Michael Unterbuchner caused one of the biggest upsets at this year’s Grand Slam of Darts by dumping out James Wade to reach the quarter-finals, as Michael van Gerwen edged out Michael Smith in one of the greatest games in the tournament’s history.
However, the story of the night saw Wade’s bid for a third successive televised title thwarted by the BDO World Trophy finalist. Unterbuchner was a big outsider prior to Thursday’s contest, but the German was the epitome of solidity; averaging 93.57, landing three maximums and converting 37% of his attempts at a double to triumph.
‘The Machine’ drew first blood with an effortless 72 checkout to complete a 15-dart hold, but Unterbuchner responded superbly; reeling off four straight legs in 15, 15, 16 and 13 darts to establish a 4-1 cushion at the first interval, as Wade was punished for spurning key opportunities at double.
Last year’s Lakeside finalist missed one dart at double in each of the next two legs and suddenly a potential 6-1 scoreline turned into a slender 4-3 advantage, but Unterbuchner kept his cool and registered 15 and 16-dart holds of throw to lead 6-4 at the second intermission.
Wade was struggling to replicate the performances he produced in the group-phase but Unterbuchner deserved enormous credit; despite his relative inexperience on the big stage he played with poise and confidence; following up a majestic 11-darter with a clinical 95 kill for a handsome 8-4 advantage.
The BDO star then sank D4 for a 15-dart break to move to the cusp of victory at 9-4, and although Wade won the next two legs to threaten a comeback, Unterbuchner held his nerve in the 16th leg to complete a famous win on tops.
Wade was aiming to extend his winning run to 14 games and ‘T-Rex’ couldn’t quite believe what he’d achieved, admitting: “It’s unbelievable to beat James Wade, such a fantastic player on this amazing stage. I booked my flights home for tomorrow morning because I didn’t think I would win but I don’t mind staying longer, hopefully until Monday!”
Elsewhere, Michael van Gerwen booked his place in the last eight after prevailing in one of the greatest games ever seen on the Wolverhampton stage against Michael Smith. ‘The Green Machine’ averaged 108.32 and fired in ELEVEN maximums to defeat ‘Bully Boy’ 10-8, and keep alive his hopes of winning a fourth consecutive Grand Slam crown.
Former Grand Slam semi-finalist Smith also performed superbly; averaging 100.69, landing six maximums and converting 47% of his attempts at double. He stormed into an early 3-1 lead, but Van Gerwen fought back to prevail in an epic, after Smith had missed tops for a 160 checkout which would have forced a deciding leg.
“It was an incredible game against an incredible player who produced some great darts but I did the right things at the right moments,” said Van Gerwen.
“I played so well but at times I thought I wasn’t going to be able to break his throw but I love playing games like this for the crowd, this is why we play darts. I want to keep playing to this standard for the rest of the tournament and I want to win.”
Van Gerwen will now face Jonny Clayton in the quarter-finals, in a repeat of their dramatic group-stage clash- which Clayton won. ‘The Ferret’ produced one of the best performances of his career to thrash former World Masters winner Krzysztof Ratajski 10-3, as ‘The Polish Eagle’ was denied a spot in his first major PDC quarter-final.
Clayton ended Van Gerwen’s 21-game unbeaten run at the Grand Slam to top Group A and he continued his fine form against Ratajski; averaging 103.65, posting five maximums and boasting a 58% checkout success rate, and he’ll have to produce something similar to defeat MvG for the second time in the tournament.
The Welshman reflected:“This is massive for me, I’m loving every minute of my time spent in this tournament. Anything beyond the group stage is a bonus for me, I just wanted to make sure I kept straight and thankfully I managed to play really well again so I’m delighted with that.”
Elsewhere, two-time world champion Gary Anderson breezed into the last eight with a comprehensive 10-2 victory over BDO representative Wesley Harms. The Dutchman struggled throughout and Anderson capitalised; averaging 101.22, crashing in six 180’s and converting 63% of his double attempts to cap off a complete display.
‘The Flying Scotsman’ opened up an early 3-0 lead, courtesy of a classy 90 finish on the bullseye. Harms then registered back-to-back legs to reduce the deficit to 3-2 at thd interval but it was one-way traffic from then on, with Anderson reeling off seven straight legs to triumph; taking out a sublime 136 finish en route to sealing his progression.
Anderson has never gone beyond the semi-finals in Wolverhampton but it’s a tournament he’s openly admitted is one of his favourites and he now faces Unterbuchner for a place in the semi-finals, as he bids to add the Grand Slam crown to the UK Open, World Matchplay and Champions League titles he’s scooped this year.
Photo Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC
2018 bwin Grand Slam of Darts
Wednesday November 14
Dimitri Van den Bergh 10-6 Stephen Bunting
Gerwyn Price 10-5 Josh Payne
Mensur Suljovic 10-7 Rob Cross
Simon Whitlock 10-6 Peter Wright
Thursday November 15 (1900 GMT)
Jonny Clayton 10-3 Krzysztof Ratajski
Michael Unterbuchner 10-6 James Wade
Gary Anderson 10-2 Wesley Harms
Michael van Gerwen 10-8 Michael Smith
Friday November 16 (1900 GMT)
Dimitri Van den Bergh v Mensur Suljovic
Simon Whitlock v Gerwyn Price
Saturday November 17
Michael Unterbuchner v Gary Anderson
Jonny Clayton v Michael van Gerwen