Callan Rydz clinched his first senior PDC ranking title at Players Championship Two on Friday, defeating Masters champion Jonny Clayton in a pulsating last-leg shootout.
The talented North-East star produced a string of impressive performances to pocket the £10,000 top prize on day two of the Super Series in Bolton, as Clayton suffered his second last-leg defeat in a final in as many days.
Appearing in his maiden senior PDC final, Rydz drew first blood in a scrappy opener, but Clayton quickly seized control, following up a 13-dart hold with a delightful 121 checkout on the bull en route to establishing a 3-1 cushion.
Rydz rattled off three straight legs of his own to seize the initiative, yet Clayton stopped the rot with a timely 13-darter to level up proceedings at four apiece.
‘The Riot’ regained the initiative by following up a comfortable hold with a third 180 and a 14-dart break to lead 6-4, but after missing the bull to move to the brink of victory, he was suitably punished by the Welshman, who converted clinical 62 and 82 finishes for back-to-back 15-darters.
Clayton – a permanent fixture in this year’s Premier League – made it three legs on the spin with a brilliant 84 kill for a 12-darter to move a leg away from the title, although the drama wasn’t finished there.
The 46-year-old appeared on the cusp of completing an 8-6 victory after leaving 84 after 12 darts on throw – only to miss one match dart at the bull. Rydz capitalised by hitting the same target to round off a stunning 127 combination, before producing a nerveless 87 finish via D9 to seal the deal.
“It feels amazing, wow! I played well all day to be fair, I took my chances when I got them. That 127 in the final was massive. My heart is still going now! I felt confident all day,” Rydz told the PDC’s Dan Dawson.
“I think last year I was losing those tight games 6-5 and now I’m a bit more experienced and I’m happy with the way I played today. I’ve just been consistent,” added the Bedlington arrowsmith.
Rydz was the epitome of consistency throughout the afternoon in Bolton, although he survived match darts in three of his games, including a thrilling first round clash against Russia’s Boris Koltsov; which saw him prevail with a 102.7 average.
The 22-year-old emerged victorious in a hard-fought battle against Ross Smith before surviving another match dart in the penultimate leg of his third round clash against Alan Soutar, who posted consecutive 105 averages to continue his magnificent start to life on the Pro Tour.
‘The Riot’ then lived up to his nickname to breeze through to the last four, whitewashing Jeff Smith and sweeping aside Ian White for the loss of the solitary leg to reach his second PDC ranking semi-final.
The Geordie was pitted against former UK Open winner Nathan Aspinall, who made it back-to-back semi-finals to kick off his 2021 ranking season. However, ‘The Asp’ was punished for a below-par display as Rydz ran out a comprehensive 7-2 winner to book his place in a first senior PDC final.
For the second day in succession, Clayton was denied a sixth PDC title in a dramatic last-leg decider, but the full-time plasterer maintained his fabulous start to 2021; posting four ton-plus averages to take his tally for the Super Series to £12,000.
‘The Ferret’ got his campaign underway with a routine win over World Youth champion Bradley Brooks, before relinquishing four legs across his next three matches – posting 100+ averages to account for Mike De Decker, Luc Peters and Michael van Gerwen.
Clayton defeated Van Gerwen en route to lifting the Masters title last month, and the World Cup of Darts holder produced another imperious display to dispatch the world No 2 – closing out a dominant 6-1 success with a 102 average.
The Welshman saw off Mensur Suljovic with another ton-topping average to set up a semi-final meeting with Vincent van der Voort, who performed superbly to register his first semi-final appearance since 2019. However, Clayton came through a scrappy affair to seal a place in Friday’s showpiece.
Elsewhere, world No 3 Peter Wright was condemned to an opening round exit at the hands of fellow Scot Alan Soutar, who defied a 106 average from the 2020 world champion to register his third victory over a world-class operator in the space of 24 hours.
Wright’s Premier League colleagues Rob Cross, Jose De Sousa and Dimitri Van den Bergh also bowed out in round one, while world No 1 Gerwyn Price suffered a shock second round defeat to Aaron Beeney, who advanced to the last 32 of a Pro Tour event for the first time in his PDC career.
Glen Durrant was whitewashed by emerging Irishman Ciaran Teehan in round two, while James Wade, Michael Smith, Daryl Gurney and Adrian Lewis departed at the same stage. Lewis landed a nine-darter in his clash against Jeff Smith, only for the Canadian to win through in a last-leg thriller.
Raymond van Barneveld claimed his first Pro Tour victory since returning to the professional circuit, fighting back from 5-2 down to defeat Scotland’s Ryan Murray in his opener. However, Van Barneveld was edged out in a high-quality second round tussle by his Dutch compatriot Danny Noppert.
Gary Anderson was beaten in the last 16 for the second straight afternoon, succumbing 6-3 to Ian White. Van Gerwen crashed out at the same stage, as did Thursday’s winner Joe Cullen, who was convincingly beaten by an impressive Steve Beaton.
John Michael was arguably the tournament’s surprise package. The Greek World Cup captain defeated Ryan Searle, Ryan Meikle, Beeney and Martin Schindler to reach his first Pro Tour quarter-final, until his fairy-tale run was curtailed by world No 5 Aspinall.
Image Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC