Phil Taylor and James Wade both suffered sensational first-round exits at the World Grand Prix in a night of shocks at the Citywest in Dublin.
11-time Grand Prix Champion Taylor was beaten at the first-round stage for the fourth time in his career, as Vincent van der Voort produced one of his finest television performances to record a straight-sets victory over ‘The Power’.
In addition, James Wade was sensationally dumped out by Mensur Suljovic. The former Grand Prix Champion was highly fancied to challenge for the title given his affinity with the tournament and his recent excellent form, but he was outplayed by ‘The Gentle’.
However, the headlines will inevitably go to van der Voort, who secured his first ranking victory over Taylor since 2009. Over such a short format, the top players are always vulnerable in the early rounds and the Dutchman was tremendous throughout.
Taylor came agonisingly close to hitting a sensational 9-darter as he wired the bullseye in just the second leg of the contest. Despite this, Vincent’s starting doubles were flawless. He hit 5/5 on D20 in the opening set and defied a fantastic 103 average from the 55-year-old to go 1-0 up.
Taylor appeared in control of the second set, as both players held throw comfortably. Van der Voort was displaying tremendous composure and his scoring was relentless. He hit 7 140’s and 4 180’s to force Taylor into holding throw to force a last-leg decider in set two.
A wonderful scoring leg from the Dutch Destroyer put Taylor under immense pressure. Van der Voort was poised on 48 after 12 darts and after the 16-time World Champion missed D16 for a 105 checkout, the 39-year-old held his nerve to hit D8 and sink the Stokie.
Wade’s defeat was also particularly surprising. The Machine was in imperious form in the early stages, averaging almost 106 as he romped into a first set lead.
Nevertheless, the Austrian was unflappable and produced some astonishing finishing as he reeled off six successive legs to secure the victory. He restored parity with a clinical 114 finish and never relented from that point onwards.
Mensur took out 148 to take a 1-0 lead in the deciding set, before punishing two missed darts at double from Wade in the following leg, by delivering a stunning 129 checkout.
The Aldershot-ace was stunned and Suljovic closed out the win in rather routine fashion, on his favourite D14. Whilst his preference for the D14 is considered unorthodox, it’s extremely effective and he continued to hit it with remarkable proficiency.
Suljovic hit 11/20 on the starting doubles, whilst his finishing was even more impressive. He posted a superb checkout rate of 70%, hitting 7 doubles from just 10 attempts. Whilst Wade’s level dropped slightly, Suljovic took full advantage and fully deserved his victory.
He’s now won 5 of his 8 meetings against the left-hander and he continues to impress on the big stage, having already reached the quarter-final stages of both the UK Open and World Matchplay.
Suljovic will face Simon Whitlock in the last 16 as he vies for another major quarter-final in 2015. Whitlock eased past an off-colour Andrew Gilding in round one, dropping just one leg in the process. After enduring a torrid run in major tournaments of late, Whitlock will be mightily relieved to avert his concerning slump, whereas Goldfinger will be desperately disappointed with an unusually tepid display.
World Champion Gary Anderson eased through to the last 16 as he dismantled compatriot John Henderson. Anderson showed no signs of early nerves, dropping just the solitary leg and posting a 98 average; the highest of the tournament thus far. Anderson faces a major challenge on Wednesday night however, as he takes on Ian White, who eased past his close friend Jamie Caven.
White is unquestionably one of the form players in World Darts at present and will be confident of causing another upset against the Scot. The World Number 8 wasn’t at his best against Caven, which is understandable given their friendship, but in the decisive moments, he produced.
Justin Pipe secured his first television victory since November 2014 as he edged past close-friend Steve Beaton. Pipe was poor in the opening set, but showed immense character to launch a valiant fightback. Beaton wasn’t at his liquid best at any stage; he profited on Pipe’s errors early on, but as the Taunton ace improved, the Adonis was unable to cope.
Elsewhere, in the battle of the veterans, Terry Jenkins came through against Mervyn King in a topsy-turvy tussle. King was in complete command of the opening set, but uncharacteristic profligacy on the doubles allowed the Raging Bull to steal the set.
Jenkins was surprisingly erratic; he threw an astonishing 28 darts that landed either in the 1 or 5 segment, but fortunately for Terry, King’s scoring power was lacking. However, King, a finalist in Dublin in 2012, fought back to claim the second set with a brilliant break of throw in the fifth leg.
Mervyn was unable to replicate this level in the final set, and as Jenkins began to hit the T20 with consummate ease, he was able to close out a comprehensive whitewash in the final set. Jenkins will face Taylor’s conqueror Vincent van der Voort in the last 16; both men will be quietly confident that they can progress further.
In the final match of the evening, Robert Thornton began his quest for a maiden World Grand Prix title with a straight-sets victory over Daryl Gurney. The home favourite acquitted himself extremely well, but Thornton’s class and experience paid dividends. Thornton averaged 97 and with the bottom half of the draw being blown wide open, he could be a major contender for the title.