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MICHEAL VAN GERWEN began his bid for a fifth Unibet Premier League title with a 7-5 victory over Michael Smith in Newcastle.

Van Gerwen averaged over 104 as he claimed a hard-fought win over the man he defeated last month to become World Champion for the third time.

“It was a good start for me,” said the world number one.

“There were phenomenal patches of play from both of us and some not so good but I produced a great leg to get the win and I’m really happy to do that.”

Smith won the opening leg with a 12-darter against the throw but Van Gerwen cancelled out the break immediately.

He then landed tops to move ahead before his opponent levelled by finding the same target.

Van Gerwen won the next two legs but missed the chance to go 5-2 up and Smith capitalised by pinning double top.

The St Helens ace then took out 150 to level before the next two legs were shared, making it 5-5.

Van Gerwen took 56 to ensure he would not lose the match – and a fifth 180 helped the Dutchman wrap up the win with an 11-darter to break in the decisive leg.

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