It certainly wasn’t spectacular but James Wade kicked off his bid for Grand Slam glory with a hard fought victory over Justin Pipe.
Terry Jenkins was also a winner on opening night but there was a disappointing defeat for Colin Osborne.
Team Unicorn’s World No.2 has lost at the last 16 stage of all three Grand Slam tournaments and is determined to make a big impression this time in Wolverhampton.
But Wade made hard work of it against qualifier Justin Pipe, before winning 5-2.
Pipe is a slow, methodical thrower and it seemed to affect Wade’s concentration, but his class shone through in the end.
“I am just glad to get through and get the win. It’s about doing your job and it is so important to kick off the group stage with a victory,” Wade said.
From two legs apiece, he put his foot on the accelerator, winning three legs on the spin…..a 110 finish, then the crucial break of throw and he won the match on D10.
Wade averaged only 87 but five doubles from seven attempts was the key to winning the match for ‘The Machine’.
Jenkins was more impressive, as he beat Scotland’s John Henderson 5-2. ‘The Bull’, who was the beaten finalist here two years ago, looked comfortable.
After nailing a 102 finish to move 2-1 in front, he then broke the Henderson throw after hitting a first maximum and a second 180 helped him to the win, which he secured with his second match dart on D10.
But Osborne now faces a real battle to qualify for the knock-out stages.
The Unicorn ace was well beaten by Robert Thornton and it means that Osborne will almost certainly have to beat both Simon Whitlock and Dave Chisnall in his last two games to reach the last 16.
An 86 average was never going to be enough. “I just couldn’t get going,” he said. “At least I now know what I have to do if I want to stay in the tournament.”
‘The Wizard’ found himself 3-1 down at the break and The Scot extended his lead before an 80 check-out gave Osborne a glimmer….but it wasn’t to be, as Thornton hit a third maximum and won it in style with a 126n finish on the bull.
Elsewhere on the opening night at the Wolves Civic, BDO World Finalist Dave Chisnall caused a big upset – thrashing second favourite Simon Whitlock 5-1.
Gary Anderson didn’t drop a leg against qualifier Mark Hylton, Tony O’Shea averaged 102.63 in beating Vincent van der Voort and local favourite Wayne Jones hit two ton plus finishes in his victory over Mark Webster.
Colin Osborne 2-5 Robert Thornton
Simon Whitlock 1-5 Dave Chisnall
Gary Anderson 5-0 Mark Hylton
Wayne Jones 5-2 Mark Webster
Mervyn King 5-1 Stacy Bromberg
Terry Jenkins 5-2 John Henderson
Vincent van der Voort 1-5 Tony O’Shea
James Wade 5-2 Justin Pipe
Phil Taylor starts his bid for a fourth consecutive Grand Slam crown against Michael van Gerwen on Sunday, with six other Team Unicorn stars also in action.
Wes Newton plays Ted Hankey, Adrian Lewis takes on Martin Phillips and there are two all Unicorn affairs…..Raymond van Barneveld plays Tricia Wright, while Paul Nicholson faaces young Arron Monk.
By STUART PYKE in Wolverhampton
Photo courtesy Chris Sargeant