Mensur Suljovic won Players Championship 26 with a thrilling 8-7 victory over Ian White, despite ‘The Diamond’ averaging 107 and landing a nine-dart finish on a dramatic Sunday afternoon at the Barnsley Metrodome.
White averaged 107 in a pulsating final, only to be denied by a clinical Suljovic, who converted a series of nerveless checkouts to claim his first floor title of 2019 and his first ever PDC title on English soil.
The world number nine has now won seven PDC ranking events and he’s in bullish mood as he eyes the biggest prize in darts. “This year I am World Champion,” said Suljovic, who is among the confirmed field for next month’s World Grand Prix.
“This was the best final for me. Ian played brilliant, he hit a nine-darter, he is a brilliant player. Everybody is playing brilliant at the moment; Ian, Daryl Gurney, Gerwyn Price and me are the best players at the moment.”
The opening four legs of Sunday’s final all went with throw, before White struck the first blow with a 14-dart break of throw. Suljovic squandered a golden opportunity to restore parity in leg eight after an incredible miscount on 81, but he was allowed back to the board and made amends.
Trailing 4-2, Suljovic registered legs of 12, 14 and 15 darts to regain the advantage, only for White to pile in the 40th nine-darter on the PDC Tour this year to level up proceedings at five apiece.
The next four legs were shared which prompted a last-leg shootout and the advantage of throw proved decisive for Suljovic. White piled on the pressure to leave 75 after 12 darts but he wasn’t afforded a shot, as ‘The Gentle’ nailed a majestic 109 kill to claim the £10,000 top prize.
The Austrian’s day began with victories over Richard North, Gavin Carlin and Ryan Joyce, before he produced a scintillating performance to defeat three-time BDO world champion Glen Durrant – averaging 112.60 to close out a 6-2 success against ‘Duzza’.
In the last eight, Suljovic faced Cristo Reyes – who was appearing in his first ranking quarter-final since June 2017. ‘The Gentle’ led 5-2 but the Spaniard fought back superbly to force a last-leg decider, only for the former Champions League of Darts winner to triumph in the 11th and final leg.
This set up a semi-final showdown against Jonny Clayton, who dropped just seven legs en route to the last four. ‘The Ferret’ defeated Adrian Gray, Justin Pipe, Stephen Burton, Gabriel Clemens and Ross Smith, before succumbing 7-5 to Suljovic in a high-quality affair which saw the Austrian average 102.30.
Top seed White performed magnificently throughout the afternoon, averaging 104.44 across the entire day, although he was denied a first Players Championship title of 2019 by an inspired Suljovic.
‘The Diamond’ opened up proceedings with comfortable wins over Jan Dekker, Alan Tabern and Andy Jenkins, before he defeated Dutch youngster Geert Nentjes with a 103.70 average.
The Stoke-on-Trent ace stormed into the semi-finals courtesy of a 6-0 whitewash over Andy Boulton, to set up a tussle against Steve West, who claimed the scalps of Peter Wright, Mervyn King and Gary Anderson to reach his first Pro Tour semi-final since April.
Nevertheless, West was brushed aside by an imperious White, who produced statistically the performance of his career to breeze through to Sunday’s showpiece. The 49-year-old averaged 115 and fired in legs of 14, 14, 11, 12, 12, 15 and 11 darts to complete a 7-2 victory.
There were a number of high-profile early exits in Barnsley, as Wright, Michael Smith, Adrian Lewis, Dave Chisnall, Simon Whitlock and Raymond van Barneveld all bowed out at the first hurdle.
Gerwyn Price was beaten 6-2 in round two by Ron Meulenkamp, whilst Saturday’s winner Daryl Gurney suffered a third round defeat by the same scoreline at the hands of Gary Anderson, who progressed to the quarter-finals before losing out to West.
World Matchplay champion Rob Cross bounced back from yesterday’s opening round defeat with a run to round four, which featured a magical nine-darter during his second round win over Jose Justicia.
Following the conclusion of today’s action, the field for the World Grand Prix was confirmed. UK Open champion Nathan Aspinall will make his Dublin debut alongside Krzysztof Ratajski, Durrant, Jamie Hughes, Chris Dobey and Dimitri Van den Bergh.
Players Championship 26
Sunday September 22
Ian White 6-3 Geert Nentjes
Andy Boulton 6-3 Matthew Edgar
Steve West 6-3 Martin Schindler
Gary Anderson 6-2 James Richardson
Cristo Reyes 6-3 Ron Meulenkamp
Mensur Suljovic 6-2 Glen Durrant
Ross Smith 6-5 Rob Cross
Jonny Clayton 6-2 Gabriel Clemens
Ian White 6-0 Andy Boulton
Steve West 6-3 Gary Anderson
Mensur Suljovic 6-5 Cristo Reyes
Jonny Clayton 6-1 Ross Smith
Ian White 7-2 Steve West
Mensur Suljovic 7-5 Jonny Clayton
Mensur Suljovic 8-7 Ian White