There will be a new champion crowned at the World Grand Prix on Monday night, after defending champion Michael van Gerwen succumbed to an inspired Simon Whitlock on a thrilling night of quarter-final action in Coventry.
Van Gerwen was bidding to win a sixth Grand Prix crown in nine years but the world No 1 was rendered helpless against ‘The Wizard’, who conjured up a magical display to record a straight sets win over the Dutchman.
Whitlock wasn’t even scheduled to feature in the double-start event, but he was called up as a late substitute for two-time world champion Adrian Lewis, who was ruled out after testing positive for Covid-19 upon his arrival at the Ricoh Arena.
The Australian has certainly grasped his opportunity with both hands – posting two-ton plus averages in three games to progress to the semi-finals, becoming just the third player alongside Van Gerwen and Phil Taylor to post a 100+ average over a best of five sets game in the double-start format.
Whitlock is one of two former finalists to feature in the semi-finals and having lost out to Daryl Gurney in the 2017 showpiece, the former European Championship winner will feel he’s got a wonderful chance to capture his second major PDC title.
“I think it’s one of my best performances and I’m delighted to be showing people what I can do,” said Whitlock following his win over MvG. “I was relentless and I didn’t let up, and I put Michael under pressure in every single leg.
“It was pretty flawless and there weren’t many bad darts there. I’m still on a freeroll but I’m good in this format and I showed my true potential tonight – 90 percent of my practice is doubles so it doesn’t surprise me.
“Michael’s the best player on the planet and he’s No 1 in the world for a reason. I beat him at the Matchplay when he wasn’t at his best but I thought he played well today and I was that little bit better. There’s no pressure on me. I’m on a freeroll and I’m taking my chances, and I feel amazing.”
Whitlock will take on debutant Dirk van Duijvenbode for a place in Monday’s final, with the Dutchman having rediscovered his sparkling early-season form to account for three major champions en route to progressing to his first major semi-final.
Van Duijvenbode limped to victory over three-time semi-finalist Mensur Suljovic in a scrappy opener, before producing a much-improved display to topple World Matchplay champion Dimitri Van den Bergh.
The mercurial 28-year-old has improved as the tournament has progressed, securing the biggest win of his career to dump out two-time world champion Gary Anderson in the quarter-finals – outplaying the Scot in every department.
The world No 73, who regained his PDC Tour Card in January, is now bidding to become the first Dutchman outside of Van Gerwen and Raymond van Barneveld to reach a major ranking final since 2007, and he was lost for words after dumping out the world No 9.
“It’s the best win of my career, I’m so happy. It feels awesome for me and I can’t believe it that I’m in the semi-finals,” Van Duijvenbode admitted. “I was the underdog against Mensur and Dimitri but I didn’t have the feeling that I could beat Gary because I’ve always been a big fan of his.
“I’ve never believed I could beat him before. I was very nervous when I went 2-0 up because I’ve never beaten Gary before but I kept believing in myself. Every time I progress I feel better and tonight I felt like I played my normal game.”
Sunday’s second semi-final will see two-time finalist Dave Chisnall lock horns with world No 3 Gerwyn Price, in a repeat of last year’s first round tie. Chisnall has recovered from 2-0 down in his previous two outings, whilst the Welshman has enjoyed relatively serene progression thus far.
Price is the only seed remaining in the competition and he’s relinquished the solitary set in reaching his first World Grand Prix semi-final, following up straight sets win over Jermaine Wattimena and Kim Huybrechts with a convincing 3-1 success over Jeffrey de Zwaan.
‘The Iceman’ has won 21 of his last 22 competitive games and despite enjoying limited success in this format over the last few years, he’s looked in control for the majority of the tournament and is now an emphatic favourite with the bookmakers to clinch his fourth major TV title.
“It was a good win and I’m happy that I’m still in,” said Price. “I enjoyed it but I was a bit patchy at times. I’ll need to improve to beat Dave. I’m the only seed left but you can’t take that for granted and I’ll just look forward to playing Dave, and hopefully I can win that.
“As long as I hit my starting doubles I can out-score most people. I was confident before the tournament but it’s going to be a tough game with Dave. I’ve won three out of the last four tournaments and hopefully I can make it four out of the last five.”
Chisnall boasts plenty of pedigree in this event and is aiming to reach the final for the second successive year, but he began his bid for an elusive first televised title with a sublime straight sets victory over Premier League table-topper Glen Durrant, averaging almost 103 in the process.
The St Helen’s star was forced to survive SEVEN match darts against Peter Wright’s conqueror Ryan Joyce in round two, having trailed 2-0 in sets, and he recovered from the same deficit to defeat Joe Cullen in a dramatic last eight clash on Saturday evening.
“I’m not making it easy for myself but I’m still here,” said Chisnall. “Last night I was a bit lucky but I felt I was the better player tonight. When I went 2-0 down I thought I was the better player and I was getting to the doubles first and not missing them by much.
“I should have been two nil up and I was really disappointed but I knew if I hit my doubles I could win because I was scoring well. I kept battling and I think I deserved to win. When I got a set back, I thought I was going to win again.
“I never give up and I’m here to do a job, and luckily for me I got through. I’m here to win it, and it’s up to the other players to stop me. I’ve got a great chance but I’ve still got to perform – hopefully I won’t go two sets down in the semi-finals too!”
Image Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC
2020 BoyleSports World Grand Prix
Saturday October 10
Dirk van Duijvenbode 3-1 Gary Anderson
Dave Chisnall 3-2 Joe Cullen
Simon Whitlock 3-0 Michael van Gerwen
Gerwyn Price 3-1 Jeffrey de Zwaan
Sunday October 11 (1900 BST)
Simon Whitlock v Dirk van Duijvenbode
Dave Chisnall v Gerwyn Price
Monday October 12 (2000 BST)
Whitlock/Van Duijvenbode v Chisnall/Price