Jamie Hughes and Darryl Fitton advanced to the World Championship semi-finals after thrilling deciding set victories against Martin Adams and Geert de Vos respectively, as Lisa Ashton stormed into the women’s final in a pulsating session of darts at the Lakeside Country Club on Friday afternoon.
Fourth seed Jamie Hughes came from 2-0 and 3-1 down to edge out three-time world champion Martin Adams in a thrilling nine-set tussle. Adams made a blistering start to the match, but his doubling let him down in the latter stages of the contest, as Hughes prevailed with a 91.89 average, eight maximums and 50% on the doubles.
After a turbulent year, due to his health issues, ‘Wolfie’ performed magnificently throughout the tournament and it was fantastic to see him enjoying his darts and performing so well. He fired in nine maximums and averaged 92.55, but it wasn’t enough for him to secure a spot in his eleventh World Championship semi-final.
The first set was a real high-quality affair. Adams started superbly and posted successive 15-darters after converting checkouts of 72 and 97 respectively. Hughes opened his account after landing his first maximum and rounding off a 12-dart hold, but ‘Wolfie’ wrapped up the opening set with a clinical two-dart 68 outshot.
The 60-year-old continued his imperious start to clinch the second set. ‘Wolfie’ landed his first maximum and converted a 61 kill to complete a 14-darter, before following his second 180 with a magnificent 132 finish on the bullseye. Adams was yet to miss a double and maintained his flawless finishing to dispatch a 74 outshot and double his lead.
Adams continued his fine form, crashing in his third maximum and recording successive 16-darters to seal command. Hughes stopped the rot with D16, before levelling the set on D8 after ‘Wolfie’ spurned two set darts. ‘Yozza’ had the darts for the set and held his nerve impeccably, posting a 14-darter to reduce the arrears.
The Tipton ace appeared to have the momentum as he posted six perfect darts to threaten Adams’ throw early in set four. However, he spurned three darts at double as Adams nailed D19 to hold. ‘Wolfie’ then landed his fourth maximum to complete a 13-darter on D10, before clinching the set with a clinical 83 kill on the bull to regain his two-set cushion.
Hughes recorded a pivotal hold after the interval, dispatching a 73 outshot. Adams then uncharacteristically spurned three darts at double; Hughes doubled his tally and although ‘Wolfie’ produced a quality 97 finish under pressure, the fourth seed replied with an impressive 14-dart hold to reduce the arrears to 3-2 in sets.
Adams’ finishing was stunning in the early stages of the contest, but he missed sixteen straight darts at double in set six. The fifth seed registered two maximums and dominated all three legs in the scoring department, but Hughes exploited Wolfie’s profligacy to clinch the set without reply to restore parity at three apiece.
Hughes pegged D18 in the opening leg of the seventh set to lead for the first time, before Adams squared the set after converting a stunning 135 finish (Bull, T15, D20). The Lakeside veteran landed his seventh maximum to pressure the Black Country ace, but Hughes clinched the set with clinical two-dart 78 and 80 combinations.
Both players missed several doubles in a scrappy start to the eighth set, with both legs just going with throw. Nevertheless, ‘Wolfie’ followed up his ninth maximum with a nerveless 80 outshot for an essential hold, before levelling up proceedings with a fine 13-darter to force a ninth and final set.
The Black Country ace kicked off the ninth set with a regulation 58 checkout, but Adams responded impressively, with a 13-dart hold on tops. The three-time world champion threatened to break, but ‘Yozza’ converted a nerveless 87 kill on the bull, before capitalising on five missed darts from ‘Wolfie’ to prevail on his preferred D20.
Darryl Fitton secured a spot in the World Championship semi-finals for the first time in eight years after surviving a valiant fightback from Geert de Vos in an epic nine set thriller. It was a real topsy-turvy tussle, but Fitton prevailed after averaging 89.97 and landing seven maximums, to reach the last four at the Lakeside for the third time.
Fitton started strongly; securing an instant break inside 13 darts, before completing a 16-dart leg on tops to double his tally. De Vos opened his account with a classy 14-darter by virtue of a 66 finish, but the Stockport ace overcame some doubling jitters to wrap up the opener on D2.
Fitton had the darts in set two, but his scoring power evaded him momentarily and the Belgian took full advantage. He broke with a 16-darter, before extending his lead after clinically converting a 101 checkout on tops. Fitton posted a 14-darter to fightback, but De Vos held his nerve to take out 60 and level the contest at one apiece.
The third set was a real topsy-turvy affair. De Vos drew first blood with a routine 58 checkout to round-off a 13-darter. The fifteenth seed then capitalised upon four missed darts from Fitton to extend his cushion with a two-dart 60 kill and the Belgian appeared poised to secure his second successive set.
Nevertheless, ‘The Dazzler’ completed a remarkable turnaround. De Vos spurned three set darts and then missed a big number as Fitton profited to stay alive on tops. The tenth seed then registered seven perfect darts and levelled in 11 darts, before stealing the set on D10 after De Vos missed a fourth set dart on tops.
However, Geert responded superbly to clinch the fourth set to nil. He landed his first maximum and converted a spectacular 158 finish to break, before registering a nervy hold via D1. Fitton wired the bull for a majestic 170 moments later, as De Vos hit a maximum for the third leg in succession, before polishing the set off with a clinical 100 kill.
The up- and- down nature of the contest continued as Fitton won the fifth consecutive set against throw. The Stockport ace began the set with a fourth 180 and a 13-dart break, before cementing his advantage with a clinical 104 outshot. ‘The Dazzler’ spurned multiple opportunities as he attempted to close out the set, but he finally got over the line via D2.
De Vos secured an early break in set six by pinning D3 with his ninth attempt at double, but Fitton defied a fourth maximum from ‘Foxy’ to break back with a classy 72 finish. The Englishman then crashed in his fifth maximum as he attempted to re-assume control, but De Vos took out a pivotal 87 kill for a 12-dart leg and a third straight break.
The Belgian seemed destined to restore parity for the third time in the contest, but Fitton managed to secure some breathing space for the first time in the contest. He pegged D1 at the eighth time of asking to wrestle back the initiative in the set, before dispatching a nerveless two-dart 74 checkout for a 14-dart leg, to establish a two-set cushion.
Fitton reeled off his second straight 74 outshot for an early break in set seven, but De Vos capitalised on two indifferent legs from the tenth seed to seize control of the set. The 54-year-old took out 64 to complete a 15-dart hold and force a set decider, but ‘Foxy’ showed tremendous resolve; clinching the set with a two-dart 92 finish to save the match.
The Belgian landed his fifth maximum as he attempted to seize an early break in the eighth set, but Fitton mustered up a magical 170 outshot to hold. Nevertheless, the reigning World Trophy winner then missed seven darts at double across two legs, before De Vos forced a ninth and final set after posting a 16-dart hold on tops.
The ninth and final set was a real high-quality affair. The pair traded maximums, but De Vos drew first blood with a sublime 11-darter. Fitton levelled in 13 darts, but the Belgian regained the initiative after following his seventh maximum with an accomplished 67 finish.
Fitton was at the point of no return, but maintained his composure superbly. He saved the match with a 15-darter of his own to force a tiebreak and seized control with a nerveless 96 checkout. ‘The Dazzler’ then left 28 after just 12 darts to close in on victory, before sealing his dramatic progression with a 15-darter culminating on D14.
Lisa Ashton secured a spot in her fourth World Championship final after recording a comprehensive straight sets triumph over third seed Aileen de Graaf. The two-time world champion averaged 85.44, landed a maximum and converted finishes of 72, 79, 96 and 100 as she dropped just the solitary leg en route to an impressive win.
Ashton made an imperious start to the contest. She registered the opening leg via D9, before extending her lead in sensational style. ‘The Lancashire Rose’ crashed in her first maximum and conjured up an exhibition 100 finish (S20, D20, D20), before wrapping up the opening set with an effortless 72 kill to continue her clinical finishing.
Ashton endured some double-trouble after the interval, missing five darts at double as Aileen opened her account on tops, before squaring the set by eventually pegging D1. However, normal service was resumed for the Lancashire ace as she converted a two-dart 79 kill for a 14-darter, before she sealed victory with a magnificent 96 checkout.
Photo Credit: David Gill
Friday January 13
Quarter-Finals (Best of nine sets)
Afternoon session (1230-1600)
TV Coverage: Channel 4
Geert De Vos (15) 4-5 Darryl Fitton (10)
Lisa Ashton (2) 2-0 Aileen de Graaf (3) (SF)
Martin Adams (5) 4-5 Jamie Hughes (4)