SINGAPORE - Despite his veteran status, darter Paul Lim's ability to deliver surprises on the big stage just does not get old, as the 66-year-old Singaporean produced yet another shock on Friday (Dec 18) at the PDC World Championship in London.
Up against world No. 34 Luke Humphries in the first round, Lim came from 2-0 down to beat the Englishman 3-2 (1-3, 1-3, 3-1, 3-2, 3-1). Humphries, 24, had made the last eight for the past two years and won the 2019 PDC World Youth Championship.
Lim, unranked as he does not play on the Professional Darts Corporation Pro Tour, will face world No. 9 Dimitri Van den Bergh, another world youth champion (2017 and 2018), in the second round on Tuesday. The 26-year-old Belgian made it to the quarter-finals in two of the past three editions and is the current World Matchplay champion.
In a post-match interview, Lim, who is the oldest competitor in the tournament, joked that his win was "one for the old guys". He added: "Luke was always on top even when I played well at the start, but I kept telling myself things might change if I kept pressing. It's never over until we reach the finish line, I never give up."
In the closed-door encounter at Alexandra Palace, Humphries had raced to a two-set lead with decisive breaks of throw, but Lim slowly started chipping away and the pressure began to tell from the first leg of the third set when Humphries missed six darts at a double to take out 12.
The pair then traded breaks in the fourth set, with Lim hitting a delightful double-bull to take out 121 in the second leg before Humphries missed a match-winning double 20 in the fourth leg to allow Lim back in the game and hold throw in the decisive leg with an 84-checkout.
The drama was unremitting in the final set. Humphries missed 13 darts to win the third leg, handing his opponent - who missed six himself - a 2-1 lead, and Lim capitalised to go on and take out 53 in one attempt to seal another memorable victory.
He said: "It was tough. I told myself dig deep, but it was like quicksand - the harder I tried, the more I'm sinking in. I'm glad eventually I got through."
After coming through the Asian qualifiers, this is Lim's 25th world championship campaign. In the 2018 edition, he beat 2008 British Darts Organisation world champion Mark Webster in the first round.
Since 2014, he and Harith Lim, 50, have also combined to beat higher-ranked opponents at the annual World Cup of Darts. In 2017, the unseeded pair outgunned top-seed Scotland - boasting then-world No. 2 Gary Anderson and No. 3 Peter Wright - 5-2 in the first round, before overcoming Spain 2-1 to reach the quarter-finals.
In the following edition, the elder Lim beat reigning world darts champion Rob Cross 4-2 en route to a 2-1 second-round defeat by second-seed England. The Singaporean duo were at it again last year when they beat third-seed Wales, who had then-world No. 5 Gerwyn Price and world No. 24 Jonny Clayton.
Training and winning never gets old for Lim and he has no fear, despite not being able to compete as much as his younger and more illustrious opponents, who were able to play on the European circuit during the coronavirus pandemic while he was mostly indoors in Hong Kong.
He said: "(During Covid-19), I stay home more, and actually play more darts than ever. If I can take what I have been practising to the tournament board, I will have a chance to win.
"Dimitri and I are good friends, he has always been very polite and a friendly guy. I take my hats off to him for jumping to the top and doing so well in such a short period of time.
"My aim is try and put a stop to that. I just want to put on a good show and play a good game. Hopefully, victory becomes mine."