MICHAEL VAN GERWEN made a winning start to life as the World Darts Champion with a 6-2 win over Leon De Geus in the German Darts Championship on Saturday, as rivals Adrian Lewis, Gary Anderson and Raymond van Barneveld joined him in the third round in Hildesheim.
Dutch star van Gerwen made his first competitive outing since claiming World Championship glory a month ago at Alexandra Palace as he entered the £100,000 European Tour event in the last 32.
Van Gerwen raced into a 4-0 lead against his fellow countryman, before De Geus forced a few nervous moments by taking the next two legs, only for the world number one to take out 100 with two double tops to restore his cushion before finishing 132 to claim a 6-2 win and end the game with a 101.63 average.
"It wasn't easy because this was my first game since the World Championship," said van Gerwen. "My game was okay and I hit some good finishes at the end.
"I'm here to win this tournament, and I can build on this performance now on Sunday."
Van Gerwen will open up Sunday's decisive final day against Terry Jenkins, who began his 6-3 win over Kevin Painter with finishes of 158 and 104 before coming from 3-2 down to claim victory with four successive legs.
Number two seed Dave Chisnall was dumped out of the tournament by five-time World Champion Raymond van Barneveld, who continued his run in Hildesheim with a 6-2 victory.
Van Barneveld had won through Thursday's European Qualifier before overcoming Ron Meulenkamp in the first round, and now meets world number four Adrian Lewis, who was a 6-3 second round winner against Joey Palfreyman.
Lewis had raced into a 5-0 lead with some brilliant darts, averaging 106 in the process, but was punished for some sloppy finishing as the qualifier hit back to win three successive legs, before the Stoke ace finally closed out the win.
"I was 5-0 up and I took my foot off the pedal a bit, and Joey stuck in there really well," said Lewis. "I got through it so it's happy days and I can move on to Sunday now.
"I want to win as much as I can this year, hopefully starting with this event!"
Gary Anderson produced a thrilling performance as he averaged 108.65 in a whitewash of Irish newcomer Glenn Spearing, taking less than 11 minutes to romp to victory with a relentless display.
Anderson now plays Wayne Jones in the third round, with the Wolverhampton ace claiming a 6-4 victory over World Championship runner-up Peter Wright, who failed to reproduce the form which took him to the Alexandra Palace final last month.
Mervyn King matched Anderson in claiming a 6-0 win, over Lee Palfreyman - the younger brother of Joey - as he set up a clash with Ronnie Baxter, who came from 3-0 down to defeat Jamie Caven 6-4.
Wes Newton hit back from the brink of defeat to edge out youngster Dirk van Duijvenbode, and he now faces another Dutchman in Jelle Klaasen, who was a 6-4 winner against Steve Beaton.
Two of last year's European Tour winners, Kim Huybrechts and John Part, will meet in the last 16 after they overcame Michael Smith and Dick van Dijk respectively on Saturday.
Robert Thornton's 6-3 win over Andy Hamilton means that he now plays Ian White, who was a dramatic 6-5 winner against Dean Winstanley, who missed a match dart at double ten for a 137 finish in the deciding leg of their game, before the Stoke ace followed a 180 with a 154 finish to snatch victory.
Justin Pipe's high-quality 6-2 win over Brendan Dolan means that he now plays Paul Nicholson, who held off Stuart Kellett's fightback from 4-0 down before claiming a 6-5 victory in their second round contest, as the 2013 UK Masters runner-up missed his chance to claim the win in a dramatic deciding leg.
"The pressure in the last leg was huge because we both knew what one game can do for your season, to get you into the next day and to give you the opportunity to win the tournament," said Nicholson.
"I feel for Stuart there, because he was probably better in the last four or five legs and I managed to grind out the result."
The tournament concludes on Sunday across two sessions, with the third round being held in the afternoon at Halle 39 in Hildesheim before the quarter-finals, semi-finals and final take place in the evening session.