daniel Larsson
Dimitri Van den Bergh 6-2 Madars Razma
Gerwyn Price 6-0 Benjamin Reus
Peter Wright 6-5 Dennis Nilsson
Michael Smith 6-0 Darius Labanauskas
Rob Cross 6-1 Vladimir Andersen
Michael van Gerwen 6-3 Andreas Harrysson
Saturday January 21
Afternoon Session (1300 local time, 1200 GMT)
Gerwyn Price v Dimitri Van den Bergh
Rob Cross v Jonny Clayton
Michael Smith v Luke Humphries
Peter Wright v Michael van Gerwen
Evening Session (2000 local time, 1900 GMT)
Price/Van den Bergh v Cross/Clayton
Smith/Humphries v Wright/Van Gerwen
Smith/Humphries/Wright/Van Gerwen v Price/Van den Bergh/Cross/Clayton