Rarely has a German player started better at the Darts World Cup: Gabriel Clemens celebrates an impressive opening victory on the seventh day of the tournament. The tournament tableau gives cause for optimism, because the “German Giant” initially avoids the players in the best form.

At the end of the game, the German fans can be heard loudly in London’s Alexandra Palace. “Oh how beautiful that is” sing Gabriel Clemens’ supporters in the place of longing for darts enthusiasts. The “German Giant” really deserved the singing on this Wednesday evening. Surprisingly clear with 3:0 in the sets, Clemens wins his first game at the Darts World Cup 2023 against the Irishman William O’Connor.

A balanced game was expected in the run-up, at most with slight advantages for Clemens. And although the game clearly goes to the Germans in the end, the course of the game proves the experts right. Clemens and O’Connor offer the just over 3,000 spectators in “Ally Pally” two sets of world-class darts. O’Connor, who defeated 18-year-old Beau Greaves in the first round, is allowed to submit the first set.

When the Irishman leads round one 2-1, he misses his first dart to win the set. Clemens takes the chance and equalizes. In the decision leg, O’Connor is again the first to throw doubles. But the 36-year-old misses, even twice. Clemens, on the other hand, hits double 18 in the first attempt to win the set.

Set two is also only decided in the “Decider”. And Clemens plays outstandingly at the decisive moment. The “German Giant” plays the 501 points in 12 darts to zero. O’Connor, who was even a bit better than Clemens at the beginning, has no chance from now on. The third set goes smoothly 3-0 to the Germans.

“I’m absolutely happy with what I played today. Now Christmas can come,” said Clemens after his convincing success at Sport1. For the first time since 2019, Clemens can spend Christmas Eve with his family this year. In the past two years, the corona restrictions have not allowed a trip to Germany over the holidays. “I will travel back to London on Christmas Day or at the latest on the second day of Christmas,” Clemens announced in the evening.

For the world number 25. we continue right after the Christmas break in “Ally Pally”. On the evening of December 27, Clemens meets either Englishman James Wade or Welshman Jim Williams. The two determine the Clemens opponent this Thursday evening. Although Wade is eighth in the world rankings, he can look back on an extremely complicated year, including a hospital stay.

Clemens can therefore have justified hopes of moving into the round of 16 if he can repeat his performance from the opening game. The Saarlander made it into the last 16 two years ago. At that time, Clemens sensationally defeated the then and current defending champion Peter Wright. A German has never been better at the Darts World Cup. His fans dream of even more. They are speculating on a round of 16 against Dutchman Danny Noppert. The ninth in the world rankings won a major TV tournament for the first time this year, but is not yet so stable that Clemens is a clear outsider. If everything goes well, the “German Giant” might even be in the quarterfinals. After the great start to the World Cup, dreams are allowed for the fans of the 39-year-old.

What would mean a historic result for Darts Germany would meanwhile be a bitter disappointment for Michael van Gerwen. Especially after this impressive start to the tournament by the top Dutch player. The world champion from 2014, 2017 and 2019 underpins his favorite position on Wednesday evening directly after the Clemens match. The current number three in the world gives his opponent Lewy Williams no chance. “MvG” only gives up a single leg, Williams is only allowed to throw five times on doubles. On average, van Gerwen is 20 points better than his Welsh opponent per shot.

“I had to work hard for it, a performance like this is no coincidence. It wasn’t perfect, but I think I played quite well,” said van Gerwen after his easy win. Last year, the Dutchman had to leave the tournament after the second round because of a positive corona test. “It gives me great pleasure to be back on this stage, ‘Ally Pally’ has a special place in my heart. To get such a great reception from the audience means a lot to me.”

Michael van Gerwen gives a warning to the competition for defending champion Peter Wright, world number one Gerwyn Price or last year’s runner-up Michael Smith. “Everyone is afraid of me. I don’t even have to play well, they would still be afraid of me. I don’t really have to tell them anymore. Everyone knows what I’m capable of.”

A statement that is typical of the self-confident Dutchman. “MvG” often tries to cause friction with such statements. Even if he puts additional pressure on himself, understatement is not Michael van Gerwen’s thing. “Anything but the world title would be a disaster for me.”

World Cup debutant Josh Rock is also approaching the tournament with surprising briskness. The “darts prodigy” from Northern Ireland has only been active on the professional tour for a year, but has already achieved considerable success. At the World Cup, “Rocky” is now in round three. On Wednesday afternoon, the 21-year-old beat Callan Rydz 3-0, who had reached the quarter-finals last year. Rock is still not satisfied after the sovereign success. “I’m happy to win, but I’m still disappointed that I haven’t played my best game yet.”

On today’s eighth day of the tournament, other co-favorites will enter the tournament. Former world champion Gary Anderson meets Latvian Madars Razma in the first game of the evening. In the past two years, the World Championship was the only tournament of the year in which the Scottish darts legend was able to show good performances. In 2021 Anderson advanced to the finals, earlier this year to the semifinals. Whether it will go that far again this time is more than questionable. With the entry in round three, it should work for the time being.

Luke Humphries is the clear favorite to play against German Florian Hempel tonight. Humphries is number five in the world, Hempel is number 60. The native of Cologne has had good experiences with “Ally Pally”. On his debut last year, he defeated top Belgian player Dimitri Van den Bergh in round two. He was also placed fifth at the time.

(This article was first published on Thursday, December 22, 2022.)