Eleven-time champion Phil Taylor was sensationally dumped out in the opening round of the World Grand Prix by debutant Steve West, as world number one Michael van Gerwen survived a minor scare at the Citywest Hotel, Dublin on Monday evening.
The evening’s proceedings were interrupted early on by a power-failure, however the story of the night was the power-failure suffered by Phil Taylor. The Stoke-on-Trent ace, an 11-time champion in Dublin, lost six of the last nine legs against an inspired Steve West, to suffer his fifth first-round exit in the tournament’s history.
West broke Taylor’s throw in the very first leg after the 56-year-old missed three darts at D12. However, ‘The Power’ responded emphatically, breaking straight back with a clinical 111 checkout. Taylor then secured an easy hold of throw after West took 16 darts to pin a starting double, and the 16-time world champion went on to clinch the set after nailing D6.
West looked like a beaten man after the opening set, but he rallied superbly and restored parity at one apiece after producing a trio of top-class finishes. He won the opening leg of the set with an 86 finish, and sandwiched in between seven perfect darts from Taylor, West took out two clinical 101 finishes to force a third and final set.
Taylor had the throw in the deciding set, but he relinquished the initiative after missing one dart at double and West pounced, breaking throw on D10. The underdog then moved to the cusp of a shock victory after holding his nerve to complete a 62 checkout, but Taylor preserved his hopes by hitting D16 to hold throw.
‘The Power’ appeared poised to force a fifth and deciding leg after kicking off the fourth leg with scores of 120 and 125, but suddenly Taylor faltered, registering miserly visits of 45 and 60. West took full advantage, and after leaving 62 after 15 darts, he made no mistake, hitting tops with his last dart in hand to secure the biggest win of his PDC career to date.
Michael van Gerwen survived a scare as he came from a set down to defeat Steve Beaton in a quick-fire contest. Van Gerwen registered the opening leg of the match, but Beaton drew level with a superb 135 checkout (Bull, T15, D20).
‘The Bronzed Adonis’ then comfortably held throw on D8, before hitting D4 to win his third straight leg to clinch the set. Despite this, Van Gerwen’s response after the interval was emphatic. He won the second set without reply after hitting opening visits of 160, 160 and 120, whilst converting 102 on D16 to level up the match at 1-1.
Beaton simply had no answer to Van Gerwen’s unrelenting brilliance. The world number one secured his second-round spot after winning six successive legs and he completed his triumph with a classy 118 finish culminating on tops, to finish with an average in excess of 97, the highest of the tournament thus far.
Van Gerwen will meet former BDO number one James Wilson in round-two, after ‘Jammie Dodger’ came from a set behind to defeat Republic of Ireland star Mick McGowan. McGowan appeared to be in control, but Wilson fired in five maximums and converted 53% of his double attempts, to reel off five straight legs and secure victory.
World number five Peter Wright suffered another first-round exit on Irish soil after he was beaten by 2011 finalist Brendan Dolan. ‘The Historymaker’ produced a professional display to secure a comprehensive straight sets victory over Snakebite, who struggled for consistency throughout.
Dolan prevailed in a tight opening set, but he upped the ante in the second set, following up a maximum with a clinical 74 finish to break throw, before hitting D8 to move a leg away from victory. The Northern Irishman squandered three match darts in leg three, but he maintained his composure and completed the triumph on D16 in the next leg, after the pair traded maximums moments earlier.
Michael Smith’s woes continue, as Alan Norris came from a set down to dump out the world number eight. Smith clinched the first set with a sublime 100 finish culminating with two tops, but Norris levelled up proceedings at one set apiece with a majestic 156 checkout.
The third and final set was an extremely nervous affair. Smith stole a march with a fine 110 kill after Norris had spurned six darts to break, but ‘Chuck’ fired back after further misses from both men. Yet, the decisive moment saw Norris land a stunning 136 finish to break in leg three, before he pinned D10 to round off a very successful Grand Prix debut.
Former Grand Prix finalist Dave Chisnall produced a spirited comeback to see off Robbie Green in the evening’s opening match. ‘Kong’ started strongly and claimed the opening two legs without reply, before play was temporarily delayed due to a power-failure within the arena.
However, upon resumption Green maintained his advantage and went on to win the opening set. ‘Kong’ was also the better player in a topsy-turvy second set which saw all five legs go against the throw, but Chisnall just managed to stay alive.
However, Chizzy’s class shone through in the decisive final set. He registered successive opening scores of 160 to seize the initiative in set three, before hitting D8 to book his place in round-two with a modest 84.2 average. The St Helen’s ace will now face Peter Wright’s conqueror Brendan Dolan for a place in the quarter-finals.
Simon Whitlock recovered from a set down to defeat Joe Cullen in a rather underwhelming clash. ‘The Wizard’ had clinched his first PDC title in over two years by winning Players Championship 18 on Saturday, although he was unable to replicate that type of form against ‘The Rockstar’.
Fortunately for the Australian, he didn’t need to. Cullen had a golden opportunity to win the match in straight sets after winning the opener, but he hit just 4 of his 27 finishing attempts at double- a miserly ratio of 14%. Whitlock converted a wonderful 135 finish on the bull to move within a leg of victory, and he eventually crawled over the line on D2.
Elsewhere, Daryl Gurney claimed his first ever win on the Grand Prix stage with a dramatic deciding-leg victory against the highly-fancied Mensur Suljovic. Gurney eased to the first set without reply as the Austrian surprisingly struggled on the double segments. However, ‘The Gentle’ rallied in set two, winning it without dropping a leg to force a deciding set.
Gurney responded magnificently however, winning back-to-back legs, both on D16, to move within a leg of victory. Nevertheless, with the finishing line in sight, the Northern Irishman faltered, missing five match darts in leg three before taking nine darts to pin a starting double in leg four.
Suljovic capitalised to force a deciding leg and the Austrian had the advantage of throw. Yet, Gurney showed immense resolve and character to secure a thrilling win. After pinning D16 with his first visit, he posted successive scores of 180 and 140 to leave 92, and with Suljovic poised on 93, ‘Super Chin’ converted the checkout to complete a stunning 12-darter which sealed his progression.
Unibet World Grand Prix
Monday October 3
First Round x8
Dave Chisnall 2-1 Robbie Green
Mick McGowan 1-2 James Wilson
Mensur Suljovic 1-2 Daryl Gurney
Michael Smith (8) 1-2 Alan Norris
Joe Cullen 1-2 Simon Whitlock
Phil Taylor (4) 1-2 Steve West
Michael van Gerwen (1) 2-1 Steve Beaton
Peter Wright (5) 0-2 Brendan Dolan