Newly crowned world champion Michael van Gerwen began the defence of his Unibet Masters title with a convincing win against Simon Whitlock, as Robert Thornton dumped out fifth seed James Wade in a deciding-leg thriller at the Arena MK in Milton Keynes on Saturday evening.
Michael van Gerwen began the defence of his Masters title with an impressive 10-6 victory against two-time world finalist Simon Whitlock. It was a real high-quality affair with both players landing ten maximums, but ‘Mighty Mike’ prevailed with a 105.42 average and a 32% checkout success rate, with Whitlock’s brave resistance ultimately ending in vain.
‘The Wizard’ made a rip-roaring start to the contest, firing in back-to-back maximums as he broke MvG’s throw in 11 darts. Nevertheless, the Dutchman’s response was typically emphatic. He levelled inside 12 darts after the pair traded maximums, before pegging D3 to complete the first hold of throw.
Both players again traded maximums as Van Gerwen dispatched D8 for his second straight leg before the world champion followed up his fourth maximum with an effortless 13-darter on tops for his fourth leg in succession.
‘The Green Machine’ crashed in fifth maximum straight after the break, but Whitlock stopped the rot with a 14-dart hold after MvG missed D8 for a 136 outshot in the preceding visit. However, the world number one then reeled off back-to-back legs, before hitting D8 to secure his third straight leg having earlier missed the bullseye for a 170 checkout.
Whitlock halted his slide with a clinical 99 out-shot, culminating on D16 after Van Gerwen missed three darts at double, but normal service was resumed for the Dutch ace moments later as he crashed in his seventh 180 and posted a classy 13-darter on tops.
The pair exchanged maximums as ‘The Wizard’ held throw with a crucial 61 kill, but ‘Mighty Mike’ landed his ninth maximum to complete a 12-darter to move to the brink of victory. The Australian continued to battle valiantly; registering a 13-dart leg to stay alive, having posted his ninth 180 moments earlier.
Both players entered double-figures in the maximum count, but after MvG spurned one match dart via D13, Whitlock produced a nerveless 92 checkout to round-off a 12-darter and prolong the contest. However, Van Gerwen wasn’t to be denied as he exploited missed doubles from the Aussie to seal his progression by hitting D10.
Mensur Suljovic enjoyed a dream Masters debut after thrashing his stablemate Jelle Klaasen in the opening match of Saturday’s action. The Austrian adopted a quick-fire approach and it paid dividends as he rounded-off an emphatic triumph after averaging 100.40, landing five maximums and converting 58% of his double attempts.
Suljovic stormed into an early 3-0 lead converting finishes of 62, 64 and 61 to establish a 3-0 cushion with legs of 15, 14 and 14 darts respectively. Nevertheless, Klaasen opened his account on D5 despite Suljovic posting his third maximum, before ‘The Cobra’ dispatched a majestic 167 checkout to break back after the pair traded maximums earlier in the leg.
Klaasen pinned D8 to level up proceedings at three apiece just after the interval, but the streaky nature of this tussle continued as Suljovic reeled off another sequence of three successive legs to regain control.
‘The Gentle’ registered finishes of 71, 89 and 71 to move 6-3 ahead, but Klaasen reduced the deficit to 6-4 at the second interval after following up six perfect darts by pegging D5. However, the Dutchman was unable to make further inroads after the intermission.
Klaasen squandered three clear darts at double to break as Suljovic took out a regulation 48 checkout to restore his three-leg lead. The darts-control star then recorded a 14-darter for a double break before moving to the brink of victory via D16. Klaasen was reeling and Suljovic sealed his progression by following his fifth 180 by hitting his favoured D14.
Robert Thornton kicked off his 2017 season with a nail-biting deciding-leg victory over eight-time major winner James Wade. Thornton seemed destined to record a 10-8 victory until the left-hander fired in a magnificent 161 finish but ‘The Thorn’ recovered to prevail with a 92.91 average, seven maximums and a 31% checkout conversion rate.
Thornton capitalised on a sloppy start from ‘The Machine’ to establish a commanding early cushion. Wade opened up proceedings with a maximum, but ‘The Thorn’ broke throw with a 14-darter on tops. He doubled his tally moments later via D10 before landing his first maximum and pegging D4 for a precious double-break.
However, Wade responded impressively. He opened his account with a 14-darter via tops before hitting the same target to complete a 13-darter moments later. Wade then levelled proceedings after crucial missed doubles from ‘The Thorn’, before registering his fourth straight leg via D7 having landed his third maximum in the preceding visit.
Thornton stopped the rot with a classy 116 checkout to round-off a 12-dart hold, but Wade conjured up a clinical 85 outshot after the former World Grand Prix champion squandered two darts at double to break. The roles were reversed moments later however as Thornton restored parity at five apiece via D10 after ‘The Machine’ also missed two darts at tops.
The eight-time major winner regained the lead by hitting D10 before crashing in a fifth maximum and producing a classy 13-darter to extend his lead. Thornton capitalised on uncharacteristic doubling frailties from Wade to level once again at seven apiece before the next two legs both went with throw.
However, in the following leg Wade spurned four darts at double to hold as Thornton found tops to move to the cusp of victory. The twelfth seed then produced a stunning 177 set up shot to leave 42 after 12 darts but he wasn’t afforded a shot for the match as Wade conjured up a sensational 161 checkout to force a decider.
The world number five had the advantage of throw in the decider but this topsy-turvy tussle had yet another twist. Thornton kicked off the leg with his seventh maximum and exploited an indifferent scoring leg from ‘The Machine’ to seal his spot in the last eight with a 14-dart break of throw culminating on D6.
Elsewhere, Adrian Lewis returned to winning ways with an impressive victory over Premier League wildcard Kim Huybrechts in the final match of the evening. The two-time world champion trailed 6-5 but reeled off five legs on the spin to prevail with a 102.16 average with four maximums and a 36% checkout success ratio.
Huybrechts broke throw immediately with a 13-darter before doubling his advantage with a clinical 88 outshot. Lewis opened his account with a two-dart 61 kill but the Belgian regained his two-leg cushion after ‘Jackpot’ spurned five darts at double to level. However, the Stoke star rectified his doubling woes to hit D9 and reduce the arrears.
The pair exchanged holds of throw after the interval before ‘The Hurricane’ regained his two leg cushion after both players squandered darts at double. However, Lewis took out a regulation 60 checkout on tops to hit back before restoring parity at five apiece after dispatching an effortless 136 finish on D8.
The fourth seed landed his second maximum after the break but Huybrechts broke throw via D2 to regain the momentum in this topsy-turvy tussle. However, Lewis responded superbly. He registered a 13-darter to level before pegging D10 to hit the front.
The Stoke star was throwing with far greater conviction and established a two-leg cushion for the first time after firing in a majestic 121 checkout (T20, 25, D18). Lewis then crashed in his third maximum and found D4 for his third straight leg before wrapping up a fine triumph after following up his fourth 180 with an exhibition 96 (S20, D18, D20) finish.
In Sunday’s quarter-finals, defending champion Van Gerwen takes on Mensur Suljovic, whilst Adrian Lewis meets Robert Thornton. Elsewhere, Gary Anderson faces Raymond van Barneveld, whilst third seed Peter Wright meets Phil Taylor.
Photo Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC
2017 Unibet Masters
Saturday January 28
Mensur Suljovic (8) 10-4 Jelle Klaasen (9)
James Wade (5) 9-10 Robert Thornton (12)
Michael van Gerwen (1) 10-6 Simon Whitlock (16)
Adrian Lewis (4) 10-6 Kim Huybrechts (13)
Sunday January 29
Afternoon Session (12.45pm)
Phil Taylor (6) v Peter Wright (3)
Gary Anderson (2) v Raymond van Barneveld (10)
Robert Thornton (12) v Adrian Lewis (4)
Michael van Gerwen (1) v Mensur Suljovic (8)