Wright stages remarkable comeback in World Darts Championship


Peter Wright produced a remarkable comeback against Noel Malicdem to avoid a shock elimination from the 2019/20 William Hill World Darts Championship on Friday at London’s Alexandra Palace.

Former World Championship runner-up Wright looked to be faltering at the first hurdle for a second consecutive year with Filipino Malicdem leading 2-1 in the deciding set.

After Malicdem missed a match dart at the bullseye, Scotsman Wright produced a magical 140 finish to take the contest to a tie-break.

With nothing to separate the players at 5-5 in the deciding set, Wright hit the bullseye meaning he would throw first in the deciding leg.

A timely 180 in Wright’s first visit relieved the pressure, and with Malicdem unable to catch up, Wright found a match-winning double 16 to end an epic encounter.

“I didn’t expect it to go all the way to a last leg, so full credit to Noel for his performance,” said Wright.

“I honestly though I’d won but then he blew me away for two sets and I had to recover.

“The way I was practicing I thought I was going to break records in this tournament, so it threw me when that didn’t come out on stage.

“The 140 to save the match was huge and from there I dug deep and thankfully did enough to get through.”

Nathan Aspinall enjoyed a winning return to the scene of his incredible run to last year’s semi-finals with a 3-1 defeat of American debutant Danny Baggish.

Aspinall, a winner of the UK Open and US Darts Masters in a dream 2019, also suffered a slow start to his contest against a confident Baggish, who took a 1-0 lead in sets.

However, Aspinall came roaring back and won the second set 3-0, winning each leg in five visits or less.

Aspinall then recovered from 2-1 down to take set three, before hitting a timely 180 in the deciding let of set four to book his place in round three, where he will meet Krzysztof Ratajski.

“I was so nervous and desperate to win, I’ve never felt like I did at the end of that match,” Aspinall admitted.

“I’ve come from nowhere to a top 16 player in 12 months so there was a lot of pressure on my shoulders.

“Maybe I put too much pressure on myself, but I wanted to show everyone that I belong in the elite players of the sport.

“I won’t play like that again, I will relax now and hopefully we will see a better performance against Krzysztof, who is a top player.”

Day Eight of darts’ biggest event was a stellar night for German darts, as Max Hopp and Nico Kurz both progressed to round three.

German sensation Kurz continued his dream debut run with a surprise 3-1 win over 15th seed Joe Cullen, whose miserable form at the World Championship continued.

Cullen, who has never made it past the last 32 stage in ten attempts, won the deciding leg of set one and then went 2-0 up in the second set.

However, that was as good as it got for the Yorkshireman as Kurz won six of the next seven legs to lead 2-1 in sets.

After Cullen claimed the opening two legs of set four, the match looked to be heading to a deciding set only for Kurz to once again reel off three legs without reply to book his place in the third round where he will take on Luke Humphries.

“I’m completely lost for words, I can’t describe it,” said 22-year-old Kurz.

“I’m so proud of myself to achieve this result, and I’d love to go even further in the tournament.

“I hope to go far in darts but it is still early in my career so I won’t be getting carried away.”

Meanwhile, German number one Hopp had to battled his way to a 3-1 victory over Dutchman Benito van de Pas.

A tight affair saw both players struggle to play their best game, but two 13-dart legs in the deciding set was enough to see Hopp through to round three where Lithuania’s Darius Labanauskas awaits.

“This is a great night for German darts, it shows we are in a good place with the sport,” said Hopp.

“I wasn’t surprised to see Nico win, I’ve known how good he can be for a long time and it would be nice for me to have a practice partner.

“I hope we can both keep up our form and go far in the World Championship.”

World number one Michael van Gerwen will face Ricky Evans in the last 32 after Evans wrapped up an impressive 3-1 win over Mark McGeeney with a 170 checkout.

Evans won the opening two sets without dropping a leg in typically rapid style, before McGeeney recovered from 2-0 down in set three to halve the deficit.

However, the reprieve was short-lived for McGeeney as Evans produced legs of 15, 11 and 12 darts to complete an eye-catching display in the best possible fashion.

Jonny Clayton also impressed in a 3-0 whitewash win over Jan Dekker and he will meet Stephen Bunting in round three.

With the opening set tied at 2-2, Clayton produced a 13-dart break of throw to take the lead, before hitting finishes of 139 and 121 on his way to winning six of the last seven legs.

There was also a 3-0 win for two-time World Championship quarter-finalist Darren Webster as he breezed past Japan’s Yuki Yamada to set up a meeting with Adrian Lewis or Cristo Reyes.

After Yamada took the first leg, Webster won the next nine without reply, hitting finishes of 106 and 100 to secure the win.

There was a less straight-forward passage for Mervyn King, who surrendered a two-set advantage before coming through a tie-break with Irish debutant Ciaran Teehan.

King, playing in his 13th PDC World Championship, looked on course for a straight-set victory, before Teehan took out a skin-saving 76 on the bullseye to halve the deficit.

Teehan then made it back-to-back sets to send the match to a decider, but after the young Irish talent missed four darts at double 12 to go 3-2 up, King found double 16 and double eight in the next two legs to wrap up the win and he will now meet either Simon Whitlock or Harry Ward in round three.


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