Simon Whitlock overcame the challenge of Jelle Klaasen in a thrilling battle at Blackpool’s Winter Gardens as he reached the second round of the World Matchplay.
‘The Wizard’ produced a magical twelve dart leg to fend off a potential fight back from the Dutchman as he sealed a 10-8 victory on Saturday.
Whitlock had looked to be in cruise control when he opened up leads of 8-3 and 9-5 but Klaasen pushed him all the way before The Australian closed out the win, which he dedicated to his late father.
“It means so much to me to win on what would have been my dad’s birthday,” said Whitlock, whose father passed away 14 years ago.
“I think that made me more determined and gave me the mental strength to put in that winning leg.
“Jelle played really well. Fair play to him but I am feeling very confident of doing very well here. I believe I can win it.”
Whitlock took out 74 to break in the opening leg before doubling his lead on tops.
Klaasen won the next two legs but ‘The Wizard’ pegged double ten to edge ahead. The following two legs both went against the throw before Whitlock’s first 180 helped him open up a two leg cushion.
And the world number five reeled off the next three to go 8-3 up before Klaasen pulled a couple of legs back.
Whitlock took out 32 to move within a leg of the second round but two ton-plus finishes helped Klaasen cut the Australian’s lead to a single leg.
But Whitlock produced the goods under pressure, hitting a 177 and a 180 in what proved to be the decisive leg, which he won on double 16.
The former European Champion will take on either Kevin Painter or Jamie Lewis in the last 16.
By Chris Murphy