Even for the Professional Darts Corporation (PDC), Luke Humphries was one of the favorites for the title, at least that’s what the association wrote on Twitter. The 27-year-old is the most in-form player on the tour. He has won five tournaments since February, four of them on the European Tour in front of TV cameras. Only the great Michael van Gerwen collected one more title this year.
For the experts, like ex-professional Paul Nicholson, things were clear before the World Matchplay in Blackpool, the second most important individual tournament after the World Cup: “I trust him that he is up to the situation and that he will survive his quarter of the tournament tree. If he defeats Nathan Aspinall, he will fear no one.”
Humphries’ opponent gave the expert the lie. Nathan Aspinall showed a surprisingly dominant performance and won the first round match 10:5. Then he counterattacked. “I don’t know why they pay these people. You have no idea,” explained the Englishman at the press conference in the direction of the experts, who had made him the clear outsider of the game.
Aspinall had a smile on his face, but his words must have been meant seriously. “I watched interviews and didn’t even know if I was going to be in this tournament. Looking at the quarter of the tree, nobody said my name. Nobody expected me to even win a few legs against Luke,” he added.
Aspinall came into play strongly against his compatriot. To make it 2-1, he took 143 points from the game and quickly increased his lead to 8-1. Humphries was able to shorten it again to 8:5, but ultimately had no chance. “I love proving people wrong. That’s my biggest motivation in life. Today I showed it again,” said Aspinall, who jumps into the top 16 in the world rankings in the live ranking.
Aspinall is on the mend after a difficult time. The 31-year-old was sidelined for several weeks earlier this year with an elbow and wrist injury. “It broke my heart to watch the other guys. Now that I can compete again, I realize how lucky I am to have this job,” concluded Aspinall.
He wasn’t the only one who took a critical approach towards the pundits on Sunday night. Joe Cullen did the same. The world number 12. was also traded as an underdog against the Australian Damon Heta, then won 10:2 even more convincingly than Aspinall. “A lot of people wrote me off. You seem to have a short memory. I was a dart away from winning the Premier League and I’m the Masters champion,” Cullen said.
Michael van Gerwen also celebrated an opening victory. In the duel between the ex-world champions and Adrian Lewis, the Dutchman was not in top form, but won 10:7. After a hand operation in mid-June, Van Gerwen is slowly returning to the tournament rhythm. “I had no other option. I had to put my trust in the hands of the doctors and it turned out well, said the three-time world champion, who was diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome, of the procedure.
On Monday evening, the German starters will take part in the tournament. First, Gabriel Clemens meets the Portuguese Jose de Souse, then Martin Schindler competes with Gerwyn Price, world champion of 2021. It’s a tough draw.
Krzysztof Ratajski – Stephen Bunting 10:6
Dimitri van den Bergh – Callan Rydz 10: 2
Peter Wright – Madars Razma 10:4
Jonny Clayton – Rowby-John Rodriguez 7:10
Dirk van Duijvenbode – Ryan Searle 10:8
Danny Noppert – Brendan Dolan 10: 6
Gary Anderson – Daryl Gurney 7:10
Michael Smith – Andrew Gilding 11:9
Joe Cullen – Damon Heavy 10:2
James Wade – Martin Lukeman 10:4
Michael van Gerwen – Adrian Lewis 10:7
Luke Humphries – Nathan Aspinall 5:10
Rob Cross – Chris Dobey
Jose de Sousa – Gabriel Clemens
Gerwyn Price – Martin Schindler
Dave Chisnall – Kim Huybrechts