World number five Dimitri Van den Bergh is out of the PDC World Championship after he was stunned by debutant Florian Hempel after a ding-dong battle.
The German, who has only been playing the sport for four years took the first set with a sublime 11-darter but it was the Belgian favourite who bounced back as he won the second set without reply, hitting a set average of 114.5. At that point it looked like the 2020 World Matchplay champion would go on to win, as he is unstoppable in that form, but Hempel took his chances with a double success rate of 75%.
The Dreammaker didn’t even perform badly on the night, averaging 101.78, but he was beaten by a man who just found himself in the zone when it came to the big shots. Hempel averaged 98.37, hit fewers 180s and five less 140+s, but had the unnerving consistency to come through sets three and four.
“Of course, Dimtiri is one of the best players in the world, the Matchplay champion but tonight it was my game. It’s absolutely amazing.”
It is certainly the shock of the tournament so far as the Belgian becomes just the third seed to be knocked out, and Hempel’s journey continues - as he will face Raymond Smith in round three after he beat an out-of-form Devon Petersen 3-0.
Three unanswered legs gave him the first set against the entertaining South African, who was all out of shape early on. Perhaps coming onto Shakira’s ‘Waka Waka’ put him off slightly as the crowd danced and sang his walk-on song back to him at Ally Pally.
Having been broken in the first leg of the second set, Peterson finally began hitting the trebles to break back. However, Smith showed incredible nerve to go 2-0 up as he kept hitting decent averages to put his opponent under pressure.
Petersen looked as if he had turned the tide when he hit a 114 finish to go 2-1 up on his throw, but Guru hit a key 180 to make it 2-2, and then secured the win against the world number 28. The Aussie was superb on the night, if a little concerned for his out-of-sorts opponent in his post-match interview.
Earlier, Michael Smith didn’t miss a dart in a stunning first set against Ron Meulenkamp, as he averaged 107 and Bully Boy kept up his flying form in a 3-0 win. The St Helen's man won the gamel with back-to-back 11-darters, averaged 106.32 and lost just one leg en route to victory.
In an imperious performance, the world number nine hit six 180s to leave his opponent in his dust. The 2019 finalist could well repeat the feat if he carries this form into the later rounds and arguably put in the best performance we have seen this year at Ally Pally.
Vincent van der Voort won a thrilling opening tie with Adam Hunt, which ranged from the sublime to the ridiculous. Both players regularly hit maximums, including a spectacular 12-darter from Hunt - but it was the Dutchman who went two sets up, despite squandering six darts for the set. Set three was far more of a formality as Van der Voort booked his place in round three, where he will face James Wade.
Image: Sven Mandel / CC-BY-SA-4.0