Rob Cross got off to a fine start on his debut at the William Hill World Darts Championship tonight (Friday).
The St Leonards-based player triumphed by three sets to nil against Japanese thrower Seigo Asada in round one of the sport’s blue riband event at London’s Alexandra Palace.
Perhaps understandably, Cross took a while to settle on his first appearance on darts’ biggest stage, but he produced some strong darts in the final two sets, finishing the match with a very good 104 average and six 180s.
International qualifier Asada gave a decent account of himself, though, and made Cross work for his victory. In fact, the 37-year-old, who beat Australia’s Gordon Mathers in the preliminary round earlier in the evening, led in both of the last two sets before Cross pulled through.
Cross was well below his usual high standards in the opening set, but did enough to clinch it 3-1. The first three legs went with throw before Cross stepped up a gear in the fourth, hitting 135, 140 and then finishing 46 to take the set.
Both players raised their level in what became a very good second set. After back-to-back 140s helped Cross break throw in the opening leg, both men hit their first 180s of the match in the second leg but Asada landed double eight to break straight back.
With the match hotting up, Cross hit 180, 134 in the third leg only for Asada to hold throw and lead 2-1. Cross landed 140, 134, 140 and 87 to win the fourth leg in 12 darts, and then produced a superb 121 outshot in the deciding leg to claim the set.
Asada finished 70 to break the Cross throw in the opening leg of the third set and checked out 120 in the next for a 2-0 lead.
Cross held throw in 13 darts to get back to 2-1 before hitting seven consecutive treble 20s to sit two darts from a perfect nine-darter in leg four, in the end winning the leg in 11 darts. Cross again hit back-to-back 180s en route to winning the deciding leg and completing his victory.
The 27-year-old will face 13th seed Michael Smith or Steve Lennon in round two on Saturday December 23.
Cross is the 20th seed and began the event as the 14/1 fifth favourite for the title with the tournament sponsors following a remarkable first year as a professional.
Voltage, as Cross is nicknamed, has won four Players Championship titles and reached the quarter-finals or better in his last four televised tournaments, including finishing runner-up in the European Championship.
The World Championship, which is being broadcast live on the dedicated Sky Sports Darts channel, got underway on Thursday and will continue until New Year’s Day.