Opening night of the PDC World Darts tournament sees Michael Smith faced with a close call against Kevin Doets.

Michael Smith commenced his title defense at the PDC World Darts Championship with a tough challenge from Kevin Doets at Alexandra Palace.

Doets, ranked 66th in the world, defeated Stowe Buntz 3-0 in the opening match on Friday and proved to be a formidable opponent for Smith. The world number one broke Doets’ throw to win the first set 3-1, but Doets fought back to equalize in the second set.

With an average of over 100 in the first two sets, Doets continued his strong performance in the third set, holding his throw in the decisive leg and putting Smith under immense pressure.

Smith, aiming to become only the third player to retain his PDC world title, managed to level the match at two sets each after Doets missed two darts at double 16. In the first leg of the final set, Smith broke throw with a 142 checkout, seemingly taking control of the match.

The St Helens star, who claimed his first Ally Pally title in January with a 7-4 win over Michael van Gerwen, showed signs of nerves as he missed five match darts. However, he eventually sealed the victory on his own throw with a 100.49 average, hitting double top.

“I almost threw it away a couple of times,” Smith admitted. “I had to keep battling and keep fighting. I didn’t want it to go to a deciding leg, but I managed to scrape through.”

The 33-year-old has experienced an inconsistent season after winning his maiden world crown, but acknowledged that defending the title brought added pressure. “Driving up to Alexandra Palace, I felt the same nerves I felt last year and have felt every year I’ve played here,” he shared.

Simon Whitlock also faced a tough five-set battle against Paolo Nebrida from the Philippines. Both players struggled on their doubles in a closely contested match. However, Whitlock secured victory in the deciding set with a double four checkout, setting up a second-round clash with Gary Anderson on Saturday evening.

In other matches, Scotland’s Cameron Menzies defeated Rusty-Jake Rodriguez from Austria 3-0. Menzies, who spent most of Friday working as a plumber, achieved a 50% success rate on his doubles and will now face the 11th seed, Dave Chisnall, on Saturday afternoon.

“I was working, but it helped me relax and made me realize that darts is a hobby and a very fortunate one at that,” Menzies revealed. “I was extremely nervous; I knew that game meant a lot. Whatever happens now is a bonus, but winning that game meant the world to me.”

The 63rd-ranked player now hopes for his girlfriend, Fallon Sherrock, to also progress beyond the first round on Monday night. Menzies expressed relief at avoiding Sherrock, who made history with her run to the third round in 2020, in the draw.

“I play Fallon at home, and I beat her eight times out of 10, but she has moments when she beats me, which is fair enough,” the 34-year-old admitted. “I know for a fact that on stage, she would beat me. It’s her stage; she would beat me.”

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