Nathan Aspinall produced a series of incredible performances to win the second Players Championship event of 2020, landing a nine-dart finish against world champion Peter Wright before sweeping aside Gerwyn Price 8-3 to claim his fourth PDC title on a record-breaking afternoon in Barnsley.
Aspinall is riding the crest of a wave at present – featuring in his debut Premier League campaign fresh from reaching a second straight World Championship semi-final in December, and he maintained his fine form to scoop the £10,000 top prize on Sunday at the Barnsley Metrodome.
It’s remarkable to think that less than 18 months ago Aspinall was ranked outside the world’s top 80, but he’s since enjoyed a meteoric rise and he further underlined his status as one of the world’s premier players with his latest triumph.
The 28-year-old boasted a supreme tournament average of 102, although his performance against Snakebite inevitably stole the headlines. Their combined match average of 115.59 is the highest on record – with seven of the ten legs won in 12 darts or less.
Having beaten the world No 2, Aspinall then defeated world No 3 Price to clinch his second Pro Tour title, averaging 101.30, firing in three maximums and boasting a checkout success rate of over 50% to register his first title since winning the U.S Masters in July.
The UK Open champion secured the early initiative with back-to-back 15-darters, until Price halved the deficit with a vital 66 checkout on tops. The next two legs were shared, before Aspinall regained his two-leg buffer with a clinical 93 kill, after ‘The Iceman’ had missed two darts to level.
Price was left to rue another near miss in leg seven, wiring the bullseye for a skin-saving 161 checkout and Aspinall capitalised in clinical fashion, reeling off three consecutive legs in 11, 14 and 12 darts to move to the cusp of victory at 7-2.
Aspinall’s 81 outshot for the aforementioned 12-darter in leg nine was replicated by Price moments later, although it didn’t spark an inspired fightback from the Grand Slam champion, as Aspinall continued his ruthless finishing by wrapping up victory with a 68 checkout via tops.
Aspinall, who kicked off his Premier League campaign with victory over John Henderson on Thursday, eased past Carl Wilkinson in his opener on Sunday, before battling past Peter Jacques – a whitewash winner over Max Hopp in his first round tussle.
‘The Asp’ came back off the canvas to defeat former World Youth champion Keegan Brown in his third round clash, where he trailed 5-3. However, the former World Youth finalist posted back-to-back 12-darters before firing in a 16-darter in the decider to seal his progression.
The world No 8 then defeated an impressive Jason Lowe to reach the last eight, after Lowe had seen off Dave Chisnall with a ton-plus average in his previous encounter. This set up a tantalising quarter-final tussle against Peter Wright, in one of the greatest Pro Tour games ever staged.
Aspinall ran out a 6-4 winner with a staggering 117.50 average, having landed a nine-dart finish in the penultimate leg. Wright averaged 113.70 and the pair’s combined average of 115.59 is the highest in PDC history, with the winning legs coming in 11, 17, 12, 13, 14, 12, 12, 11, 9 and 12 darts.
The Stockport star continued his blistering form in the semi-finals against Gabriel Clemens. ‘The German Giant’ defeated Jelle Klaasen, Stephen Bunting, James Wade and Jamie Hughes to reach the last four, but he suffered a 7-0 drubbing despite averaging 99.70 to Aspinall’s 103.20.
Price’s route to the final wasn’t quite as serene, as the Welshman survived NINE match darts in his first round meeting against Toni Alcinas. The two-time major winner then followed up a convincing win over John Michael by whitewashing Ryan Joyce to cruise into round four.
‘The Iceman’ locked horns with Michael Smith in the last 16, ahead of their impending Premier League clash in Nottingham on Thursday. There was little to choose between the pair throughout but Price edged home 6-5, before averaging 106.10 to whitewash Mickey Mansell in the last eight.
The world No 3 faced Dirk van Duijvenbode in the semi-finals, with the Dutchman appearing in his first PDC ranking semi-final after only regaining his Tour Card last month. Nevertheless, Price reeled off four consecutive legs from 4-3 down to deny ‘The Titan’ and reach Sunday’s showpiece.
Elsewhere, Lisa Ashton secured her first win on the Pro Tour with a superb 6-3 victory over Germany’s Christian Bunse. ‘The Lancashire Rose’ averaged 100.30 and registered winning legs of 14, 15, 12, 15, 16 and 12, before succumbing 6-2 to a proficient Darius Labanauskas in round two.
Yesterday’s winner Gary Anderson exited at the first hurdle after being edged out by the veteran Steve Beaton, whilst Rob Cross and Simon Whitlock also bowed out at the same stage, losing out to Labanauskas and Ryan Joyce respectively.
Daryl Gurney suffered a narrow reverse against Saturday’s finalist Jeff Smith in round two, as three-time BDO world champion Glen Durrant suffered a crushing 6-1 defeat to eventual semi-finalist Van Duijvenbode in the third round.
Ian White also lost out in his board final against new Tour Card holder and former Grand Slam winner Scott Waites, despite averaging over 106, whilst world No 1 Michael van Gerwen crashed out at the hands of Jamie Hughes in the last 16, having lost to Brendan Dolan in the last 32 on Saturday.
There were a record 49 nine-dart finishes recorded on the PDC circuit last year and 2020 could prove to be another landmark campaign in that respect. Mickey Mansell and Mike van Duivenbode landed perfect legs on Saturday and there were THREE more produced on Sunday.
Aspinall achieved the feat in his scintillating 6-4 triumph against world champion Wright, whilst Keegan Brown wrapped up his first round win over Krzysztof Kciuk with a nine-darter. Scott Baker also joined the party, but his nine-darter came during a narrow 6-5 defeat to Danny Noppert.
Photo Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC