On the first evening of the 2019 World Championship of Darts, there was already one match that stood out from the rest that night, or even from all the matches played so far in the first couple of days in the tournament. It was the last match of the first evening between current and defending world champion Rob Cross, who received a bye to get into the second round and Jeffrey de Zwaan, who won his first match earlier that night against Nitin Kumar.
Being the reigning world champion, Rob Cross didn't have the best year in 2018. He won two tournaments, namely the Brisbane Masters and the PDPA Players Championship in Wigan. From his last eighteen matches, he came through as the winner nine times and also lost nine times. A 50% win percentage for the defending world champion is not considered to be very good in general. As a result, a lot of experts expect Cross to struggle throughout this year's championship, without taking away his chances to retain his title. That said, Cross won the world championship as a total newcomer to this level of competition.For Jeffrey de Zwaan it's the complete opposite. He is more or less seen as the Rob Cross of 2018. Before 2018 only a few people knew about De Zwaan's darting abilities. In 2018 he has been making a name for himself on the big stage. He won the PDPA Players Championship in Wigan, reached the semifinal in the World Matchplay and the round of 16 in the World Grand Prix. Throughout the year he has won matches against some of the top players in the world: Michael Smith, Kim Huybrechts and even two wins against Daryl Gurney, Michael van Gerwen, Adrian Lewis and Dave Chisnall. Some people said that Jeffrey de Zwaan could have been able to go all the way.
De Zwaan was the first one to throw his darts at the board. In the first leg of the first set, Cross missed the double 20 to break De Zwaan straight away. De Zwaan saved himself by finishing through double 20 himself afterward.
In the second leg, De Zwaan took the advantage on Cross' throw, throwing the first 180 score of the match, and finishing the leg off with an outshot of 87 points.
De Zwaan kept his strong first set form and took the first set with a double 10 finish and an average of 108 points with three darts. The Black Cobra took a 1-0 set lead.
Cross was forced by De Zwaan to find the big scores as well and he succeeded quite well. He took his first leg of the match with a 78-point outshot.
De Zwaan then responded with a good leg from his side getting the crowd wild with another 180 score. He then finished a 72-point outshot through double 20.
This was the moment where both players started to produce some of the best possible darts. Cross threw another couple of big scores and finished the leg in just twelve darts to give himself a 2-1 lead in the set.
De Zwaan then landed six perfect darts, all six of them into the tiple 20. His seventh dart did not get into the triple 20 and the dream of a 9-dart finish for De Zwaan and the fans cheering him on was gone. Still, he managed to finish the leg and force a deciding leg in this set.
In that decider, Cross started not too good with 60 and 65 points in his first two attempts. This left the door open for De Zwaan to take a 2-0 lead in sets. Cross then threw two 140s that brought him down to 96 points. Under heavy pressure from De Zwaan, he finished that 96 to take the second set and equalize the match and get his 3-dart average over 100 points.
Both players were now having an average above 100, meaning the difference between them was going to come from converting the double outshots.
After the break in between sets Cross came back on stage with confidence and threw a 180 score early in the first leg. As soon as he had the chance at double 16 he took it, clinical finishing. In the next leg, he converted the first attempt into a finish again and he took a 2-0 lead in the set.
Both players kept on scoring high and De Zwaan was surely able to keep up with Cross, in fact, his average was higher despite being behind (De Zwaan 105+ / Cross 103+).
The next leg was one for De Zwaan who finished through double 20 after Cross missed a dart at the bullseye when he aimed to convert a 124 finish.
A 180, followed by a 140 score in the next leg gave De Zwaan a great advantage in the leg that was started by Cross. When he was down to 36 points he had to throw double 18 to equalize the set, but he missed the two chances he got to do so.
Cross was still behind, but then had 121 points left. The first dart went into the triple 19, the next into the 14 and then the third one had to go into the bullseye, and went into the bullseye! Cross was now 2-1 in sets ahead of De Zwaan.
De Zwaan did not give up and went on to produce another two 140 scores in the first leg of the fourth set. He then finished that leg down from 116 to take a 1-0 lead and to break Cross' throw.
The averages had gone up, Cross now had a 104+ average, and De Zwaan even had an average of 109+, something that is not often seen in the world of darts, but especially not from players ranked lower than the top 5 in the world. It shows the quality of Jeffrey de Zwaan's performance.
With that break, De Zwaan was setting himself up to get back into the game, on track to win the fourth set. Cross wanted to finish the match in four sets and felt the urge to break back immediately. The first three darts fell in the triple 20, another 180 score for Cross. De Zwaan replied with a good 154 points response, after which Cross hit another two triple 20s. His sixth dart didn't hit the target and another 9-dart opportunity was gone.
Despite the good start in that leg, Cross struggled to find the double here and in the end, needed all three darts to finally find double 5 and level the final set. That leg was followed by a 13-dart leg in which Cross took the lead in the fourth set.
De Zwaan had several options to tie the set and force a decider but missed double 6 on two opportunities. Cross then had to finish 52 and started with 20, followed by aiming at double 16. He missed the double 16 and hit the single 16, his last dart had then to be aimed at double 8 and went in. The astonishing match was over in Cross' favor.
Happy Moan-Day Jeffrey, your average of 106.09 with three darts was the second-highest losing average in the history of the world championship of darts.
Get up and glow, Jeffrey, you're still very young and your time will come in the near future for sure! You will be the swan among the darting ducks!
This is my contribution to @pete's recurring "Happy Moan-Day" contest. An aim from his side to support struggling and new users to Scorum. If you want to take part in it yourself or if you would like to read articles from other writers, please go to this link.