Ryan Searle defeated four Premier League stars en route to winning his first PDC ranking title on Saturday afternoon in Wigan, prevailing at Players Championship Three courtesy of a dramatic 8-6 win over Michael van Gerwen.
The Somerset star was a huge underdog against Premier League table topper Van Gerwen, who was bidding to register his first ranking title of 2020 at the fourth attempt. Searle had other ideas however, averaging 97.10 and crashing in five maximums to prevail at the Robin Park Tennis Centre.
Searle enjoyed the perfect start, taking out 84 for an immediate break of throw before swiftly doubling his lead with a 14-darter on tops. Van Gerwen’s sloppy start continued in leg three – missing the big number to deprive himself of a dart at double as Searle pinned tops for a 3-0 cushion.
Nevertheless, Van Gerwen came back off the canvas to defeat Chris Dobey and also recovered from an early deficit against Peter Wright and history appeared to be repeating itself after Searle wired the bullseye for a 124 outshot, which would have created a four-leg buffer.
Van Gerwen opened his account with a clinical 81 combination for a 12-dart break and suddenly an 80 finish followed by 16 and 13-dart legs saw him move 4-3 ahead. Searle stopped the rot with a crucial 78 kill on tops to level, only to be dealt another blow in the ninth leg.
The 32-year-old produced a terrific scoring leg to leave 82 after nine darts but wasn’t afforded an opportunity as MvG conjured up a devastating 164 checkout to lead 5-4, only for the pendulum to swing once more courtesy of three missed darts across two legs from the world number one.
Having broken throw in leg eleven, Searle immediately relinquished the advantage, yet he remained undeterred. He followed up a delightful 171 set-up shot by pinning double six to move to the cusp of victory at 7-6, before landing a fifth maximum and nailing tops for a 13-dart clincher.
The Somerset star was appearing in just his second PDC ranking final and he performed with tremendous consistency throughout the afternoon at the Robin Park Tennis Centre to secure the £10,000 top prize, failing to average below 93 in any of his seven outings.
‘Heavy Metal’ kicked off proceedings by reeling off five consecutive legs from 4-1 down to defeat world number three Gerwyn Price, which he backed up with convincing victories over Michael Barnard and Josh Payne respectively.
Having averaged 96 in his opening three clashes, Searle then saw off world number five Michael Smith with a 97 average, before claiming the scalp of three-time BDO world champion Glen Durrant in the quarter-finals, taking out a nerveless 68 checkout in a last-leg decider.
Jeffrey de Zwaan was Searle’s semi-final opponent, with ‘The Black Cobra’ seeing off compatriots Jan Dekker, Wesley Harms, Vincent van der Voort and Danny Noppert. However, Searle produced his best performance of the day to down the Dutchman 7-5, averaging 101.30 and posting six 180’s.
It’s an incredible story for Searle, who often cannot see where his darts land due to the severity of his blurred vision, a condition know as astigmatism. Nevertheless, he’s demonstrated his pedigree in the World Championship over recent years and this is further evidence of his prodigious talent.
The day ended in frustration for Van Gerwen, who outlined his intentions with a 107 average in a dominant first round win over Yordi Meeuwisse. The 30-year-old then battled past William Borland in a scrappy affair, before surviving three match darts to edge out Ryan Joyce in a decider.
‘The Green Machine’ faced his second Dutchman of the afternoon and once again he raised his game against a fellow countryman – averaging 104.60 to defeat Dirk van Duijvenbode 6-2, as van Duijvenbode enjoyed another encouraging run after featuring in his first PDC semi-final last week.
Van Gerwen survived a major scare in the last eight, recovering from 5-2 down to defeat Premier League ‘challenger’ Dobey. ‘Hollywood’ started superbly but struggled in the closing stages, as MvG reeled off four consecutive legs in 12, 14, 14 and 13 darts to complete the comeback.
This set up a semi-final showdown against Wright – in a repeat of last month’s World Championship finale. MvG gained partial revenge for his Alexandra Palace defeat by edging out ‘Snakebite’ on the opening night of this year’s Premier League, and he repeated the feat in Wigan.
Wright had seen off Adrian Lewis and Joe Cullen with 104 and 108 averages, but after establishing a 2-0 buffer against MvG, missed doubles cost the Scot and Van Gerwen won seven of the last eight legs to triumph with a 101.30 average. However, his wait for a first title of 2020 continues.
Elsewhere, the Premier League trio of Price, Rob Cross and Daryl Gurney were all condemned to opening round exits. Price and Cross suffered 6-4 defeats against Searle and Scott Baker respectively, whilst Gurney’s disappointing form continued as he succumbed to John Michael.
Players Championship One winner Gary Anderson was unable to complete a stirring fightback against Harms, bowing out 6-5 having trailed 5-1, whilst James Wade and Ian White departed at the same stage at the hands of Darren Webster and Max Hopp.
Four-time women’s world champion Lisa Ashton reached the third round in just her third Pro Tour appearance. ‘The Lancashire Rose’ defeated two-time World Youth champion Dimitri Van den Bergh with a 96 average before battling past Adam Hunt, only to succumb to Krzysztof Ratajski in the L32.
Meanwhile, the nine-darters are flying in with increasing regularity. There were five hit during last weekend’s double-header and after Steve West landed his first perfect leg on the PDC circuit in Friday’s European Tour qualifiers, there were a further two fired in on Saturday.
Mensur Suljovic conjured up the nine in the penultimate leg of his first round clash against Jeff Smith, which saw him recover from 5-2 down to oust ‘The Silencer’. Elsewhere, Danny Noppert produced the perfect leg in the opening stages of his second round win over Andy Boulton.
Photo Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC