Simon Whitlock clinched his first PDC ranking title in over two years after surviving two-match darts against Ronny Huybrechts in a dramatic final at Players Championship 18 at the Citywest Hotel, Dublin, on Saturday afternoon.
‘The Wizard’ performed superbly throughout the day, ending Michael van Gerwen’s 31 match winning streak in Players Championship events, as well as missing D18 for a 9-darter in the final.
This victory gives Whitlock his 12th PDC Pro Tour crown; his first since defeating James Wade in Coventry back in 2014. However, he also benefitted from some good fortune, after Huybrechts missed two darts at double to win his first ever PDC title.
Huybrechts broke Whitlock in the very first leg of the contest after the Australian spurned three clear darts at double, and the Belgian doubled his lead with a 15-dart hold, culminating with a 70 checkout.
Whitlock was scoring strongly, but was looking increasingly fragile on the doubles. The former world finalist incredibly missed EIGHT darts at double to open his account in leg three, and Huybrechts eventually pinned D2 at the sixth time of asking to establish a three-leg cushion.
However, Whitlock fought back valiantly. With Huybrechts sat on D4 for a 4-0 lead, Whitlock opened his account with a clinical 83 kill, before reducing the arrears to 3-2 by pinning D10.
The final had been relatively scrappy in the opening exchanges, but out of nowhere, both players simply burst into life. Whitlock fired in seven perfect darts as he attempted to restore parity, but Huybrechts regained his two-leg lead with a magnificent 11-darter, after converting a classy 94 finish.
Despite this, Whitlock continued his assault on the treble 20, firing in back-to-back maximums once more in leg seven. The Aussie came agonisingly close to landing the perfect 9-dart leg, but after missing D18, he returned to post D9 for a 10-darter, reducing the deficit to the solitary leg.
‘The Wizard’ had the opportunity to level up proceedings at four apiece after leaving 130 after 9 darts, although his dart at bullseye was wayward, and ‘The Rebel’ landed D6 for a 14-darter, to move within a leg of a maiden PDC title.
Missed doubles continued to plague Whitlock in the ninth leg, but he preserved his hopes by hitting D5, before a dramatic tenth leg ensued. Huybrechts left himself 50 after 12 darts, but the Belgian squandered two match darts at D16, as ‘The Wizard’ hit the very same target to force a dramatic last-leg decider.
Whitlock had the advantage of throw in the decider, but both players were clearly overcome with nerves, failing to leave a finish after 12 darts. Whitlock left 60 after 18 darts, with Huybrechts sat on 52, but the Australian made no mistake on this occasion, hitting tops at the first time of asking, to end his long wait for a PDC title.
Earlier in the day, Whitlock kicked off his campaign with a comfortable win over Matthew Edgar, before prevailing in a tense last-leg decider against Dutchman Yordi Meeuwisse. ‘The Wizard’ came through an attritional tussle against Brendan Dolan in round-three, to set up a tantalising last 16 clash with world number one Michael van Gerwen.
Van Gerwen has enjoyed an invincible run in recent Players Championship events, having won four in succession, beating Whitlock in two of those events. Nevertheless, the former European Champion exacted his revenge on Saturday afternoon, producing a magnificent display to defeat ‘The Green Machine’ 6-3.
Whitlock faced Justin Pipe in the last eight, as ‘The Force’ recorded back-to-back quarter-final appearances. Pipe was beaten 6-1 by Christian Kist in Friday’s quarter-finals and history repeated itself on this occasion, as the Aussie eased past the Taunton ace by the same scoreline, to book his place in the semi-finals.
In the last four, the former world finalist faced a very in-form Steve West. West reached the final of Players Championship 16 in Barnsley last week to secure a World Grand Prix spot, where he’ll meet Phil Taylor in the opening round on Monday night.
West will enter that contest full of confidence, after he defeated the likes of David Pallett and two-time world champion Adrian Lewis to reach the semi-finals today. Yet, he was unable to reach another final, as Whitlock cruised through courtesy of an emphatic 6-1 win.
On the other side of the draw, Ronny Huybrechts claimed a number of high-profile scalps to reach just his second ever PDC final. ‘The Rebel’ began Saturday’s proceedings with a convincing win over Darren Johnson, before seeing off Dave Chisnall’s conqueror, Stuart Kellett.
The Belgian then stormed into the quarter-finals after defeating Cristo Reyes and Kyle Anderson, both by a 6-4 scoreline. Ironically, Reyes and Anderson will meet in the opening game of the World Grand Prix, although neither were able to overcome the tenacious Huybrechts.
In the quarter-finals, Ronny produced a stunning display to thrash Jelle Klaasen 6-2, after ‘The Cobra’ had defeated third seed Mensur Suljovic in the preceding round. In the semi-finals, Huybrechts faced Northern Ireland’s Daryl Gurney who made a very successful return from injury in Dublin.
Gurney had been ruled out of action for over a month due to an injury on his throwing hand, but in just his second competitive cevent since his return, ‘Super-Chin’ clinched wins over Andy Boulton, Andy Hamilton, Joe Cullen, Mark Webster and Ian White, before cruelly losing out in a thrilling deciding-leg to Huybrechts.
However, it was a disappointing day for others. Michael Smith’s indifferent Pro Tour form continues as he suffered a shock first-round defeat against Dave Ladley. Indeed, Smith’s St Helen’s counterparts were also condemned to early exits, as Stephen Bunting and Dave Chisnall were beaten at the same stage by Mike De Decker and Stuart Kellett respectively.
Terry Jenkins’ woes continued as he suffered another first-round defeat, losing to veteran Mark Walsh. Kim Huybrechts and Alan Norris also failed to register a solitary victory over the weekend. Huybrechts suffered a deciding-leg defeat Alan Tabern, whilst Norris was comprehensively beaten by John Bowles.
World champion Gary Anderson was beaten in round-three by his namesake Kyle Anderson, whilst Peter Wright, seeded second in Dublin, was beaten at the same stage by former world champion Mark Webster.
Players Championship 18
Saturday October 1, Citywest Hotel, Dublin
Michael van Gerwen (1) 6-4 Ron Meulenkamp
William O’Connor 6-5 Jamie Lewis
Vincent van der Voort (32) 6-5 Jim Walker
Dimitri Van den Bergh 6-5 Darron Brown
Simon Whitlock (16) 6-3 Matthew Edgar
Yordi Meeuwisse 6-1 Prakash Jiwa
Mark Walsh 6-3 Terry Jenkins (17)
Brendan Dolan 6-2 Kevin Dowling
James Wade (8) 6-2 Jason Wilson
Andy Jenkins 6-1 Nigel Daniels
Justin Pipe (25) 6-3 Curtis Hammond
Ryan Meikle 6-5 Tony Newell
Gerwyn Price (9) 6-4 Kirk Shepherd
Steve Hine 6-3 Jan Dekker
Jamie Caven (24) 6-4 Mark Frost
Ronnie Baxter 6-4 Jonathan Worsley
Benito van de Pas (5) 6-5 Dirk van Duijvenbode
Robert Owen 6-4 Simon Preston
Steve West (28) 6-2 Mick McGowan
Andy Smith 6-5 Andrew Gilding
Dave Ladley 6-4 Michael Smith (12)
Wes Newton 6-4 Kevin Painter
James Wilson (21) 6-5 Ken MacNeil
David Pallett 6-1 Ryan Palmer
Alan Tabern 6-5 Kim Huybrechts (4)
Mike Zuydwijk 6-3 Ricky Williams
Jermaine Wattimena (29) 6-3 Steve Brown
Darren Webster 6-5 Devon Petersen
John Bowles 6-2 Alan Norris (13)
Keegan Brown 6-3 Ricky Evans
Adrian Lewis (20) 6-0 Stephen Willard
Simon Stevenson 6-2 Chris Quantock
Peter Wright (2) 6-1 Shaun Griffiths
Mickey Mansell 6-0 Jeffrey De Zwaan
Mark Webster (21) 6-4 Jonny Clayton
Matt Clark 6-2 Dean Winstanley
Joe Cullen (15) 6-1 Antonio Alcinas
James Richardson 6-1 Scott Dale
Daryl Gurney (18) 6-3 Andy Boulton
Andy Hamilton 6-3 Harry Robinson
Ian White (7) 6-1 Richie Corner
Johnny Haines 6-1 Wayne Jones
Robbie Green (26) 6-4 Christian Kist
Raymond van Barneveld 6-4 Steve McNally
Mike De Decker 6-5 Stephen Bunting (10)
Nigel Heydon 6-5 Matthew Dennant
Mervyn King (23) 6-2 Ray Campbell
Berry van Peer 6-4 Paul Nicholson
Stuart Kellett 6-5 Dave Chisnall (6)
Ronny Huybrechts 6-2 Darren Johnson
Cristo Reyes (27) 6-1 Terry Temple
Josh Payne 6-0 Rowby-John Rodriguez
Gary Anderson (11) 6-1 Brian Woods
Vincent Kamphuis 6-5 Nathan Aspinall
Kyle Anderson (22) 6-1 Jamie Robinson
Brettt Claydon 6-1 John Henderson
Mensur Suljovic (3) 6-3 Paul Milford
Chris Dobey 6-5 John Part
Robert Thornton (30) 6-1 Jason Marriott
Jeffrey De Graaf 6-5 Haruki Muramatsu
Jelle Klaasen (14) 6-0 Dennis Smith
Peter Hudson 6-1 Nathan Derry
Steve Beaton (19) 6-1 Mark Barilli
Joe Murnan 6-5 Ted Evetts
Michael van Gerwen 6-1 William O’Connor
Dimitri Van den Bergh 6-2 Vincent van der Voort
Simon Whitlock 6-5 Yordi Meeuwisse
Brendan Dolan 6-3 Mark Walsh
Andy Jenkins 6-5 James Wade
Justin Pipe 6-5 Ryan Meikle
Gerwyn Price 6-2 Steve Hine
Ronnie Baxter 6-2 Jamie Caven
Benito van de Pas 6-1 Robert Owen
Steve West 6-2 Andy Smith
Dave Ladley 6-4 Wes Newton
David Pallett 6-2 James Wilson
Alan Tabern 6-3 Mike Zuydwijk
Jermaine Wattimena 6-4 Darren Webster
Keegan Brown 6-2 John Bowles
Adrian Lewis 6-4 Simon Stevenson
Peter Wright 6-1 Mickey Mansell
Mark Webster 6-4 Matt Clark
Joe Cullen 6-5 James Richardson
Daryl Gurney 6-2 Andy Hamilton
Ian White 6-4 Johnny Haines
Robbie Green 6-5 Raymond van Barneveld
Mike De Decker 6-1 Nigel Heydon
Mervyn King 6-1 Berry van Peer
Ronny Huybrechts 6-3 Stuart Kellett
Cristo Reyes 6-4 Josh Payne
Gary Anderson 6-5 Vincent Kamphuis
Kyle Anderson 6-1 Brett Claydon
Mensur Suljovic 6-4 Chris Dobey
Robert Thornton 6-4 Jeffrey de Graaf
Jelle Klaasen 6-5 Petter Hudson
Joe Murnan 6-4 Steve Beaton
Michael van Gerwen 6-3 Dimitri Van den Bergh
Simon Whitlock 6-4Brendan Dolan
Justin Pipe 6-5 Andy Jenkins
Ronnie Baxter 6-4 Gerwyn Price
Steve West 6-4 Benito van de Pas
David Pallett 6-0 Dave Ladley
Jermaine Wattimena 6-3 Alan Tabern
Adrian Lewis 6-2 Keegan Brown
Mark Webster 6-4 Peter Wright
Daryl Gurney 6-5 Joe Cullen
Ian White 6-4 Robbie Green
Mike De Decker 6-3 Mervyn King
Ronny Huybrechts 6-4 Cristo Reyes
Kyle Anderson 6-4 Gary Anderson
Mensur Suljovic 6-5 Robert Thornton
Jelle Klaasen 6-3 Joe Murnan
Simon Whitlock 6-3 Michael van Gerwen
Justin Pipe 6-2 Ronnie Baxter
Steve West 6-3 David Pallett
Adrian Lewis 6-5 Jermaine Wattimena
Daryl Gurney 6-5 Mark webster
Ian White 6-4 Mike De Decker
Ronny Huybrechts 6-4 Kyle Anderson
Jelle Klaasen 6-5 Mensur Suljovic
Siimon Whitlock 6-1 Justin Pipe
Steve West 6-3 Adrian Lewis
Daryl Gurney 6-3 Ian White
Ronny Huybrechts 6-2 Jelle Klaasen
Simon Whitlock 6-1 Steve West
Ronny Huybrechts 6-5 Daryl Gurney
Simon Whitlock 6-5 Ronny Huybrechts