Gerwyn Price and Rob Cross were the big-name casualties on a dramatic opening day at the Players Championship Finals, as top seed Ian White posted a magnificent 111.12 average to kick off his Minehead campaign in style.
Newly crowned Grand Slam of Darts champion Price was dumped out in the opening round by an inspired Krzysztof Ratajski, who produced an extraordinary comeback from 5-1 down to stun ‘The Iceman’ to the delight of the partisan crowd.
Price made a blistering start, taking out finishes of 121 and 113 in the opening two legs, before establishing a 4-0 advantage with a 112 average. The Welshman then moved 5-1 ahead, but Ratajski fought back magnificently; winning the final five legs in 13, 11, 14, 12 and 13 darts to triumph with a 105.38 average to Price’s 105.79.
Ratajski will now take on two-time world champion Adrian Lewis in a mouthwatering second-round clash, after ‘Jackpot’ eased past Adam Hunt 6-2 in his opener. Lewis was averaging over 100 for the majority of the contest, before overcoming some late double-trouble to prevail with a 95.47 average.
Top seed Ian White kicked off his campaign with a sensational 6-2 victory over Scott Taylor; averaging 111.12 in the process. ‘The Diamond’ has never gone beyond the semi-finals of a major PDC event, but he underlined his credentials in Minehead; landing four maximums and boasting a 75% checkout success rate to complete a magical display.
Two-time world champion Gary Anderson recovered from his Grand Slam disappointment with an emphatic 6-2 victory over Alan Tabern. ‘The Flying Scotsman’ averaged 107.95, posted four 180’s and converted 55% of his attempts at double to begin his bid for a fourth major title of the season.
Michael van Gerwen kicked off his title defence with a comprehensive 6-1 win over Matthew Edgar. The world number one is bidding for a fifth Players Championship Finals title in six years and although he wasn’t at his blistering best, he still averaged 102.78 and boasted a 60% checkout conversion rate.
Van Gerwen now takes on former World Youth champion Keegan Brown, who saw off Benito van de Pas 6-3 in a scrappy opening-round affair. Van de Pas was drafted into the tournament to replace Mensur Suljovic- who withdrew for family reasons. However, ‘Big Ben’ struggled throughout, and Brown took out a stunning 144 outshot to seal victory.
World champion Rob Cross was dumped out in round-one after being thrashed 6-1 by Spanish star Cristo Reyes. Reyes averaged 96.98, fired in three maximums and converted 50% of his attempts at double; taking out finishes of 76, 87, 93 and 112 to ease past ‘Voltage’.
However, Reyes’ compatriot Toni Alcinas was unable to produce similar heroics, as he was beaten 6-2 by fourth seed Peter Wright. ‘Snakebite’ has struggled over recent weeks and averaged a modest 88.80, but the world number two sealed his progression with a majestic 11-darter.
Michael Smith secured a superb whitewash win over Vincent van der Voort to set up an intriguing second-round tie against Jonny Clayton. ‘Bully Boy’ averaged 98.02 to breeze past the Dutchman in a matter of minutes, whilst ‘The Ferret’ claimed the scalp of fellow Welshman Mark Webster.
In a battle of the former World Grand Prix champions, Daryl Gurney defeated Robert Thornton in a scrappy affair. The pair each missed 12 darts at a double, with the Northern Irishman averaging 85.82 to close out a 6-3 victory.
Simon Whitlock fended off a late fightback from his World Cup partner Kyle Anderson to book his place in the last 32. ‘The Wizard’ kicked off proceedings with a stunning 154 checkout and stormed into a 5-1 lead after errant doubling from ‘The Original, but despite a late surge from Anderson, Whitlock sealed the deal on double four.
In the final two matches of the afternoon, James Wade and Dave Chisnall booked their spots in round-two with 6-4 wins over Ross Smith and Jamie Lewis respectively. ‘The Machine’ battled past Smith with a solid 94.52 average, whilst Chisnall crashed in six maximums as he recovered from 3-2 down to defeat ‘Fireball’.
Chisnall will now take on Chris Dobey for a place in round-three, after ‘Hollywood’ recorded a convincing 6-3 win over Ron Meulenkamp. Dobey raced into a 5-1 advantage and although the Dutchman provided some resistance, the 27-year-old sealed his progression inside 13 darts.
James Wilson reeled off four straight legs to ease past reigning World Youth champion Dimitri van den Bergh 6-2; averaging 94.05, firing in four maximums and converting 38% of his double attempts. Wilson now takes on Gabriel Clemens for a place in the last 16, after the German battled past an off-colour Andrew Gilding on Friday afternoon.
Max Hopp was the latest German to book his spot in round-two, after fighting back from 3-1 down to defeat Steve West. The former World Youth champion won five of the final six legs to triumph with a 98.44 average, although Martin Schindler was unable to make it a clean sweep for Germany, as he was thrashed 6-1 by an impressive Nathan Aspinall.
Joe Cullen and Steve Beaton will lock horns after coming through dramatic last-leg deciders against John Henderson and Kim Huybrechts respectively, whilst Darren Webster defeated Jeffrey de Graaf 6-3 to set up an all-East Anglia affair against Stephen Burton, who won a dramatic eleven-leg clash against Jermaine Wattimena.
Jeffrey de Zwaan prevailed in an all-Dutch clash against Jelle Klaasen to set up a second round showdown against Ricky Evans. ‘Rapid’ defeated Jan Dekker 6-3 in his opener, whilst Mervyn King and Danny Noppert will collide in round-two, after seeing off Simon Stevenson and Rowby-John Rodriguez respectively.
Steve Lennon and Ryan Searle breezed through to round-two with comprehensive 6-2 wins over Ryan Joyce and Josh Payne. Lennon averaged 97.11 and boasted a solid 46% checkout success rate, while Searle reeled off five legs to stun Payne; winning the final five legs in 14, 12, 16, 15 and 14 darts to cap off a classy comeback.
Brendan Dolan edged out Michael Barnard 6-4 in the tournament’s curtain-raiser to set up a clash with top seed Ian White. However, Dolan’s fellow Northern Irishman Mickey Mansell suffered defeat to Latvian debutant Madars Razma- who converted two ton-plus finishes to set up a meeting with Stephen Bunting, who sneaked past Richard North 6-5.
Photo Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC
2018 Ladbrokes Players Championship Finals
Schedule of Play
Friday November 23
Afternoon Session (1245 GMT)
Jeffrey de Zwaan 6-4 Jelle Klaasen
Max Hopp 6-4 Steve West
Keegan Brown 6-3 Benito van de Pas
Adrian Lewis 6-2 Adam Hunt
Simon Whitlock 6-4 Kyle Anderson
Daryl Gurney 6-3 Robert Thornton
James Wade 6-4 Ross Smith
Dave Chisnall 6-4 Jamie Lewis
Brendan Dolan 6-4 Michael Barnard
Ryan Searle 6-2 Josh Payne
Nathan Aspinall 6-1 Martin Schindler
Gabriel Clemens 6-3 Andrew Gilding
Steve Lennon 6-2 Ryan Joyce
Mervyn King 6-4 Simon Stevenson
Stephen Bunting 6-5 Richard North
Madars Razma 6-4 Mickey Mansell
Evening Session (1900 GMT)
Ian White 6-2 Scott Taylor
Gary Anderson 6-2 Alan Tabern
Cristo Reyes 6-1 Rob Cross
Krzysztof Ratajski 6-5 Gerwyn Price
Peter Wright 6-2 Toni Alcinas
Michael van Gerwen 6-1 Matthew Edgar
Michael Smith 6-0 Vincent van der Voort
Stephen Burton 6-5 Jermaine Wattimena
Joe Cullen 6-5 John Henderson
Jonny Clayton 6-3 Mark Webster
Ricky Evans 6-3 Jan Dekker
James Wilson 6-2 Dimitri Van den Bergh
Danny Noppert 6-3 Rowby-John Rodriguez
Chris Dobey 6-3 Ron Meulenkamp
Darren Webster 6-3 Jeffrey de Graaf
Steve Beaton 6-5 Kim Huybrechts
Saturday November 24
Afternoon Session (1245 GMT)
Daryl Gurney v Ryan Searle
James Wade v Nathan Aspinall
Dave Chisnall v Chris Dobey
Cristo Reyes v Steve Lennon
Gary Anderson v Simon Whitlock
Michael van Gerwen v Keegan Brown
Peter Wright v Max Hopp
Stephen Bunting v Madars Razma
James Wilson v Gabriel Clemens
Jeffrey de Zwaan v Ricky Evans
Stephen Burton v Darren Webster
Ian White v Brendan Dolan
Danny Noppert v Mervyn King
Michael Smith v Jonny Clayton
Steve Beaton v Joe Cullen
Adrian Lewis v Krzysztof Ratajski