James Wade secured his first televised PDC ranking title since 2011 with an 11-8 victory over Simon Whitlock on a dramatic day of action at the European Championship in Dortmund on Sunday evening.
‘The Machine’ became a father for the first time just over two weeks ago, and he credited the birth of his son Arthur for giving him the hunger to recapture his best form. It’s been a brilliant month for Wade and he had even more reasons to celebrate at the Westfalenhallen, after clinching his first PDC title since June 2016.
The Aldershot ace was omitted from this year’s Premier League after enduring a disappointing 2017, but his eighth major televised crown- and first since the 2014 Masters, parachutes him up to sixth in the world; his highest ranking position for over eighteen months.
Wade’s triumph wasn’t without its scares as he survived six match darts across the entire tournament, but in his 40th meeting against Whitlock, he averaged 91.98, crashed in five maximums and converted 37% of his attempts at a double to seal the £100,000 winner’s prize and deny Whitlock a second European Championship title.
‘The Wizard’ made a blistering start to the contest; firing in six perfect darts before eventually closing out a 14-dart break on tops. However, he then spurned three darts at a double for a 2-0 lead and Wade capitalised by pinning tops for an instant riposte.
However, Wade then bust a 68 checkout by hitting D15 and Whitlock sank D12 for the third successive break of throw, before completing a two-dart 80 combination to establish a two-leg lead.
Despite this, the 2012 champion then missed two darts at D8 for 76 finishes in consecutive legs which enabled Wade to level at three apiece, and the left-hander claimed his third straight leg courtesy of a clean 65 kill.
‘The Machine’ wired tops for a 120 checkout and a fourth straight leg as Whitlock sank D1 to stop the rot, before the pair exchanged holds of throw on D5 to enter the second interval level pegging.
Both players appeared lethargic as a gruelling Finals Day in Dortmund began to take its toll and the next four legs went with throw in scrappy fashion, before Wade suddenly produced a crucial surge to storm to glory.
Wade kicked off the 15th leg with his third maximum, but Whitlock replied with an equally sublime 171. However, the Aussie wired the bull for a 130 checkout and a potential break, before Wade returned to peg D8 for a 13-dart hold.
Whitlock responded by hitting D19 for a 14-dart hold to restore parity at eight apiece, but Wade fired in successive 13-dart legs- both culminating on tops, to move to within a leg of the title. ‘The Machine’ had the advantage of throw and held his nerve superbly; pinning his trusted D20 at the first attempt to clinch victory with a 16-dart hold of throw.
Wade’s maiden European Championship title also assures him a spot at next month’s Grand Slam of Darts. The Englishman reached the final at the Wolverhampton Civic Hall two years ago but was facing the prospect of missing out on the cross-code event for the first time since it’s inception, although that threat has subsequently been evaded.
However, Wade’s march to glory was anything but serene, as he survived three match darts in both his quarter-final and semi-final tussles. In the last eight, ‘The Machine’ edged out Premier League star Gerwyn Price in a nail-biting affair, in which there was never more than one leg between the pair.
The lead changed hands five times in a topsy-turvy contest, and Price appeared poised to close out victory after Wade spurned opportunities to close out victory at 8-7 ahead. However, ‘The Iceman’ spurned three match darts and despite having missed one match dart at tops, Wade was handed a reprieve and returned to hit D20 and sneak through.
However, Wade’s semi-final win was just as dramatic, as he fought back from 9-5 down to close out a pulsating deciding-leg victory over home favourite Max Hopp, who was bidding to become the first German player to reach a PDC major televised final.
‘There was very little to choose between the pair, with Hopp averaging 93.91 to Wade’s 93.90, but ‘The Maximiser’ took out two brilliant 126 finishes en route to establishing a four leg cushion, but Wade won four of the next five legs to reduce the arrears to 10-9.
The German fired in his fifth 180 at the most opportune time as he closed in on victory, but he spurned three match darts at D20, D10 and D5 and Wade punished by taking out a two-dart 61 combination. ‘The Machine’ then had the advantage of throw in the decider and he defied the partisan crowd to seal the comeback with a clinical 102 kill.
Whitlock kicked off Sunday’s Finals Day with an impressive 10-7 win over Michael van Gerwen’s conqueror Steve West. It was a high-quality contest with both men averaging over 100 and West crashing in nine maximums, but ‘The Wizard’ produced some magical finishing; converting ten of his 15 darts at a double.
West broke throw in the opening leg, but Whitlock replied with four straight legs; including a sensational 164 checkout in the fifth. West responded with a fine 100 finish and an 11-darter to reduce the arrears to 8-6, but a magnificent 144 finish from Whitlock in the 15th leg was crucial, before he later sealed his last four spot with a 65 outshot.
In the semi-finals, The Australian took on Joe Cullen for a place in the final, after ‘The Rockstar’ recovered from 6-1 down to dump out world champion Rob Cross in the quarter-finals. Nevertheless, the tables were turned on Cullen in the semi-finals, as Whitlock fought back from 10-7 down to break the Bradford star’s heart.
Whitlock stormed into an early 3-0 lead and then took out a majestic 148 checkout to establish a 4-2 cushion, but Cullen responded superbly. The fifth seed won eight of the next eleven legs to move 10-7 ahead and close in on reaching his maiden televised final.
However, the 2012 champion won the next three legs to force a decider, before an incredible leg of drama ensued. Cullen missed one match dart at D9 to complete an 83 checkout and he was punished to the hilt, as Whitlock converted a nerveless 110 finish to seal his place in the final which sparked jubilant celebrations.
The tournament ended in disappointment for the Aussie; who averaged a miserly 88.81 in the final as he missed out on a second European Championship crown, but having reached his first major final since last year’s World Grand Prix- he has put himself in real contention of a Premier League spot for the second year in succession.
Photo Credit: Kelly Deckers/PDC
Unibet European Championship
Sunday October 28
Simon Whitlock 10-7 Steve West
Joe Cullen 10-8 Rob Cross
Max Hopp 10-5 Darren Webster
James Wade 10-9 Gerwyn Price
Simon Whitlock 11-10 Joe Cullen
James Wade 11-10 Max Hopp
James Wade 11-8 Simon Whitlock