Krzysztof Ratajski defeated World Grand Prix champion Daryl Gurney to win UK Open qualifier six at the Robin Park Tennis Centre in Wigan on Sunday evening, to become the first ever Polish winner of a PDC event.
Ratajski featured prominently on the European Tour in 2017, before winning the BDO World Masters back in September. He also made appearances in the European Championship and World Championship, but surprisingly failed to secure a PDC Tour Card at last month’s European Qualifying School.
Nevertheless, Ratajski has showed his class throughout the qualifying campaign, defeating five-time world champion Raymond van Barneveld in each of the first two qualifiers, before claiming a multitude of scalps on Sunday to scoop the £10,000 winner’s prize and ensure that he will enter next month’s UK Open at the third-round stage.
‘The Polish Eagle’ had already secured his place at Minehead after reaching the quarter-finals in two of the opening five events, but he will now enter the tournament as third seed after securing his maiden PDC crown in Wigan.
Ratajski kicked off his campaign with an impressive whitewash win over Eddie Dootson, before winning a hard-fought tie with German ace Rene Berndt. Ratajski then edged out Ian White in a thrilling last-leg decider, defying a 104.20 average from ‘The Diamond’ to prevail with a 100.50 average.
The Pole then recorded successive 6-4 victories over Robert Owen and Carl Wilkinson to book his spot in the last eight, to set up a showdown against Saturday’s winner Corey Cadby. The Australian had registered four ton-plus averages in his five matches, but Ratajski reeled off four successive legs to defeat ‘The King’ by the same 6-4 scoreline.
In the semi-finals, the World Masters winner faced world champion Rob Cross- who continued his return to form. ‘Voltage’ reached at least the semi-finals across all three events this weekend but he was denied a first Pro Tour title of 2018, as Ratajski took out 112 to prevail in a dramatic last-leg decider with a 101 average.
In the final, Ratajski faced Premier League debutant Daryl Gurney, who was bidding for a third PDC ranking title. ‘Super-Chin’ was also appearing in his first final since his memorable World Grand Prix triumph last October.
The Northern Irishman began Sunday’s proceedings with a convincing 6-3 win over Mark Wilson, before firing in a majestic 11-darter to see off Jimmy Hendriks in a dramatic eleven-leg contest. Gurney then whitewashed his stablemate Stuart Kellett, before defeating Players Championship finalist Jonny Clayton 6-4 to reach the last eight.
‘Super-Chin’ met Danny Noppert in the quarter-finals, who produced a series of superb displays to seal his qualification for Minehead. The former BDO star defeated Zoran Lerchbacher, two-time world champion Gary Anderson, Kyle Anderson and Steve West to reach the last eight, but he succumbed 6-2 to Gurney in a scrappy affair.
The world number five then met Peter Wright in the last-four, after ‘Snakebite’ made it back-to-back semi-final appearances in Wigan. However, the reigning UK Open champion was beaten 6-3 by a clinical Gurney, despite averaging 100.80 to the Northern Irishman’s 96.90.
Nevertheless, Gurney was denied a third PDC ranking title by an imperious Ratajski, who capped off his fairy-tale run to clinch his maiden PDC crown. ‘The Polish Eagle’ averaged 101.93, landed three maximums and converted 50% of his attempts at double to round-off a tremendous performance.
Ratajski drew first blood in the final after following up his first maximum with an 11-darter, before doubling his advantage by pegging D10. Gurney converted a clinical 94 kill to halve the deficit with a 12-darter, but the Polish star restored his two-leg buffer with a nerveless two-dart 88 combination for a 14-dart hold.
The World Grand Prix champion reduced the arrears to 3-2 after crashing in a classy 101 checkout, but Ratajski replied by taking out 72, before completing a 14-dart break on tops to move to within a leg of victory at 5-2.
Gurney dispatched a crucial 81 outshot to preserve his hopes, before capitalising on three missed match darts from the Pole to take out 74 and cut the deficit to 5-4. Despite this, Ratajski maintained his composure, and after Gurney wired the bull for a spectacular 161 finish, ‘The Polish Eagle’ returned to pin D16 to triumph inside 13 darts.
As aforementioned, Danny Noppert recorded his best run to date in the PDC to confirm his debut at the UK Open, and he’ll be joined by Scottish star John Goldie, who defied an incredible 111 average from Michael Smith to reach the last eight and confirm his qualification.
Elsewhere, David Pallett continued his revival, having missed out on a PDC Tour Card last month. The Shropshire ace reached the semi-finals of Sunday’s third qualifier and produced the goods once more in Wigan, eventually losing 6-4 to Peter Wright in a high-quality quarter-final tussle, where he missed D12 for a nine-darter in the eighth leg.
Two-time world champion Gary Anderson, who triumphed in Friday’s qualifier, was beaten in the opening-round for the second day in succession. Meanwhile, Benito van de Pas, Jelle Klaasen, Robert Thornton, Alan Norris and Joe Cullen were all dumped out at the first hurdle.
With the top 96 players on the UK Open Order of Merit progressing to compete in Minehead, a play-off was needed to split the players tied for the final qualifying place, as per PDC Rule 3.2. Adam Hunt and George Killington were the two to qualify, with Jeff Smith, Jim Walker, Kevin Garcia, Richie Corner and Rees Hall missing out in the Play-Off.
In a Play-Off to decide 64th place, Ted Evetts defeated Michael Rasztovits 6-1, to ensure that he begins his UK Open campaign at the second round stage. As a consequence, the Austrian Rasztovits will enter the tournament in the first round. The results from today’s event can be viewed via the following link: https://www.pdc.tv/node/7676
Photo Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC