World champion Adrian Lewis spoke of his relief after seeing off Daventry’s Kevin Painter 4-2 in a thriller to reach the quarter-finals of the Ladbrokes World Darts Championship at Alexandra Palace on Thursday night.
Lewis took early command of the game by taking the first two sets 3-0 and 3-2, only for a fired-up Painter to fight back and claim the next two by 3-2 to level the match at 2-2 on sets.
At that point Painter looked capable of winning the match and going on to cause an upset, but the reigning champion recovered by taking six of the next eight legs to come through and set up a mouth-watering last-eight final clash against Michael van Gerwen on Saturday.
“I’m very pleased to win the match because Kevin was in better form than me coming into the game,” admitted Lewis, who won his 15th consecutive match on the Ally Pally stage.
“We’re now in to the business of the tournament and I’ve proved over the last two years that I know how to get the job done.
“I’m really looking forward to playing Michael in the next round. He has had an incredible year with his win in the World Grand Prix, and is probably a World Champion in waiting.
“The bookmakers may well make Michael favourite on Saturday, but I’m the one who has won the big matches in this competition. Michael is yet to do that and I think that counts in my favour.”
Painter was magmanimous in defeat and said on Twitter: “Well done to Adrian Lewis.
“Hitting doubles is what wins matches. I wasn’t so good tonight, but that’s darts, Thanks for all of your support.”
Lewis, who failed to convince in his opening two matches, started the better of the two players to take the opening set without reply.
After holding throw in the opening leg, the defending champion hit double ten to win the second in 14 darts before a successful attempt at tops gave Lewis the set.
Painter won his first leg of the match at the start of the second set, after landing double top, before Lewis hit double ten to claim the next.
Painter, who defeated Ronnie Baxter in a seven-set tussle to reach this stage, hit a 180 in the process of taking the third leg, before Lewis replied with one of his own as he won the fourth with a 14-dart finish.
The fifth leg saw Lewis miss a dart at double 14 for the set, but Painter was off-target with his attempt at double top to level the match and the Stoke ace returned to hit double seven at the first time of asking, to move two sets clear with a 13-darter.
Painter hit his stride at the start of the third set as he broke throw in the first leg with a 70 finish, which was completed on tops, before landing double nine in the second.
Lewis hit double top to convert a 66 finish before hitting consecutive 180s at the start of the fourth to leave the opportunity of a nine-darter.
His attempt at a seventh treble 20 was off-target, but he converted a crucial 87 finish to win the leg in 12 darts, with Painter waiting on tops for the set.
The deciding leg saw Lewis leave himself 36 to move further clear, but Painter held his nerve to take out 68 in two darts to reduce the deficit to 2-1.
Painter won the first leg of the fourth set on double two after Lewis missed a dart at tops, before firing in a superb 11-darter in the second.
Lewis recorded a 109 checkout to win the third leg, with his opponent waiting on 32, before the number two seed hit a 100 finish on double ten to win the fourth, but Painter was again the better in the deciding leg and took out 62 to level the contest.
Lewis hit a 180 at the start of the fifth set, but two missed darts at doubles proved costly as Painter broke to win the opening leg.
The Stoke ace fired in another 180 in leg two, which he took in 12 darts with an 87 finish, before posting a 177 to leave double 12 for a 13-darter in the third, and double 18 saw him take the set in leg four as Painter was punished for three missed doubles.
Lewis’ surge continued at the start of the sixth set as he broke throw on double four following two further misses from Painter, and a missed bull from the 2004 finalist allowed the reigning champion to post double ten to move two legs up.
Lewis missed a dart at double top to win the match in the third leg as Painter hit the same double to keep his slim hopes alive but scores of 180 and 140 from Lewis pushed him ahead in the next, and he finished an 11-dart leg to cross the finishing line in style.