Raymond van Barneveld produced a magnificent 141 finish to edge past Simon Whitlock in a thrilling deciding-leg at the HappyBet European Darts Grand Prix, but Mensur Suljovic produced the performance of the second-round at the Glaspalast in Sindelfingen on Saturday.
Van Barneveld made a sluggish start to his contest, as Whitlock eased into a 2-0 advantage. The Australian missed three darts for a precious double-break in the third leg, allowing the Dutchman to open his account with a 60 checkout.
However in the fourth leg, ‘The Wizard’ capitalised on missed doubles from Van Barneveld, who missed two darts at tops to break back, allowing Whitlock to regain his two-leg cushion. Yet, the five-time world champion responded impressively, firing in his first maximum and taking out 111 to reduce the arrears to 3-2.
Whitlock delivered an instant riposte with a top-class 130 checkout, before the next two legs were shared, with the Australian leading 5-3. Barney remained in contention by pinning D16, before benefitting from a missed match dart from the Aussie in the tenth leg.
The Den Haag ace left 24 after 12 darts having posted successive visits of 180 and 137, and after Whitlock missed one dart at D7 for an 86 kill, Barney forced a decider with a 13-darter.
The Dutchman had the advantage of throw, but Whitlock seized back the initiative by leaving 32 after 12 darts, thanks to another maximum. Nevertheless, Whitlock wasn’t afforded another opportunity to seal victory, as Van Barneveld produced an inspired 141 finish (T20, T19, D12) to keep his European Championship qualification hopes alive.
However, the performance of the day was delivered by recent International Darts Open winner Mensur Suljovic. ‘The Austrian’ averaged 108.45, landed two maximums and converted 60% of his doubles en route to defeating a resilient Mick McGowan 6-2. ‘The Gentle’ also recorded finishes of 121, 120 and 101 to secure his last 16 berth.
World number one Michael van Gerwen saw off a dogged Darren Webster to secure a place in the last 16. ‘The Green Machine’ stormed into a 3-1 advantage with an average of 118, but Webster fought back and reduced the deficit to 5-4. However, Van Gerwen followed up his fourth maximum with a stunning 138 finish to seal victory with a 104.4 average.
James Wade survived a major scare as he came back from 4-2 down to defeat Mark Frost. Wade led 2-1, but Frost won three consecutive legs with finishes of 116, 82 and 92. However, with the finishing line in sight Frost faltered, as Wade himself reeled off four straight legs to seal the win, with a modest 87.7 average.
Peter Wright breezed through to the third-round of the European Darts Grand Prix with a comprehensive 6-1 victory over Brendan Dolan. The Northern Irishman clinched the opening leg, before Snakebite reeled off six legs in succession to finish with a 94.49 average and 55% on the doubles.
Three-time European Tour winner Michael Smith landed three maximums as he defeated Tony West 6-3 in round-two. The St Helen’s star averaged 91.99 and hit 37% of his attempts at double, as he recovered from 2-1 down to safely book his place in round-three.
Gerwyn Price silenced the partisan German crowd as he saw off home favourite Max Hopp in a clinical display. The Welshman converted finishes of 72, 74 and 140 to establish a 5-3 cushion. Price spurned six darts at D8 to secure victory, but he eventually found the same target to reach the last 16.
Another Welshman to reach the last 16 in Sindelfingen was Jonny Clayton, who produced one of the performances of the second-round to dismantle Jelle Klaasen 6-1. Clayton was in majestic form, averaging 102.33 and converting 85% of his double attempts, and the Dutchman simply had no answer.
Nine-time major finalist Terry Jenkins was dumped out by Joe Murnan in the opening game of Saturday’s double-session. ‘The Raging Bull’ registered four maximums but Murnan prevailed with a 13-darter in the decider, in a contest which saw four breaks of throw in the opening six legs.
James Wilson showed his class to dump out third seed Ian White in Sindelfingen. Wilson averaged an impressive 99.32 to secure a 6-3 win and set up a last 16 clash with Raymond van Barneveld. Wilson led 3-1, before White fired in a maximum 170 outshot. Yet, ‘The Diamond’ missed three darts to level up at four apiece, and Wilson duly capitalised.
Steve Beaton survived a valiant comeback from Alan Tabern to secure his place in Sunday’s last 16. ‘The Bronzed Adonis’ led 5-0 and appeared poised to seal a whitewash win, but Tabern reeled off three straight legs to keep his hopes alive. However, Beaton eventually sealed his progression in the ninth leg, finishing with 66% on the doubles.
Sixth seed Benito van de Pas survived one missed match dart from Cristo Reyes to reach round-three. There was a significant disparity in the averages, with van de Pas averaging 98.11 compared to Reyes’ 87.97. However, the Spaniard missed one dart at tops in the decider, as ‘Big Ben’ hit the same target to seal a last 16 meeting with Joe Murnan.
Joe Cullen impressed as he secured a convincing 6-1 victory over Robbie Green in the final match of Saturday’s double-session. The Rockstar averaged 98.35 and sealed his progression with a 13-darter, to set up a third-round showdown with second seed Peter Wright.
Former world champion Stephen Bunting prevailed in a scrappy affair against Jermaine Wattimena. Bunting averaged 89.81 compared to Wattimena’s 87.66, but the decisive factor was the finishing. Bunting hit 50% of his double attempts, whilst the Dutchman was only able to convert 2 of his 13 shots at double.
Elsewhere, Kim Huybrechts continued his impressive European Tour form with an emphatic whitewash victory over host-nation qualifier Martin Schindler. The Belgian averaged 92 and was in complete control throughout, as Schindler posted a miserly 77 average.
‘The Hurricane’ will face Alan Norris in round three, who also cruised to a whitewash victory over World-Youth finalist Nathan Aspinall. ‘Chuck’ averaged 94.93 and sealed his progression with a brilliant tops-tops finish, but Aspinall was well below par, averaging just 82 and missing all of his four attempts at double.
HappyBet European Darts Grand Prix
Saturday September 17
Afternoon Session (1pm-5pm local time, 12pm-4pm BST)
Terry Jenkins 5-6 Joe Murnan
Alan Norris 6-0 Nathan Aspinall
James Wade 6-4 Mark Frost
Simon Whitlock 5-6 Raymond van Barneveld
Gerwyn Price 6-3 Max Hopp
Steve Beaton 6-3 Alan Tabern
Stephen Bunting 6-2 Jermaine Wattimena
Michael Smith 6-3 Tony West
Evening Session (7pm-11pm local time, 6pm-10pm BST)
Jelle Klaasen 1-6 Jonny Clayton
Benito van de Pas 6-5 Cristo Reyes
Kim Huybrechts 6-0 Martin Schindler
Mensur Suljovic 6-2 Mick McGowan
Michael van Gerwen 6-4 Darren Webster
Peter Wright 6-1 Brendan Dolan
Ian White 3-6 James Wilson
Joe Cullen 6-1 Robbie Green