Gabriel Clemens produced a superb fightback to stun Simon Whitlock on Day One of the Interwetten International Darts Open, as Andrew Gilding, Ross Smith and Raymond van Barneveld also progressed in Riesa.
The opening day of this weekend’s landmark event – the 100th in PDC European Tour history – saw Clemens amongst the 16 players to progress to Saturday’s second round at the Sachsenarena.
The World Championship semi-finalist was forced to recover from 5-2 down to sink 2018 runner-up Whitlock, who landed six 180s in the opening seven legs to establish a commanding cushion.
However, after winning three straight legs in 13, 14 and 13 darts, Clemens punished a poor final leg from Australia’s World Cup winner to move through to round two, where he will face last weekend’s runner-up Dirk van Duijvenbode.
Clemens was one of four German players to prevail on Day One in Riesa, with Niko Springer, Florian Hempel and 18-year-old Liam Maendl-Lawrance also celebrating success on home soil.
Springer delighted the home crowd by averaging 99 and landing four maximums to topple Scott Williams, which sets up an intriguing showdown against Premier League star Dimitri Van den Bergh.
Hempel punished 20 missed darts at double from James Wilson to come through a scrappy affair, while Maendl-Lawrance dumped out Welsh veteran Richie Burnett on his European Tour debut.
Pascal Rupprecht was unable to make it five wins from five for the Host Nation representatives, succumbing 6-3 to an impressive Brendan Dolan in the afternoon session.
Elsewhere, Gilding marked his first big stage appearance since his UK Open success with victory over two-time TV title winner Daryl Gurney, averaging almost 101 to advance in a high-quality encounter.
“It didn’t feel like a ton-plus average, so I’m happy with that,” reflected Gilding, who also pinned six of his nine double attempts to create a showdown against fourth seed Dave Chisnall.
“It was a great feeling to be introduced as UK Open champion. It’s fantastic.
“I still can’t quite believe it myself. I don’t know what’s changed, but I seem to be getting those wins when I need to. That’s the difference.”
Five-time World Champion Van Barneveld took advantage of his late call-up by defeating Stephen Burton 6-3 in an entertaining contest.
Germany’s number two Martin Schindler awaits Van Barneveld in round two, after the Dutch veteran landed a quartet of 14-darters and produced a stunning 157 checkout to cap off a solid display.
European Champion Smith will play reigning champion Gerwyn Price in a star-studded second round tie, after firing in five 180s to account for Finnish debutant Paavo Myller in his opener.
Lee Evans enjoyed a winning return on his first European Tour appearance for eight years, averaging 99 and converting 60% of his double attempts to dump out Kim Huybrechts in a last-leg thriller.
Despite this, Huybrechts’ compatriots Mike De Decker, Mario Vandenbogaerde and Brian Raman all moved through to round two, where they will join Belgian number one Van den Bergh.
De Decker received a late call-up to Riesa following Luke Humphries’ withdrawal, and he capitalised on his unexpected lifeline by punishing a profligate display from Callan Rydz to progress.
Vandenbogaerde ran out a 6-4 winner against Latvia’s number one Madars Razma, while Raman reeled off four straight legs to dispatch Ryan Meikle, sealing the deal with a 132 checkout on the bull.
Ian White was left to rue a bemusing mid-game slump in his first round tie against Jose Justicia, who won five straight legs from 4-1 down to set up a tussle against Peter Wright.
Matt Campbell also completed a fine comeback victory, defying two ton-plus checkouts from Keegan Brown to win four straight legs and move through to a meeting with top seed Michael van Gerwen.
Alan Soutar opened Friday’s action with a 6-4 success against Jeroen Mioch, while Steve Lennon defeated Andy Boulton by the same scoreline to clinch his first European Tour victory of 2023.
The 16 seeded players enter the fray in Saturday’s second round, with top seed Van Gerwen, defending champion Price and world number one Smith amongst the names in action.
The tournament is being broadcast live on Viaplay, DAZN and PDCTV (excluding Germany, Austria and Switzerland) and through bookmakers' websites worldwide.
Click here for results and match stats.
2023 Interwetten International Darts Open
Friday March 31
Alan Soutar 6-4 Jeroen Mioch
Steve Lennon 6-4 Andy Boulton
Mario Vandenbogaerde 6-4 Madars Razma
Brian Raman 6-2 Ryan Meikle
Brendan Dolan 6-3 Pascal Rupprecht
Jose Justicia 6-4 Ian White
Matt Campbell 6-4 Keegan Brown
Liam Maendl-Lawrance 6-4 Richie Burnett
Lee Evans 6-5 Kim Huybrechts
Niko Springer 6-4 Scott Williams
Mike De Decker 6-3 Callan Rydz
Andrew Gilding 6-4 Daryl Gurney
Florian Hempel 6-4 James Wilson
Ross Smith 6-3 Paavo Myller
Raymond van Barneveld 6-3 Stephen Burton
Gabriel Clemens 6-5 Simon Whitlock
Saturday April 1
Afternoon Session (1300 local time, 1200 BST)
Danny Noppert v Liam Maendl-Lawrance
Damon Heta v Brendan Dolan
Jose De Sousa v Lee Evans
Rob Cross v Steve Lennon
Joe Cullen v Alan Soutar
Dave Chisnall v Andrew Gilding
Josh Rock v Florian Hempel
Nathan Aspinall v Mario Vandenbogaerde
Evening Session (1900 local time, 1800 BST)
Jonny Clayton v Brian Raman
Dimitri Van den Bergh v Niko Springer
Peter Wright v Jose Justicia
Michael van Gerwen v Matt Campbell
Gerwyn Price v Ross Smith
Dirk van Duijvenbode v Gabriel Clemens
Martin Schindler v Raymond van Barneveld
Michael Smith v Mike De Decker