Michael Van Gerwen opens World Matchplay campaign with win in front of 2000 fans

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Michael Van Gerwen started his quest for a first World Matchplay title in five years with victory over Damon Heta in front of a 2,000 capacity crowd at the Winter Gardens in Blackpool.

The third seed, who won this tournament in 2015 and 2016, claimed five legs in a row en route to a 10-7 triumph over the Australian debutant.

The Dutchman saw a 3-1 lead evaporate as Heta moved 6-4 ahead, but Van Gerwen returned from the break to take control and reach the second round, where he will face Ian White.

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On the return of the fans, Van Gerwen told Sky Sports: “It is amazing. Everyone knows I am a crowd player. I love to interact with the crowd and play my game, it gives me more energy.”

Gary Anderson will face Nathan Aspinall next after beating Stephen Bunting 10-5.

The Scot, winner of the Matchplay in 2018, threw three maximums and averaged 94.42.

Aspinall held off a rousing comeback from Mervyn King to win 10-6 and gain revenge for his defeat in this tournament in 2019.

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King reduced the deficit to 7-6 after falling 4-0 behind early on, but Aspinall reeled off three consecutive legs to claim his maiden Matchplay victory at the third attempt.

White beat Daryl Gurney 10-7 in a thriller in the opening match of the night.

The Northern Irishman won three legs in a row to fight back from 8-3 down and produced a 121 finish, his fourth ton-plus checkout, to stay in the game at 9-7.

But White held off Gurney’s comeback, taking out double six to eliminate the 14th seed.

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