Mensur Suljovic produced an imperious display to dump out tournament favourite Peter Wright, as John Henderson continued his World Grand Prix fairy-tale by dumping out Raymond van Barneveld on a thrilling night of action at the Citywest Hotel on Thursday evening.
Suljovic continued his magnificent form to defeat third seed Peter Wright in a thrilling quarter-final clash at the Citywest. Wright fortuitously clinched the opening set, but Suljovic reeled off eight consecutive legs en route to victory; averaging 90.39, posting three maximums and converting 39% of his finishing doubles to prevail.
The Austrian enjoyed the perfect start to the contest; piling in a sublime 122 finish on the bull to break throw after Wright had missed three darts at double to hold. The recent Champions League of Darts winner doubled his lead on his favourite D14, before ‘Snakebite’ opened his account with a 13-dart hold on tops.
‘The Gentle’, usually so clinical in the finishing department, then astoundingly squandered eight darts for the set across the next two legs, and the world number three gratefully capitalised to clinch the opener.
However, Suljovic responded magnificently. He hit the front in set two after overcoming further double-trouble to pin D8, before doubling his tally on D6 after Wright was punished for missed doubles of his own. Suljovic then levelled up at one apiece after dispatching a sublime 99 checkout (S19, D20, D20) with Snakebite sat on a double.
The Austrian continued his dominance in set three. He registered his fourth straight leg with a 13-dart break via D14, before converting a fine two-dart 97 kill for a 2-0 cushion. Wright then incredibly missed three big numbers in succession and was mercilessly punished, as Suljovic conjured up a majestic 135 finish (Bull, T19, D14) to move 2-1 up.
The Darts-Control man then produced two consecutive 15-darters each culminating on D10 to extend his winning sequence to eight legs and move to within a leg of victory. The world number three battled away and reeled off two straight legs to force a set decider, but Suljovic completed a stunning triumph with a sensational 141 checkout.
Elsewhere, John Henderson’s giant-killing spree continued as he dumped out five-time world champion Raymond van Barneveld to reach his first ever major semi-final. ‘The Highlander’ followed up victories over world number one Michael van Gerwen and Alan Norris by coming back from a set behind to shock the legendary Dutchman.
Van Barneveld kicked off proceedings with a 98 checkout for an instant break of throw, before Henderson levelled via tops. The Scot then spurned four darts at double as Barney sank tops for the third successive break of throw, but the succession of breaks were halted as RvB converted a clinical two-dart 94 kill to clinch the opening set.
However, Henderson recovered well after the break, winning four of the next five legs to restore parity at one apiece and edge ahead in the third set. Yet Barney picked out tops to stop the rot before breaking throw on D16, and the five-time world champion appeared back in control of the contest.
Nevertheless, Henderson squared the set with a nerveless 76 checkout, before converting a brilliant 88 checkout on the bullseye to steal it, after Van Barneveld had missed one set dart at D16. This proved to be a hammer blow for the eighth seed, who struggled to recover early on in the fourth.
The imposing Scot fired in an excellent 13-darter for an instant break, before moving to the cusp of victory via D10, after Barney missed D12 for a 141 finish in the preceding visit. However, Van Barneveld fought back and pegged D7 to stay alive, before converting a vital 60 outshot on D10 to force a set decider.
Suddenly, the 50-year-old had the darts to force a fifth and final set, but Henderson wasn’t to be denied. He kicked off with a fabulous 120 start and held his nerve to break Van Barneveld’s throw with a fine 15-darter, to seal his remarkable progression to the last four with an 81.83 average and a 36% checkout success rate.
Henderson will now face home favourite Daryl Gurney, who secured a place in his first ever Grand Prix semi-final with a dramatic deciding-leg victory over 2015 champion Robert Thornton. It was a captivating affair, but Gurney edged out the Scot; averaging 87.44, posting four maximums and converting 33% of his attempts at double to triumph.
Both players missed key darts at double in the early stages as the opening two legs were shared, but Gurney found D8 to edge ahead, before clinching the set on D14 after Thornton missed nine darts at a starting double in the fourth leg.
The opening two legs of the second set were shared, before ‘Super-Chin’ sank D14 to break throw after Thornton squandered three further darts at double. However, the Scot showed tremendous resolve to bounce back.
He kicked off the fourth leg with six perfect darts and completed a terrific 13-darter for an instant break back to force a set decider. Gurney continued to pressure Thornton’s throw, but ‘The Thorn’ held his nerve to peg D5 and level up the tie.
‘Super-Chin’ kicked off set three with a clean 72 outshot, but the typically tenacious Thornton responded with a classy 103 finish to level. The next two legs were shared which forced a dramatic set decider, but with Thornton poised on tops, the Northern Irishman converted a brilliant two-dart 70 kill to regain the lead.
Gurney squandered a wonderful opportunity to steal a march in the fourth set, missing two at tops to break. However, he replied with an effortless 96 checkout, before the next two legs both went with throw. Thornton was throwing to stay in the tournament but showed his class; following up a third 180 with a 14-dart hold on tops to force a final set.
The world number twelve kicked off the final set with his fourth maximum, but spurned three darts at D8 to hold. Thornton crashed in a brilliant 116 checkout to break, but he was unable to cement this advantage; missing two darts to hold just moments later as Gurney levelled via D16.
However, the advantage of throw ultimately proved decisive for the Northern Irishman. In each of the final two legs on his throw, he kicked in with perfect 146 starts and despite Thornton’s best efforts, Gurney pegged tops to complete a 15-dart hold in a thrilling last-leg decider to set up a semi-final clash against the giant-killing John Henderson.
Finally, Simon Whitlock breezed into the semi-finals with an emphatic straight sets victory over an off-colour Benito van de Pas in the evening’s curtain-raiser. ‘Big Ben’ was imperious in his second-round win over Gerwyn Price just 24 hours earlier, but could not replicate that performance as ‘The Wizard’ cruised through with an 86.98 average.
The Australian registered consecutive 17-dart legs to seal control early on, before rounding-off a dominant opening set with a clinical 64 kill for a 15-dart hold. He then sank tops for a fourth consecutive leg and an early break in set two, before crashing in an incredible 120 checkout (S20, Bull, Bull) to continue the procession.
Van de Pas eventually opened his account via D2 after Whitlock squandered five darts for the set, and the Australian endured further-double trouble in the next leg. However, the Dutchman was unable to capitalise and missed one dart at tops to force a set decider, as the former world finalist doubled his lead via D10.
‘The Wizard’ sank D4 to hit the front in the third set, before registering a fine 14-dart leg to move within a leg of victory. Van de Pas posted his first maximum and broke throw on tops to stay alive, but a heroic fightback wasn’t forthcoming, as Whitlock effortlessly dispatched a 62 checkout to seal a spot in his first ever Grand Prix semi-final.
Photo Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC
2017 Unibet World Grand Prix
Thursday October 5 (7pm)
Simon Whitlock 3-0 Benito van de Pas
John Henderson 3-1 Raymond van Barneveld
Mensur Suljovic 3-1 Peter Wright
Daryl Gurney 3-2 Robert Thornton