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Michael van Gerwen makes perfect start to World Grand Prix title defence

Michael van Gerwen wasted no time laying down his Boylesports World Grand Prix title credentials with an impressive first-round dismantling of Josh Rock on Tuesday.

Billed as one of the pick of the first round ties, Van Gerwen was quick to lay down a marker as he dominated Rock, losing just one leg in a straight sets victory.

The Dutchman, who lifted the World Grand Prix title for a sixth time in 2022, started in imperious form – winning legs in 14 and 12 darts on his way to the opening set with Rock picking up his solitary leg in response.

That dominance persisted in the second set as Rock languished, and Van Gerwen powered his way to the next three legs to secure victory with an average of 95.74 and a 75 per cent success rate on the finishing doubles.

“To start off with a performance like this against a player of that calibre - it gives you confidence,” said Van Gerwen.

“The first round in this tournament is always tricky - whoever you draw. Look how many good players already lost in this tournament.”

“My doubles were top class - it may not have done my average justice, but winning the game was the most important thing in the World Grand Prix.”

Van Gerwen faces Chris Dobey – who defeated Dimitri Van den Bergh in straight sets earlier in the evening – in round two.

The pair met in the Quarter-Final stage of 2022 event, with Van Gerwen recording a 3-1 success and he is feeling confident that he cannot be stopped as he hunts a record seventh World Grand Prix title

“It’s not going to happen,” joked Van Gerwen.

“The format gets longer and longer after tonight and that won’t do [my opponent] any favours.

“You are going to have a tough opponent in the next game, but I just need to believe in my ability which is what I am doing at the moment and that is maybe why I am playing so well.”

The double-start event continued with a further eight first round ties at the Morningside Arena, with world number three Peter Wright seeing off Gabriel Clemens in a comfortable 2-0 victory.

The 2018 runner-up will now face Ryan Searle, who got the better of Australian number one Damon Heta in a hard-fought 2-1 win.

Luke Humphries kept up his impressive form, defeating 2017 champion Daryl Gurney in straight sets.

"I'm just happy to be through to the next round, it's a high-pressure tournament with the format," Humphries reflected.

"I didn't think it was my best performance today, my doubling-in was good but my scoring wasn't there.

"But I'm through the first round, and now I'm looking to make a mark on this tournament for the first time."

Humphries' second round assignment will see him face Luke Woodhouse, who dispatched of highly-fancied Dave Chisnall 2-0 in a dream World Grand Prix debut.

2021 champion Jonny Clayton also fell at the first hurdle, going down 2-0 to Ross Smith, with the European Champion to face Joe Cullen in round two, with Cullen easing to a 2-0 win over Belgian debutant Mike De Decker.

The second round gets underway on Wednesday night, as 2020 champion Gerwyn Price takes on Krzysztof Ratajski.

Gary Anderson will look to continue his resurgence against Andrew Gilding, while world number one Michael Smith takes on Brendan Dolan, and two-time semi-finalist Stephen Bunting faces Germany's Martin Schindler.

READ MORE: Stephen Bunting ends Nathan Aspinall's World Grand Prix hopes on the opening day

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