Krzysztof Ratajski claimed his second PDC Pro Tour title of 2018 and a first Players Championship crown with a 6-2 victory over Chris Dobey at the Barnsley Metrodome on Saturday afternoon.
‘The Polish Eagle’ failed to secure a PDC Tour Card at Qualifying School in January but won a UK Open qualifying event in February, and he capitalised on another opportunity to compete in Barnsley to secure the £10,000 winner’s prize.
Ratajski had only competed in two of the previous 20 Players Championship events held this year and was yet to claim any prize money. Nevertheless, this victory sees him rocket up to 67th on the PDC Order of Merit, whilst it also puts him in real contention of qualifying for next month’s Players Championship Finals in Minehead.
However, it was far from plain-sailing for the 41-year-old, who was forced to produce a number of brilliant comeback victories to prevail in the 21st and penultimate Players Championship event on the darting calendar.
Dobey made a blistering start to the final; drawing first-blood with a 14-dart hold, before following up his first maximum with a clinical two-dart 84 combination to double his lead in 11 darts. Despite this, Ratajski remained completely unperturbed.
The Polish ace replied with an 11-darter of his own to halve the deficit, before closing out a 16-dart hold via D10 to level up proceedings. Dobey then missed one dart at the bull for an 89 finish in leg five and this proved decisive, as Ratajski produced an effortless two-dart 70 kill to secure the lead.
Last year’s World Masters champion claimed his fourth straight leg courtesy of a regulation 52 outshot, before rounding-off his second 11-dart leg of the contest to move within a leg of victory. Dobey was visibly deflated and Ratajski displayed zero finishing line nerves; pegging D11 to clinch the title with an outstanding 99.80 average.
‘The Polish Eagle’ had defeated Latvia’s Madars Razma 6-3 in his tournament opener, before posting an impressive 100.30 average in dispatching Kirk Shepherd 6-1 to reach the last 32. He then claimed the scalp of an in-form James Wilson 6-4 in round-three, recovering from 3-0 down to triumph with a 98.60 average.
This set up a clash with Cameron Menzies for a spot in the quarter-finals, and once again Ratajski displayed his fighting qualities. Menzies started strongly to establish a 3-1 cushion, but the former World Masters winner reeled off five consecutive legs to seal his progression, registering legs of 18, 15, 15, 14 and 17 darts in the process.
In the last eight, Ratajski faced William O’Connor- who posted a sensational 109 average to stun Dimitri van den Bergh in the previous round. However, ‘The Magpie’ was unable to replicate that type of performance against the Pole, who completed a 6-4 win with a 95 average to progress through to the semi-finals.
The legendary Steve Beaton awaited Ratajski in the last four, as ‘The Bronzed Adonis’ continued his profitable weekend’s work in Barnsley. Beaton was one of four players to seal qualification for the World Series of Darts Finals 24 hours earlier, and he rolled back the years once more with some liquid displays.
After battling past a returning Robbie Green in his first-round tie, Beaton dropped just three legs in defeating both Justin Pipe and Nathan Aspinall, before averaging 105.30 in thrashing Terry Jenkins 6-2 to reach the quarter-finals.
Beaton then saw off Gary Anderson’s conqueror Ricky Evans 6-5 in the last eight, before a dramatic semi-final clash with Ratajski ensued. Beaton stormed into a 5-1 lead with a 110 average but the Polish World Cup star fought back in sensational fashion, surviving five match darts and winning the final five legs in 15, 15, 15, 17 and 15 darts.
In the bottom half of the draw, Chris Dobey also performed superbly to reach his second Players Championship Final of 2018, although he was almost beaten in the opening-round by John Norman Jr. The Canadian led 5-4, but Dobey conjured up consecutive legs of 14 and 12 darts to prevail.
‘Hollywood’ then triumphed in another dramatic deciding-leg duel, averaging 104 in edging out Bradley Brooks, with his winning legs coming in 11, 17, 12, 15, 14 and 14 darts. This set up a third-round showdown against Simon Preston, in which Dobey won four of the final five legs to record a 6-3 win with a 97.10 average.
The 28-year-old then clinched his third last-leg victory of the afternoon to edge out John Henderson in a scrappy last 16 tussle, to set up a quarter-final clash against Stephen Bunting, who had dumped out Michael Smith in the preceding round. However, Dobey turned on the style to thrash ‘The Bullet’ 6-2 to breeze into the last four.
The North East star took on Martin Schindler for a place in the final, after the diminutive German followed up wins over Eddie Dootson, Simon Stevenson, Gabriel Clemens and Adam Hunt by beating world no. six Mensur Suljovic in the quarter-finals. Nevertheless, ‘The Wall’ couldn’t overcome Dobey, who ran out a 6-4 winner with a 95.50 average.
Earlier in the day, Andrew Gilding landed the perfect nine-dart finish in his opening-round tie against Mark Dudbridge. ‘Goldfinger’ defeated Dudbridge before dumping out Joe Cullen in round-two, but his resistance was ended by John Henderson in the third-round.
World champion Rob Cross was beaten in round-one by the impressive Gabriel Clemens, who averaged over 101 to record a 6-4 win over ‘Voltage’. James Wade and Daryl Gurney also fell at the first hurdle, losing to Zoran Lerchbacher and Simon Preston respectively.
Ian White- who currently tops the Players Championship Order of Merit, was beaten by youngster Jarred Cole in round-two, whilst Simon Whitlock and Dave Chisnall suffered deciding-leg defeats against William O’Connor and Nathan Aspinall at the same stage.
There were also a host of big-name absentees at the Barnsley Metrodome. Michael van Gerwen and Peter Wright both withdrew, whilst Gerwyn Price, Max Hopp and Cristo Reyes also didn’t feature in Saturday’s action. This didn’t hamper the standard however, with an incredible TEN 105+ averages recorded throughout the afternoon.
Photo Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC