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Dimitri Van den Bergh defeats Ryan Meikle in spectacular fashion

Dimitri Van den Bergh emphatically beat Ryan Meikle on the opening day of the European Darts Open, as Michael Smith narrowly defeated James Wade in a thrilling last-leg decider in Leverkusen.

Van den Bergh claimed his second PDC ranking title of 2024 at Players Championship 12 in Hildesheim last week, and the Belgian marked his return to German soil with a 6-1 demolition of Ryan Meikle.

Trailing 4-0, Meikle opened his account with a terrific 121 checkout, only for Van den Bergh to respond with successive legs of 10 and 11 darts to triumph with a 109.45 average and an 85% checkout success rate.

“I know Ryan very well. He’s a great player, but I felt good tonight,” reflected the UK Open champion, who now faces Dutch Darts champion Josh Rock for a place in round three.

“I am in a good place. I know I can play good darts, so I’ve been trying to enjoy my game a little bit more, and it seems to be paying off!”

Friday’s action saw 16 first-round matches take place at the Ostermann-Arena, as Smith defied a trio of ton-plus checkouts from Wade to prevail in a high-quality encounter.

Smith survived a match dart at the bull to deal a significant blow to Wade’s hopes of World Matchplay qualification, despite the left-hander converting 102, 121 and 125 finishes earlier in the match.

“I know when Wadey is at his best, there is nobody better at finishing in the world,” admitted Smith, who will renew his rivalry with fourth seed Rob Cross on Saturday evening.

“You have to punish him [Wade] on the scoring which I did at times, but luckily enough he gave me that one shot I needed, and now I’m coming back tomorrow.”

Raymond van Barneveld also survived match darts to deny Krzysztof Ratajski in a compelling contest, pinning six of his 11 attempts at double to set up a fascinating showdown against top seed Luke Humphries.

The five-time World Champion turned on the style in the closing stages, following up a 14-dart hold with a clinical 64 kill in the decider to register his second victory over Ratajski in eight meetings.

Van Barneveld’s compatriot Dirk van Duijvenbode impressed in his opener, dumping out German number two Gabriel Clemens to move through to a meeting with Gerwyn Price, in a repeat of last year’s final.

Van Duijvenbode reeled off five consecutive legs from 3-1 down to cap off a clinical performance, which saw him conjure up a mesmerising 170 checkout while hitting six of his seven attempts at a double.

Despite Clemens’ early exit, Kevin Troppmann delighted the home crowd with a last-leg victory against Benjamin Pratnemer, recovering from 4-0 down and sealing his progress with a roof-raising 167 finish.

Elsewhere, Luke Woodhouse moved a step closer to sealing his World Matchplay debut with a convincing 6-3 win against Mike De Decker, averaging 97 and landing four 180s to book his place in round two.

Owen Bates also enjoyed a night to remember in Leverkusen, firing in a 13-darter to defeat Joe Cullen and celebrate his first victory on the European Tour stage.

Dom Taylor made a winning start on his European Darts Open debut, defying 116, 126 and 170 checkouts from Radek Szaganski to wrap up a convincing 6-3 victory with a 97 average.

Daryl Gurney and Ritchie Edhouse progressed to Saturday’s second round with whitewash wins against Marko Kantele and Jan Dueckers, as Gurney showboated his way to victory.

Jeffrey de Graaf maintained his good form with a battling 6-4 success against Andrew Gilding, fending off a valiant fightback from the 2023 UK Open champion to move through to a tie against Chris Dobey.

Kevin Doets defeated Nico Blum 6-3 to boost his hopes of World Matchplay qualification, while Karel Sedacek overcame Matthew Dennant by the same scoreline – aided by a stunning 161 combination.

Reigning Lakeside champion Andy Baetens hit back from 5-4 down to deny Nathan Rafferty in a rollercoaster affair, after Dylan Slevin denied Jamie Hughes to set up a showdown against Michael van Gerwen.

Earlier in the day, Nico Kurz was taken ill shortly before his clash against Callan Rydz, which saw Rydz receive a bye through to Saturday’s second round, where ninth seed Ross Smith awaits.

Five-time winner Van Gerwen will be among the seeded stars in action on Saturday, as reigning champion Price and world number one Humphries also enter the fray in Leverkusen.

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