Gary Welding has produced some of the most outstanding darts of the Ladbrokes.com World Championship so far – but insists he must improve to progress any further in the tournament.
The qualifier from St Helens hit the heights when fighting back to beat top seed Colin Lloyd in his opening match at Purfleet’s Circus Tavern and again shone at times as he reached the third round with a 4-1 victory over Dutch youngster Erwin Extercatte.
The two performances were very similar, Welding needing a couple of sets to get going before finding form any top player – including 12-times world champion Phil Taylor – would be proud of, pushing his three-dart average up to the magical 100 mark.
But when he comes face-to-face with American number one John Kuczynski in the last 16, the world number 52 knows he will have to overcome the tension that affected him against Extercatte.
“I was a bag of nerves at the start,” admitted Welding, who had to come through a 150-man scramble n Hull to book his place at the £500,000 Essex extravaganza. “I don’t know what was up with me. I have never been as nervous in my life.
“My hand could not stop shaking and it was not like that against Colin Lloyd. Maybe it was because I was favourite to beat Extercatte – I have never been a favourite before.
“I was just so relieved to get through. I had to win the match for myself so people would not think it was a fluke that I beat Colin.
“I hope I can buck up for my next match. John Kuczynski is playing brilliantly so I will have to play better than I have to beat him.”
Kuczynski could not have been any closer to defeat in his second-round match as he also ended the challenge of a Dutchman, Jan van der Rassel, prevailing in a sudden-death leg.
Van der Rassel missed eight chances to win it and as both men were clearly being affected by the pressure, Kuczynski finally nailed the decisive double two with his 15th match dart.
“That was unbelievable – what more could you ask for in the first match of the second round,” said the 32-year-old from Pennsylvania.
“I missed doubles early in the match to put him away and win handily. But I hung in there and it took everything I had to win.
“I am ecstatic to have won and I can’t wait for the next round. You get more hungry the more you win.”
On the opening night of second-round action, only two seeds had made it through to their designated slots and they experienced contrasting fortunes.
World number eight Andy Jenkins lost 4-3 to Wolverhampton’s Wayne Jones, but Peter Manley survived by the same scoreline against London carpet fitter Jason Clark.
“I have never been as relaxed as I am this year,” said Manley. “The bookies are leaving me alone – they have me at 40-1 or 50-1. I am just playing for fun, enjoying it and it could be my year.”