Newly-crowned Brisbane Darts Masters champion Damon Heta began his bid for back-to-back World Series titles with a 6-1 thrashing of James Wade in the first round of the Melbourne Darts Masters.
The Australian, 32, became only the second regional qualifier to win a World Series event, when he beat Rob Cross 8-7 in the final in Brisbane last week.
The DPA Order of Merit leader had battled back from behind to edge past Wade in a last-leg decider in the first round in Brisbane, and the pair faced off again in the opening day of action at the Melbourne Arena.
Heta averaged 99.6, hit five 180s and was 6/8 on the doubles, as he comfortably dispatched of the reigning World Series of Darts Finals champion 6-1.
“Things just feel so good right now, I’m just in the moment and absolutely loving it,” he said.
Heta will face Rob Cross, in a rematch of last week’s Brisbane final, in the quarter-finals tomorrow, after the World Matchplay holder beat TV debutant Robbie King 6-2.
The bottom half of the draw also saw wins for Daryl Gurney and Simon Whitlock – the two beaten semi-finalists in Brisbane.
Whitlock hit three maximums and averaged 97 as he saw off Mick Lacey 6-3, while Gurney stormed into leads of 3-0 and 4-1, before his opponent Kyle Anderson won three straight legs to level at 4-4. But Gurney took the next two legs to advance to the final day.
“I was pleased with the way I started so I was happy with that but it was my own fault that I let Kyle back in,” he said.
“I’m been working really hard at home and whilst I’ve been away so beating quality players shows the hard work is paying off.”
Meanwhile, the top half of the draw saw all four of the PDC’s invited players safely progress, with Michael van Gerwen and Gary Anderson setting up a quarter-final clash tomorrow, in what will be the first meeting between the two since the World Championship semi-finals in December last year.
Anderson, 48, who missed almost all of the first half of 2019 with a back injury, averaged almost 97 in a 6-0 whitewash over James Bailey, but afterwards admits he still has a long road to get back to the form he showed in 2018.
“It’s getting there. I had six months off and in the past I could just get right back into it,” the Scot said.
“It has not turned out that way and it has been a hell of a difference.
“It’s going to be hard work I think, I need to get back into it. I know what I need to do.”
World number one van Gerwen, who has gone seven PDC tournaments without winning one, defeated Tim Pusey 6-2, and says he relishes taking on the 2015 and 2016 PDC world champion.
“Gary and I always have great games and I can’t afford to make any mistakes against him,” he said.
“I have not played my best but I just have to keep giving myself chances and doing the right things at the right moments.
“I am happy to get the win today but now I have to focus on playing Gary.”
Defending Melbourne champion, and the top seed, Peter Wright came through a low-quality encounter against Corey Cadby 6-4.
Wright averaged 82 to Cadby’s 83 and afterwards pulled no punches on his performance against the former world youth champion.
“Tonight was diabolical, I’m sorry and I don’t know what happened up there tonight but sometimes it just doesn’t go,” he said.
“I have to play Barney tomorrow and if I play anything like that then I won’t be the champion anymore.”
Wright’s bid to retain the title resumes tomorrow against Raymond van Barneveld. The five-time world champion posted the highest average of the night – 106.13 – to beat Haupai Puha 6-1.
It was van Barneveld’s first 100+ average on TV in 2019, and the Dutchman was understandably pleased, hitting 6/8 doubles and three 180s on route to his victory.
“I felt really relaxed up there. I took a few days off after Brisbane to get my mind in the right place and it seemed to have worked,” he said.
“I have been doing it on the practice board and I always feel confident there but it’s nice to finally do it out on the stage.”
2019 Melbourne Darts Masters
Simon Whitlock 6-3 Mick Lacey
Raymond van Barneveld 6-1 Haupai Puha
Daryl Gurney 6-3 Kyle Anderson
Gary Anderson 6-0 James Bailey
Peter Wright 6-4 Corey Cadby
Damon Heta 6-1 James Wade
Michael van Gerwen 6-2 Tim Pusey
Rob Cross 6-2 Robbie King
Peter Wright v Raymond van Barneveld
Michael van Gerwen v Gary Anderson
Rob Cross v Damon Heta
Daryl Gurney v Simon Whitlock
(followed by the semi-finals and final)
Pictures: PDC/David Callow