sport

Lewis is pushed at the Palace

Adrian Lewis overcame a sluggish start to open the defence of his World Darts Championship title with a hard-fought 3-1 victory over Gino Vos.

Nearly buried by Nigel Heydon, a man nicknamed 'The Undertaker', 12 months ago in the first round, 'Jackpot' again found himself having to come from behind on the opening night of the tournament at Alexandra Palace.

Vos breezed through the opening set, taking three straight legs, before Lewis replied in the second, following up his first 180 of the contest by taking out double five to level matters.

It might have been expected that would end the outsider's challenge, only Vos returned after the short break to take the next two legs. However, the young Dutchman crucially missed two darts at double four that would have put him 2-1 up, and from then on his game crumbled.

Lewis took out 108 to make it two legs apiece before double five again clinched him a set. He then eased through the fourth, thanks in no small part to a 120 checkout at the start of it, to remain on course to become the first man to lift the trophy three years in a row.

"The first round is probably the hardest one," a relieved Lewis told Sky Sports. "That first round there was probably harder than the finals I've played, for the simple reason that you're nervous."

Robert Thornton had opened proceedings with an impressive 3-0 victory over Magnus Caris, averaging 99 as he dropped just one leg against the Swede. The reigning UK Open champion started and finished in fine fashion, taking out 150 in the first leg before clinching a routine triumph with a 130 out-shot.

His reward is a second-round showdown with Paul Nicholson, 'The Asset' himself recording a 3-0 result against an out-of-sorts Co Stompe.

"My form hasn't been great this year, but I've worked probably harder than ever the last three months," said Nicholson, who had a 47 per cent success rate on his doubles.

"I'm only 33 and I'm starting to believe every season is different. I've had my highs and lows, now I've got to grind and find out how good I really am. At the moment, I'm not as good as I thought I was, so I've got re-discover who I was in 2009 when I came here."

Nicholson admitted that he would still need to improve to see off Thornton, adding: "Robert always looks good. He's look increasingly good this year.

"There's no one on the circuit who is happier for Robert than me, because he's gone through his hard times. I love the guy.

"He's a great guy and has a huge heart. If I'm going to beat him next Friday I'm going to have to lift my game, because if I don't I'm going to be smoked."