WES Newton will be roared on to the Winter Gardens stage tonight as he bids to halt a run of four successive first-round exits in the Blackpool darts showpiece.
But already some of the Fleetwood favourite’s rivals have set sky-high standards after the opening weekend of the Sky Bet Mobile World Matchplay
John Part hit a nine-dart finish on the opening night, which also saw a classic contest between Professional Darts Corporation world champion Adrian Lewis and Kevin Painter.
Canadian Part, a three-time world champion, became only the third player to achieve a nine-darter in the 18-year history of the World Matchplay, following defending champion Phil Taylor and Raymond van Barneveld.
However, it couldn’t spare Part from a 10-8 first-round exit against Mark Webster, though the nine-darter did help him recover from 7-1 down to 8-7 before the Welshman held his nerve to win.
Part’s first ever nine-darter leaves him in line for £10,000 bonus, which he will have all to himself unless another player matches his feat in the remaining seven nights of the tournament.
Webster’s second-round opponent on Wednesday will be Steve Beaton, who produced his best-ever World Matchplay performance to dump two-time runner-up Terry Jenkins out 10-3 in the opening match.
World champion Lewis produced a thrilling fightback for an epic 14-12 victory over Painter, who missed three doubles for a 10-6 triumph.
With players needing to win by two legs, Painter squandered three more chances for 12-10 before Lewis, who hit 12 maximums, finally edged through.
Last night, world No.3 James Wade made a stunning start to his bid for a third World Matchplay title with a whitewash of Jamie Caven.
Van Barneveld shrugged off the loss of his darts to move into the last 16 with a 10-3 win over Steve Brown.
The Dutchman arrived in Blackpool without his darts and needed a new set to be delivered hours before going on stage.
“It’s your worst nightmare!” admitted van Barneveld. “I practised on Friday and I think I forgot to put my darts in my suitcase when I got home.” His next opponent will be Paul Nicholson, who ousted Colin Osborne 12-10.
Newton is last up tonight at 10pm against Andy Smith, another Englishman seeking his first Blackpool win. Immediately before them, Phil Taylor starts his quest for a 12th Matchplay title against Mark Hylton.
Newton or Smith will next face the winner of another of tonight’s clashes – Mervyn King v Justin Pipe.