Michael van Gerwen’s defence of the bwin World Series of Darts Finals title came to a premature end as he suffered a 6-4 loss to Glen Durrant on Saturday, as Durrant extended his unbeaten record over the world No 1 on the big stage.
Van Gerwen claimed his first win over ‘Duzza’ at the fifth attempt at last week’s Autumn Series, but the Middlesbrough man was unbeaten in his three previous televised clashes against ‘The Green Machine’ and he extended that record with a clinical display in Salzburg.
Van Gerwen had travelled to Austria looking to claim a fifth World Series Finals crown, but he was eliminated at the first hurdle following a high-quality tie with Durrant, which saw both players average 102.
Little could separate the pair for eight legs, with both missing chances to break with attempts at ton-plus finishes before Durrant finally seized the initiative with a 68 checkout to move 5-4 up.
Van Gerwen had a chance to break back in leg ten, but a miss at tops to force a decider was suitably punished, as the three-time Lakeside world champion stepped up to pin the same target to complete a fourth career win in six meetings against the Dutchman.
“That’s a great win for me,” said Durrant, who now meets James Wade in the quarter-finals. “I felt good tonight and I knew what was at stake – I realised I was playing the best player in the world.
“He’s the biggest challenge in the world right now and the second greatest player who’s ever picked up a set of darts. My CV compared to him is a million miles away – I think I’ve got an issue in his head, and that could be with the pace, but that’s something he has to deal with, not me.
“I know I’m a good player but this has all come really quickly. I’ve got to be really proud and I believe I’m up there with the best double hitters in the world right now. I’m in a fantastic place right now.”
Wade kicked off his bid for a second World Series of Darts Finals title in three years with a 6-3 defeat of Canada’s Jeff Smith. ‘The Silencer’ recovered from 5-1 down to defeat Fallon Sherrock on Friday and he started strongly, sharing the opening two legs.
The Canadian also converted checkouts of 123 and 111, but Wade, who produced a ton-plus finish of his own in leg six, pulled clear midway through the contest to close out a comfortable victory with a 97 average.
“It was quite nice to play in front of a crowd, it was good fun,” said the number eight seed. “Perhaps the break has done me the world of good in some ways, and I’m grateful to be back.”
Nathan Aspinall cruised into the quarter-finals with a 6-1 demolition of Lithuania’s Darius Labanauskas, averaging 101 and affording Labanauskas the solitary dart at double.
Aspinall drew first blood with a 14-darter, before doubling his lead with a delightful 142 checkout. ‘The Asp’ continued the procession with an 11-darter, only for Labanauskas to stop the rot with a clinical 72 kill on tops.
However, the Premier League semi-finalist restored his three-leg buffer, before storming to the finishing line after following up a 13-darter with a 100 finish, setting up a last eight clash against Gerwyn Price.
“I played well and I’m into the final day,” said Aspinall. “I used the five days in Germany as preparation for this weekend and I want to do the job – my target is to win it this weekend. I love playing in front of the crowd and the fans make the sport so good.
“We’ve missed them and tonight was special – I loved every minute of it. I was looking forward to it so much to play in front of people again. It felt like my TV debut again, I had butterflies before I walked on, and it’s one of the most enjoyable games I’ve played in my career.”
Price’s bid to win a third successive tournament began in emphatic fashion as the world number three averaged 102 in a 6-3 win over Vincent van der Voort, who whitewashed Joe Cullen in his opener on Friday.
Price secured an early break of throw and after the pair traded 13-darters midway through proceedings, the Welshman upped the ante, producing a stylish 124 finish which was soon followed by a 14-dart leg which sealed his progression.
“I was under pressure all the way through the game but I stuck to my game and got over the winning line,” said Price. “It’s nice to have the crowd back, I was enjoying it and it was a bit different. It was a little bit jittery in parts but I enjoyed it.”
Rob Cross breezed through to the quarter-finals in his first televised outing since suffering Premier League elimination, punishing an off-colour display from Steve Beaton to complete a whitewash success.
‘Voltage’ denied Beaton a dart at a double in the opening five legs, finishing 90 in leg one and a 12-darter in the third, before punishing four misses from the former Lakeside Champion to close out the win, averaging 90 compared to Beaton’s 75.
“I feel really good,” said Cross. “I’ve changed my set-up and my practice game is so much better than I showed tonight, but I’m glad to get the win. “I enjoyed it. It was a little bit weird with Steve not playing his best, but it was amazing to have the crowd again. I can look forward to tomorrow now.”
The former world champion will meet Michael Smith for a place in Sunday evening’s semi-finals, after ‘Bully Boy’ reeled off three consecutive legs to battle past Krzysztof Ratajski. ‘The Polish Eagle’ dumped out home favourite Mensur Suljovic on Friday, but Smith proved too strong.
The St Helen’s star was plagued by double trouble in the opening exchanges, but Smith – who registered three maximums, fired in back-to-back 14-darters to close out a 6-4 success, averaging almost 96 to claim a second straight televised win over the former World Master.
Peter Wright impressed as he saw off the challenge of Australian ace Damon Heta, who collected his first PDC ranking title at last week’s Autumn Series. ‘Snakebite’ was critical of his display, but he still averaged over 101, crashed in four maximums and converted 60% of his attempts at double.
The Scot enjoyed a strong start, finishing 70, 68 on the bull and double 16 as he took the first three legs to move halfway to victory. Heta won three of the next five, but Wright followed up legs of 14 and 12 darts with a 13-darter as he wrapped up victory with a 101 average.
“It was okay – I wanted to go up and do better than that, but to get the win was the most important thing,” said Wright. “It was amazing to have the fans back. I interacted with the crowd and they were fantastic.”
Wright will meet his Premier League colleague Daryl Gurney in the quarter-finals, after ‘Super Chin’ also impressed in toppling Cody Harris. The Northern Irishman endured a tough Premier League campaign, but he was in control throughout against Harris, averaging 102 to prevail.
The two-time World Series finalist produced checkouts of 107 and 124, landed two 14-darters and a 13-dart leg as he opened up a 5-2 lead, before ending the New Zealander’s hopes on tops in leg eight.
“I played well tonight, and as long as you’re winning that’s all that matters,” said Gurney. “I’ve got to get used to playing in front of a crowd again, tonight there was an extra incentive because you want to go out there and put in a performance.”
Image: Lawrence Lustig/PDC
2020 bwin World Series of Darts Finals
Saturday September 19 (2000 local time, 1900 BST)
8x Second Round games
James Wade 6-3 Jeff Smith
Nathan Aspinall 6-1 Darius Labanauskas
Daryl Gurney 6-2 Cody Harris
Gerwyn Price 6-3 Vincent van der Voort
Rob Cross 6-0 Steve Beaton
Peter Wright 6-3 Damon Heta
Glen Durrant 6-4 Michael van Gerwen
Michael Smith 6-4 Krzysztof Ratajski
Sunday September 20
Afternoon Session (1245 local time, 1145 BST)
Peter Wright v Daryl Gurney
Gerwyn Price v Nathan Aspinall
Glen Durrant v James Wade
Michael Smith v Rob Cross
Best of 19 legs
Evening Session (2015 local time, 1915 BST)
Wright/Gurney v Price/Aspinall
Durrant/Wade v Smith/Cross
Best of 21 legs