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Van Gerwen avenges Wright defeat on Unibet Premier League Night One
Michael van Gerwen went some way to avenging his World Championship final defeat to Peter Wright, edging their Alexandra Palace rematch 7-5 on Night One of the 2020 Unibet Premier League in Aberdeen.
The 16th staging of the Premier League got underway in front of over 7,000 fans at the brand new P&J Live, with five-time Premier League champion Van Gerwen winning a thriller against Wright.
A typically high-quality affair between the world’s top two saw six ton-plus finishes landed, but it was Van Gerwen’s 104.13 average which eventually proved too much for Wright to handle.
Wright, who famously dethroned Van Gerwen as World Champion on New Year’s Day, got off to an ideal start with finishes of 120 and 80 to take a 2-0 lead, but Van Gerwen replied with checkouts of 120 and 106 to go 3-2 up.
The next six legs all went with throw to put Van Gerwen 6-5 up, and the Dutchman struck the vital break of throw in the final leg of the match to get off to a winning start in his quest for a fifth consecutive Premier League crown.
“I think it went well tonight, I can’t complain with how I played,” said Van Gerwen, who crashed out of The Masters in round one last Friday.
“I’m going through a tough time at the moment with getting used to my new darts.
“I can do whatever I want in practice with any darts but it’s different when you’re on the big stage.
“But the decision to change is something I needed to do for the long-term benefit of my career.
“Of course I felt under pressure tonight not being World Champion, but I’ve put a lot of work in and I think I can build from here.”
Two-time Premier League champion Gary Anderson was the only Scottish winner in Aberdeen as he made a successful return to Premier League action, recovering from 5-4 down to defeat Daryl Gurney 7-5 in an encapsulating encounter.
Starring in his first Premier League match in almost two years after a back injury ruled him out of the 2019 campaign, Anderson looked to be heading for defeat after Gurney broke throw to move 5-4 up in a tight encounter.
However, two-time Premier League champion Anderson found his best form as he fired in legs of 13, 12 and 12 darts to delight a partisan Scottish crowd.
“Tonight felt like the first time I ever played in front of a big crowd, I’m still shaking,” Anderson admitted.
“I was struggling against Daryl, I can never get a rhythm against him, but I changed it up and thankfully it worked.
“I’m giving myself three months to get my game back, it feels like I’m learning the game again but I’m getting there.
“The crowd tonight was incredible, it’s a real pleasure to play in amazing venues like this in front of your home crowd. I’m going to enjoy tonight.”
It was a perfect start to life as full-time Premier League players for Nathan Aspinall and Glen Durrant, who recorded wins over John Henderson and Michael Smith respectively.
Henderson’s highly-anticipated return to Aberdeen was spoiled by Aspinall, who cruised to a 7-3 victory over the Scot.
Appearing as the first of nine Challengers following his famous draw with Van Gerwen in 2019, Henderson got off to a slow start and never recovered as Aspinall picked up a win in his first match as a Premier League player.
With Henderson waiting on 96 to go within a leg of Aspinall, the UK Open champion landed a trademark 170 checkout to halt any hopes of a Henderson fightback before seeing the game out.
“It’s a bit of a strange feeling, I’m delighted to win but I’m not happy with how I played,” Aspinall admitted.
“After what we saw in Aberdeen last year I was expecting the worst in terms of my crowd reception but it wasn’t anywhere near as bad as I thought it would be.
“I think they were a bit flat because John didn’t perform tonight, I feel for him because he’s a great guy but I have a job to do.
“I didn’t play well either to be honest, I threw three good darts in the match and they were to take out the 170 which won me the game.
“I think playing The Masters last week was an advantage for me, it meant I got the winning feeling back, whereas John hasn’t played on stage for a couple of months.”
Meanwhile, Durrant missed just two darts at double in a ruthless 7-3 defeat of 2018 Premier League runner-up Smith.
The three-time BDO Champion defied a ten-point deficit in the averages to lead 3-2 and, after Smith missed crucially missed two darts at double in leg seven, Durrant extended his lead to three legs at 5-2.
From there, Durrant never looked back, clinically seeing out the match to taste victory in his first outing as a full-time Premier League player.
“It’s a great start, I beat an amazing player tonight on one of the biggest occasions of my career,” said Durrant, who will face Challenger Fallon Sherrock in Nottingham on Night Two.
“Michael makes the game look effortless and I didn’t mean to upset his rhythm with my slower play.
“I was very nervous today, even from early this morning but I had a lovely phone call from my wife before I played and that really helped me.
“Three years ago I was watching the Premier League on a tiny TV at a club in Stockton – people were saying to me ‘you could be playing in this one day Glen’ and now I’m here – it’s an amazing story.
“My only target for this year’s Premier League is not to finish last and make sure I make it past Judgement Night.”
The final game of the night saw Gerwyn Price recover from 6-4 down to salvage a 6-6 draw with Rob Cross.
After taking out 124 to open up a 4-2 lead, Price was pegged back as Cross won four legs in succession to secure a point.
A 130 checkout from world number three Price sparked the Welshman back into life and he backed it up with a 13-dart leg to take a share of the spoils.
The 2020 Unibet Premier League continues with Night Two in Nottingham on Thursday February 13as global sensation Sherrock makes her Premier League debut as a Challenger, while Scotland’s World Cup winners Anderson and Wright go head-to-head.
2020 Unibet Premier League Night One
Thursday February 6
P&J Live, Aberdeen
Glen Durrant 7-3 Michael Smith
Gary Anderson 7-5 Daryl Gurney
Michael van Gerwen 7-5 Peter Wright
Nathan Aspinall 7-3 John Henderson
Gerwyn Price 6-6 Rob Cross
2020 Unibet Premier League Night Two
Thursday February 13
Motorpoint Arena, Nottingham
Rob Cross v Nathan Aspinall
Gerwyn Price v Michael Smith
Gary Anderson v Peter Wright
Glen Durrant v Fallon Sherrock
Daryl Gurney v Michael van Gerwen
We preview the opening night of Premier League Darts in Aberdeen, with many strange results expected.
Peter Wright makes his homecoming on what promises to be a special night for Scottish darts with Gary Anderson and John Henderson also returning to the big stage.
The Premier League roadshow will see nine of the world’s biggest stars go head-to-head across 17 nights of action, kicking off at the new P&J Live venue in front of 7,000 fans.
A highly-anticipated opening night will see newly-crowned World Champion Wright joined by fellow-Scottish stars Anderson, who will make his Premier League return, and Henderson, the first of nine Challengers.
Wright claimed World Championship glory on New Year’s Day at Alexandra Palace as he sensationally defeated Van Gerwen 7-3 to claim the Sid Waddell Trophy and take his mantle as World Champion.
The pair will renew rivalries on Wright’s home soil as the Scot eyes his maiden Premier League title to banish the demons from the infamous 2017 final which saw him miss six match darts for the title.
“The World Championship is won, that’s off the list, now I want to finally get my hands on that Premier League title,” said Wright, who won his first Masters title on Sunday.
“I would say the 2017 Premier League final is probably the most painful defeat I’ve suffered, but by the next day I’d got it out of my head by winning a floor tournament and hitting a nine-darter.
“You can’t do anything about the past, you have to look to the future and I think that’s my biggest strength which, ultimately, is what led to me lifting the World title.
“You’ve just got to learn how to forget things. Once you’ve released your three darts you can’t take them back out the board and have another go, you’ve just got to make sure your next turn is better.
“Thursday will be an amazing night for Scottish darts with Gary making his comeback and John is a huge crowd favourite.
“Scottish darts is in a great place at the moment and to showcase that on the opening Premier League night will be really special.”
World number one Van Gerwen will be seeking immediate revenge for his World Championship defeat as the Dutchman opens his challenge to win an unprecedented fifth successive Premier League title.
Van Gerwen has dominated the competition since his debut in 2013, winning the league phase every year; a record he is determined to continue into 2020.
“I love to perform on the biggest stages and the Premier League is the perfect tournament for that, so I’m looking forward to it,” said Van Gerwen.
“I have performed very well in the tournament over the years and if I keep my focus each week then I will continue that this year.
“You have to perform every single week and if you don’t you will lose because you are playing the best of the best. I see every game as a final, that’s how you need to approach it.
“Of course it was a disappointment to lose the World Championship final, but you have to look forward and that starts this Thursday against Peter.”
2011 and 2015 Premier League Champion Anderson will make his Premier League return against Northern Ireland’s Daryl Gurney, with the Scot having missed last year’s campaign due to a back injury.
The two-time World Champion is firmly established as a Scottish sporting hero but the 49-year-old insists he still has the hunger for more titles.
“It will be great to be back in the Premier League, I must admit I’m looking forward to it,” said Anderson.
“Last year there was no way I could’ve played with the state of my back, but I did enjoy spending 16 weeks with my family.
“This year will be about finding the perfect balance between spending time at home and playing, hopefully we will find that balance.
“To me it’s not all about winning, I just want ‘my game’ back; I want to play free-flowing like I used to without pain, and if I can do that then I’ll be a happy man.
“It will be great to play in the magnificent new arena in Aberdeen, I’m already very impressed with it so to see it full will be quite a sight.”
Local hero Henderson famously lit up the old Aberdeen venue in 2019 with a spine-tingling walk-on followed by a thrilling 6-6 draw with Van Gerwen.
This year he will face UK Open champion Nathan Aspinall, who will be competing in his first full Premier League campaign, with over 7,000 fans set to pack the state-of-the-art venue.
“If Thursday night is even half as good as last year I will be delighted,” Henderson revealed.
“Last year goes down as one of the best and most emotional nights of my life, so to have the chance to do it all over again is amazing.
“Because I got a draw with Michael last year some people will think I will beat Nathan, but I know how good Nathan is and it will be a really tough game.
“I’ll give it my all and hopefully I can create some memories in front of what will be another incredible crowd.”
The opening night will also see newcomer Glen Durrant play 2018 runner-up Michael Smith, while two-time Grand Slam Champion Gerwyn Price takes on last year’s runner-up Rob Cross.
The first nine nights of action will see a different Challenger in action, culminating in Judgement Night in Rotterdam on March 26 where the ninth-placed player will be eliminated.
Following Judgement Night, the remaining eight players meet once more in the remaining seven league nights in Belfast, Sheffield, Manchester, Berlin, Birmingham, Glasgow and Leeds.
The top four players then progress to face off for the title, and a £250,000 top prize, in the Play-Offs at The O2 in London on Thursday May 21.
The tournament will be broadcast live on Sky Sports in the UK, on PDCTV for Rest of the World Subscribers and through the PDC’s worldwide broadcast partners including DAZN and RTL7.
Unibet Premier League Night One
Thursday February 6
Aberdeen, P&J Live
Michael Smith v Glen Durrant
Gary Anderson v Daryl Gurney
Michael van Gerwen v Peter Wright
Nathan Aspinall v John Henderson
Gerwyn Price v Rob Cross
Sixth place £60,000
Seventh place £55,000
Eighth place £50,000
Ninth place £35,000
League winner bonus £25,000
Night One Match Odds
Michael Smith 27/20– Draw 11/4– Glen Durrant 13/8
Gary Anderson 11/10– Draw 16/5– Daryl Gurney 37/20
Michael van Gerwen Evens– Draw 33/10– Peter Wright 2/1
Nathan Aspinall 4/5– Draw 10/3– John Henderson 5/2
Gerwyn Price Evens– Draw 3/1– Rob Cross 43/20
Premier League Outright Odds
Michael van Gerwen 9/10
Peter Wright 9/2
Gerwyn Price 6/1
Gary Anderson 8/1
Rob Cross 12/1
Nathan Aspinall 14/1
Michael Smith 14/1
Glen Durrant 28/1
Daryl Gurney 28/1
EW 1/3 1-2