James Wade clinched his third UK Open title with an 11-5 victory over Luke Humphries on a thrilling Finals Day in Milton Keynes on Sunday.
Wade saw off Simon Whitlock, Gerwyn Price and Humphries to land his tenth televised title at the Marshall Arena, becoming just the second man in PDC history to secure a major ranking title in three different decades, and the third to reach double figures in terms of individual major honours.
‘The Machine’ defeated Gary Mawson and Wes Newton to win his first two UK Open crowns in 2008 and 2011 respectively, and ten years on from his last triumph at the ‘FA Cup of Darts’, Wade rolled back the years to secure his first televised title since October 2018.
The 37-year-old was controversially omitted from this year’s Premier League despite reaching finals at the European Championship and Grand Slam of Darts, but his latest success moves him up to fourth on the Order of Merit, as he becomes the highest-ranked Englishman in world darts.
The final was more competitive than the scoreline may suggest, but Humphries’ profligacy on the outer ring was the decisive factor. The Newbury ace was only able to convert 20% of his attempts at double and he was suitably punished by Wade, who triumphed with a 102.5 average.
Nevertheless, it was a breakthrough weekend for ‘Cool Hand’, who like Wade has also overcome significant adversity over recent years. The 26-year-old pockets £40,000 for reaching his first major final, which sees him climb up eight places to 33rd on the PDC Order of Merit.
The pair traded holds in a nervy start which saw both men squander break opportunities, but Wade soon established control by claiming three legs on the spin to lead 4-1 at the first interval.
‘The Machine’ took out a sublime 150 checkout in leg three to hold throw with Humphries sat on tops after 12 darts, before he capitalised on six missed darts at double from the two-time Premier League challenger across the next two legs.
Humphries had missed 12 of his 13 attempts at double in a dramatic opening session, but he stopped the rot via tops after Wade missed the same target for a 104 combination in leg six. Nevertheless, the left-hander soon restored his three-leg buffer, courtesy of a clinical 82 outshot.
The pair then exchanged commanding 13-dart holds as Wade stretched his lead to 6-3, but a crucial tenth leg went the way of the Aldershot ace, as Humphries went high on tops for a 112 checkout which would have reduced the arrears to 6-4.
The two-time World Championship quarter-finalist continued to battle valiantly and produced glimpses of brilliance; firing in an 11-darter and taking a classy 105 kill to cut the deficit to 9-5, although any hope of a comeback was curtailed when he squandered three at double in leg 15.
Wade duly capitalised to move to the brink of victory via double eight, and he wasted no time in wrapping up his tenth major televised crown. The 37-year-old crashed in his fifth 180 to leave 24 after 12 darts against throw; nailing double three with his last dart to scoop the £100,000 top prize.
“Luke is quality and he’s a gentleman. He’s a force to be reckoned with, ” Wade told ITV4. “I’ve won TV titles over three decades and I want more, I’m greedy. It’s a lovely place to be when you’re winning, I’m enjoying it again and in the last few months I think I’ve reinvented myself.”
It wasn’t all serene progress for Wade however, as he kicked off the day with a dramatic comeback win over Whitlock. ‘The Wizard’ crashed in eight 180s to lead 8-5, but he was left to rue missed opportunities as Wade reeled off five straight legs to prevail; with the help of crucial 147 and 82 finishes.
This set up a semi-final showdown against world No 1 Price, who triumphed in a dramatic deciding-leg clash against Devon Petersen to seal a spot in his third straight UK Open semi-final on his 36th birthday. However, it proved to be an evening to forget for ‘The Iceman’.
The Welshman was punished for an abject start as Wade stormed into a 5-0 lead at the first interval, and although the world champion made inroads in the second half of the contest, ‘The Machine’ closed out a comprehensive 11-6 victory to progress to his 24th PDC televised final.
Featuring in just his third major ranking quarter-final, Humphries secured his first career victory over Dave Chisnall at the sixth attempt in an absorbing quarter-final. ‘Cool Hand’ surrendered an early 5-2 advantage, only to rally superbly from 9-7 adrift to stun five-time major finalist Chizzy.
The former World Youth champion was pitted against three-time UK Open champion Michael van Gerwen in Sunday evening’s semi-finals, with the world No 2 defying a spirited display from Krzysztof Ratajski to complete a 10-7 success.
Nevertheless, ‘The Green Machine’ was rendered helpless as Humphries produced the performance of his life. The 26-year-old averaged 107.4 and converted four ton-plus checkouts to run out a resounding 11-5 winner, despite MvG averaging 106 and hitting three ton-plus finishes of his own.
Image Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC
2021 Ladbrokes UK Open
Sunday March 7
James Wade 10-8 Simon Whitlock
Gerwyn Price 10-9 Devon Petersen
Luke Humphries 10-9 Dave Chisnall
Michael van Gerwen 10-7 Krzysztof Ratajski
James Wade 11-6 Gerwyn Price
Luke Humphries 11-5 Michael van Gerwen
James Wade 11-5 Luke Humphries