There are just three major champions left standing heading into Finals Day at the European Championship in Gottingen, which could represent the perfect opportunity for a perennial challenger to finally break their major duck.
There were a plethora of high-profile early casualties in Germany, which included a shock opening round defeat for world No 1 Michael van Gerwen at the hands of debutant Ross Smith.
Defending champion James Wade suffered a crushing whitewash defeat against an inspired Jonny Clayton, whilst Peter Wright, Mensur Suljovic, Glen Durrant and Adrian Lewis also bowed out at the first hurdle.
The three major champions left in this year’s tournament are World Matchplay holder Rob Cross, two-time major winner Daryl Gurney and Grand Slam champion Gerwyn Price.
Cross and Gurney could collide in the semi-finals – in a repeat of their classic encounter at the same stage of July’s World Matchplay, whilst Price is the only player in the bottom half to have tasted major glory.
Nevertheless, two players who will sense a major opportunity to land their elusive first major titles are the St Helen’s duo of Michael Smith and Dave Chisnall.
Smith has appeared in four major finals throughout the last 18 months, losing out in the Premier League, World Championship and World Matchplay finals during this period.
Chisnall is also a seasoned veteran in this department. He has performed magnificently since making the switch to Harrow’s in the summer and he suffered a fifth defeat in a major televised final at last month’s World Grand Prix, with Van Gerwen again the man to crush his hopes.
Chizzy has remarkably failed to beat ‘The Green Machine’ in 27 meetings and his last three major finals have all been contested against the Dutchman. He faced Phil Taylor in his opening two finals, therefore he hasn’t been dealt the kindest hand.
Chisnall kicked off his campaign with victory over World Youth champion Dimitri Van den Bergh, before crashing in ELEVEN maximums and averaging 109 to defeat Jonny Clayton 10-4 to reach the last eight. With MvG out of the picture, is this Chisnall’s time?
Michael Smith may have something to say about that. He only just qualified for this tournament as 31st seed, but a stunning 106 average saw him dump out second seed Ian White in his opener, before he overcame fellow St Helen’s star Stephen Bunting in the last eight.
‘Bully Boy’ is one of the most prodigious talents in the game and like Chisnall, Van Gerwen has often proven to be the thorn in his side. Cross defeated Smith in July’s World Matchplay final and there could potentially be a repeat in Gottingen.
Elsewhere, Vincent van der Voort is appearing in his first ranking quarter-final for over four years courtesy of impressive wins over Mensur Suljovic and Chris Dobey. Van der Voort has dropped just six legs in his two matches and he takes on Price for a place in Sunday night’s semi-finals.
Van der Voort’s solitary televised final came way back in 2007, when he lost an all-Dutch affair against Raymond van Barneveld at the UK Open. ‘The Dutch Destroyer’ has reached just one major semi-final since then, at the 2014 Players Championship Finals. Can Vinnie roll back the years?
Van der Voort isn’t the only Dutch representative in the quarter-finals however. Jeffrey de Zwaan – a semi-finalist at the 2018 World Matchplay, is aiming to break new ground at this event.
De Zwaan’s breakthrough at the Winter Gardens saw him defeat Van Gerwen, Lewis and Chisnall before succumbing to Gary Anderson in a thrilling encounter. The young Dutchman has shown glimpses of his ability since then, but he will sense a real chance to demonstrate tangible evidence of his development.
The last remaining quarter-finalist is Ricky Evans, who is appearing in the last eight of a televised event for the first time in his career. ‘Rapid Ricky’ claimed the scalp of three-time BDO world champion Glen Durrant in round one, before defeating Van Gerwen’s conqueror Ross Smith in the last 16.
Evans is often referred to as the quickest player in world darts, but he has many more strings to his bow. He’s reached two European Tour finals over the last 18 months and is closing in on a place in the world’s top 32. He faces a tough task against Cross, but he will enter that contest with nothing to lose.
‘Voltage’ is seeded ninth for this tournament, although as world No 2, he’s the highest ranked player left in the field. He has beaten Darren Webster and Joe Cullen to reach this stage and having reached the final here in 2017, he’ll be confident of going one step better.
If he defeats Evans, he will face Chisnall or Gurney in the semi-finals. Gurney and Cross have both won two major PDC titles and with ‘Super Chin’ impressing in his second round win over Simon Whitlock, many people are backing the Northern Irishman to make it a hat-trick of major triumphs.
However, who can forget about the enigmatic Gerwyn Price. The Welshman has been one of the outstanding players of 2019 and a major title would be just reward for the way in which he’s evolved as a player whilst also dealing with sustained heckling from the darting crowds.
Price is the solitary major winner remaining in the bottom half and he displayed his world-class ability against UK Open champion Nathan Aspinall in Saturday’s second round.
‘The Asp’ defeated Price at last year’s World Championship and in the UK Open semi-finals and he appeared poised to complete another win over ‘The Iceman’ as he established a commanding 5-0 lead at the first break, with an average in excess of 110.
Nevertheless, Price produced a quite remarkable comeback, winning 10 of the next 11 legs to prevail 10-6 with a 103.85 average, seven maximums and a 42% conversion rate, as Aspinall was rendered helpless despite maintaining a ton-plus average throughout.
We are guaranteed a new name on the European Championship trophy tonight, but more significantly, could we see a new major winner crowned? Some of this year’s quarter-finalists may never get a better opportunity….
Photo Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC
Sunday October 27 (1245 local time, 1145 GMT)
Ricky Evans v Rob Cross
Dave Chisnall v Daryl Gurney
Michael Smith v Jeffrey de Zwaan
Vincent van der Voort v Gerwyn Price