Gary Anderson became the latest big-name casualty to exit the World Darts Championship, with UK Open champion Nathan Aspinall defeating ‘The Flying Scotsman’ 4-2 to book his place in a second consecutive quarter-final at Alexandra Palace.
Anderson has endured an injury-ravaged campaign and has not reached an individual televised semi-final since last year’s World Championship, but missed doubles cost the fifth seed as Aspinall condemned the 49-year-old to his earliest Ally Pally exit since 2014.
The two-time world champion stormed to the opening set with a 110 average, but he strayed into double 15 when requiring 20 in a second set decider, gifting Aspinall the opportunity to level proceedings via double 16.
The next two were shared, before Aspinall kept his cool in a fifth straight set that went to a decider – pinning double four to secure a 3-2 advantage. The Stockport star then landed an 11th maximum en route to claiming an early break in the sixth to move to the cusp of victory.
The UK Open champion missed one match dart to triumph and Anderson prolonged the drama for a few more moments, only for Aspinall to prevail via double 10, after Anderson had failed to take out a skin-saving 76 finish.
Last year’s semi-finalist sank to his knees in sheer joy in a win he described as one of the best of his career and he could meet another two-time world champion in the last eight – Adrian Lewis or two-time World Youth champion Dimitri Van den Bergh will await on Sunday afternoon.
Yet for Anderson it’s the culmination of an underwhelming season that despite some glimpses – never exploded into life. He showed signs of a resurgence by lifting the World Cup of Darts with Peter Wright in June, although he’s been unable to replicate that form in individual TV events.
The world No 5 spoke to PDC commentator Dan Dawson following his defeat and his frustrated demeanour was reminiscent of the burning disappointment he felt after losing to Michael van Gerwen at the third round stage in 2014.
Anderson was left to rue missed opportunities on that occasion but bounced back in blistering fashion – winning back-to-back World Championship titles during a run of 17 straight wins on the Ally Pally stage. Fans of ‘The Flying Scotsman’ will be hoping history repeats itself in 2020.
“That double 15 is doing my nut in. I’m still thinking about it as we speak. Nathan’s a classy player. I’ve had so much time off and if I can keep playing like that, watch out for next year,” Anderson said.
“Towards the end of the game I was launching them to be honest but Nathan stuck in. There were a few darts at double that were bang on the wire. I had him. I had outscored him, outplayed him, made a mess of it and Nathan cleaned up; that’s the way it goes. We’ll see next year.
“Am I enjoying it? No. Am I a dart player? Yes. It’s like going to work. Do I want to go to work on a Monday morning? No I don’t, but I’ve enjoyed it I reckon the last two weeks. Even on Christmas Day I was throwing darts.
“I’ll play the Premier League. Back problems or not I don’t care now. If you mention it you get abuse. You get on with it, you play. I’ll play everything the PDC throws at me, except the European Tours.”
Anderson has a sizeable portion of prize money to defend next year, having captured UK Open and World Matchplay titles two years ago, finishing runner-up at the Grand Slam whilst also reaching the semi-finals at the Players Championship Finals and World Championship in 2018.
Nevertheless, there were signs of Anderson unleashing his heavy artillery, particularly in the early stages of the contest. The crucial factor was his lack of match-sharpness, which he appears intent on rectifying over the next 12 months.
Elsewhere, defending champion Michael van Gerwen breezed through to the quarter-finals with a comprehensive 4-0 success over an off-colour Stephen Bunting. The Dutchman averaged 104.09 and crashed in seven maximums to make it 11 consecutive sets at this year’s tournament.
Earlier in the evening, Gerwyn Price breezed past John Henderson 4-0 to bring the third round to a close in style. ‘The Iceman’ averaged 104.20, piled in seven maximums and converted 46% of his attempts at double to set up a last 16 showdown against former finalist Simon Whitlock.
‘The Wizard’ defeated Mervyn King 4-1 in the afternoon’s curtain-raiser, despite King claiming the opening five legs of the contest. However, the 2009 semi-finalist capitulated at key moments and Whitlock pounced to reach the last 16 for the first time in six years.
Chris Dobey ran out a 4-2 winner over history-maker Fallon Sherrock in round three to reach the last 16 for the second straight year. Sherrock hammered in three maximums in the first two legs and clinched the opening stanza after some profligate doubling from Dobey.
The 25-year-old converted finishes of 104, 142 and 124 and registered eight maximums, but it wasn’t enough to topple an impressive Dobey, who tightened up in the finishing department in the closing stages to close out a 4-2 triumph with a 101 average and 11 maximums.
‘Hollywood’ will take on three-time BDO world champion Glen Durrant for a place in the quarter-finals, after Durrant produced four ton-plus checkouts to dump out sixth seed Daryl Gurney, extending his winning run at the World Championship to 17 games in the process.
Photo Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC
William Hill World Darts Championship
Friday December 27
Afternoon Session (1230 GMT)
3x Third Round
Simon Whitlock 4-1 Mervyn King
Glen Durrant 4-2 Daryl Gurney
Chris Dobey 4-2 Fallon Sherrock
Evening Session (1900 GMT)
1x Third Round
Gerwyn Price 4-0 John Henderson
2x Fourth Round
Nathan Aspinall 4-2 Gary Anderson
Michael van Gerwen 4-0 Stephen Bunting