The top two seeds at the Ladbrokes World Darts Championship have now both taken to the stage, with Phil Taylor and Michael van Gerwen securing their spots in the second round with wins.
But, one of the two fancied challengers for the title of World’s Best Tungsten Tickler had a far more difficult match to kick off proceedings, with Taylor getting caught by surprise against qualifier Rob Szabo.
The New Zealander, who booked his place to face the 14-time PDC champ early on the first day, took the opening set to the sound of gasps at Alexandra Palace, thanks to finishes of 128 and 105.
In fact Szabo led in the second set too and, had he nailed one of his two darts at tops, could have enjoyed a two-nil lead in it before Taylor came roaring back to life.
The world number one triumphed in the next eight legs to get himself back into the match but, with a checkout rate of just 34%, he will be well aware that his game must improve if he wants continued dominance in his favourite tournament.
In contrast, Van Gerwen, who is a 3/1 shot to lift the trophy, looked a far better outright bet over the 1/1 chances of Taylor, as he coasted to a 3-0 victory over another qualifier, Zoran Lerchbacher.
Although his three dart average of 89.13 was lower than that of Taylor’s, the Dutchman was never troubled against his Austrian opponent, who only had five shots at a double and won just one leg.
Mighty Mike will move on to face the unseeded Kevin McDine in the second round and is priced, as expected, as a heavy 1/20 favourite to prevail. Another straight sets victory, this time 4-0, is by far the better value at 5/4.
Meanwhile, Taylor must wait for two matches to be completed before finding out who his second round opponent will be.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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