Gerwyn Price clinched his first title as World Champion by defeating Luke Humphries 8-5 in Wednesday’s Players Championship Six final in Milton Keynes.
The Welshman has endured a low-key start to 2021 since his World Championship triumph on January 3, but he demonstrated his world No 1 credentials at the Marshall Arena to secure his tenth Players Championship title.
‘The Iceman’ performed magnificently throughout the day, registering six ton-plus averages and boasting a tournament average of 102.89 – the sixth highest for a Players Championship winner since the introduction of the Darts Connect system.
The 36-year-old came through several stern examinations in claiming the £10,000 top prize, though he kicked off proceedings with an emphatic 6-2 success against two-time major semi-finalist Chris Dobey.
The Welshman recovered from 5-3 down to defeat Andrew Gilding in a dramatic second-round clash, before breezing past Rowby-John Rodriguez 6-1 to book his place in the last 16. The world champion then recorded consecutive 6-3 wins over Scott Mitchell and Michael Smith, to set up a semi-final showdown against Tuesday’s winner Brendan Dolan.
The Northern Irishman almost celebrated St Patrick’s Day by scooping back-to-back Players Championship titles, extending his winning Pro Tour run to 12 games en route to the last four. However, he was unable to claim the scalp of Price for a second straight day, as the four-time major winner prevailed in a last-leg thriller, averaging 106.8 to Dolan’s 104.8 in a high-quality affair.
By contrast, Humphries was denied a maiden senior title on another pulsating day of action, although the UK Open runner-up continued his impressive form to reach a second ranking final in the space of ten days. ‘Cool Hand’ also emerged through a brutal section of the draw, defeating two world champions to progress to his first Players Championship final.
The 26-year-old began his campaign with a 6-4 victory over Raymond van Barneveld, reeling off five successive legs from 4-1 down to dump out the five-time world champion, before holding his nerve to dump out Ian White in a deciding-leg, despite ‘The Diamond’ posting a ton-plus average.
Humphries stormed into the last 16 with a comprehensive 6-1 success against Gordon Mathers, which he followed up with a first career victory over world No 3 Peter Wright – averaging 101.8 in the process. He wasn’t done there however, as he secured a semi-final berth with a convincing 6-2 win over Dirk van Duijvenbode, who was condemned to a quarter-final exit for the second time in as many days.
In the last four, Humphries was pitted against former European Tour winner Jamie Hughes, who performed magnificently as he continued his return from shoulder surgery. ‘Yozza’ defeated the likes of Mensur Suljovic and Mervyn King en route to the semi-finals, but he was beaten in dramatic fashion; squandering a match dart before ‘Cool Hand’ sealed the deal with a spectacular 122 kill on the bull.
Wednesday’s showpiece saw the pair trade 12 and 13-dart breaks in a lively start to the contest, before Humphries closed out a scrappy hold of throw after both men squandered multiple opportunities at double. Price responded with consecutive 12-dart legs to regain the initiative, yet Humphries remained undeterred; converting a two-dart 79 combination to restore parity at three apiece.
Nevertheless, Price soon established total control courtesy of a blistering four-leg spell which saw him reel off successive legs in 14, 13, 15 and 13 darts to move to the brink of victory.
Humphries stopped the rot with a tidy 13-dart hold and conjured up a sublime 126 finish on the bull to reduce the arrears to 7-5, but this simply delayed the inevitable, as the Welshman followed up a stunning visit of 174 by nailing double ten to claim Wednesday’s title.
“I’m enjoying darts and playing well,” admitted Price. “Every game I play is really tough because everyone’s raising their game against me. It brings the best out of me and it’s another win for me, so hopefully I can push on from here and pick up a couple more.
“I’ve been playing pretty decent – sometimes I miss a couple of doubles, if you give people chances they’re going to take them and Brendan did exactly that yesterday. Obviously everyone’s out to beat you and I’ve got a big target on my back, but it’s nice to get another win under my belt. I’m playing well but people are playing well against me as well.”
While Price was left to celebrate his tenth Players Championship crown, a number of big names suffered early exits in Milton Keynes. Nathan Aspinall succumbed to Ritchie Edhouse in an extraordinary opener despite averaging over 107, while the Premier League trio of Rob Cross, Jose De Sousa, Dimitri Van den Bergh and two-time world champion Adrian Lewis crashed out at the same stage.
Krzysztof Ratajski was another surprise first-round casualty, while World Championship finalist Gary Anderson and Premier League champion Glen Durrant were beaten in the second round by the Dutch duo of Van Duijvenbode and Gino Vos respectively.
Elsewhere, Devon Petersen posted a tournament average of over 104 before succumbing to Van Duijvenbode in round three, top seed Joe Cullen was denied by Dolan for the second day in succession, while Dutchman Niels Zonneveld claimed his first Pro Tour wins since regaining his Tour Card; defeating Cross and Dave Chisnall before bowing out in the quarter-finals.
Image Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC
2021 Players Championship 6
Wednesday March 17, Marshall Arena, Milton Keynes
Brendan Dolan 6-5 Joe Cullen
James Wade 6-4 Jason Heaver
Michael Smith 6-2 Gino Vos
Gerwyn Price 6-3 Scott Mitchell
Niels Zonneveld 6-3 Darius Labanauskas
Jamie Hughes 6-4 Mervyn King
Luke Humphries 6-4 Peter Wright
Dirk van Duijvenbode 6-3 Karel Sedlacek
Brendan Dolan 6-3 James Wade
Gerwyn Price 6-3 Michael Smith
Jamie Hughes 6-4 Niels Zonneveld
Luke Humphries 6-2 Dirk van Duijvenbode
Gerwyn Price 7-6 Brendan Dolan
Luke Humphries 7-6 Jamie Hughes
Gerwyn Price 8-5 Luke Humphries