Jonny Clayton continued his blistering start to 2021 by claiming a second Players Championship title of the year on Thursday, defeating UK Open champion James Wade 8-5 in the final on day three of PDC Super Series 2.
Clayton emerged victorious in a battle of the two most recent televised title winners at the Marshall Arena, averaging 101.4 to scoop the £10,000 top prize at Players Championship Seven.
The Welshman has been in the form of his career since lifting the Masters title in January – he prevailed at Players Championship 4 in Bolton last month and was runner-up in two other events, to make it five finals in his last eight PDC tournaments.
‘The Ferret’ was the epitome of consistency throughout the afternoon, producing the solitary sub-par display yet still boasting an impressive 98.9 tournament average. He eased into the last 16 with a trio of 6-3 wins over Josh Payne, Jason Lowe and Steve Lennon, while also cruising past Ted Evetts in a scrappy affair.
This set up a quarter-final showdown against his fellow Premier League debutant Jose De Sousa, who led 4-2 having maintained a ton-plus tournament average throughout Thursday’s proceedings. Nevertheless, Clayton rallied superbly to deny ‘The Special One’, reeling off three successive 15-dart legs, followed by a 12-darter, to triumph.
The World Cup winner locked horns with new Tour Card holder Jason Heaver in the last four, after the 46-year-old claimed the scalps of Wednesday’s semi-finalist Jamie Hughes and Vincent van der Voort to seal a spot in his maiden Pro Tour semi-final. However, Heaver was whitewashed by a clinical Clayton, who averaged over 100 to sail through in style.
Clayton continued from where he left off against ‘The Machine’, extending his sequence of winning legs to 13 by claiming the opening two legs without reply. Wade halved the deficit in leg three, only to see Clayton extend his cushion with three consecutive legs – including a 116 checkout – to move 5-1 ahead.
The nine-time major winner responded by posting back-to-back 14-darters in a run of three straight legs to reduce the arrears to 5-4, although as the left-hander sat poised on 32 to restore parity at five apiece, Clayton converted a clinical 72 checkout to restore his buffer.
Wade fired in a fifth maximum and landed double four to cut the deficit to 6-5, but double eight edged Clayton clear once more, before the Welshman wrapped up yet another title with a 13-darter via double 12.
“It’s brilliant, I’m a happy man,” said Clayton, who was congratulated by Wade for his clutch doubling following the final. “James finishes brilliantly so for him to comment about my finishing, I’m a happy man – but I had to finish my last darts because James was there waiting. He kept coming back and I was nervous.
“I’m going to keep trying to get to finals. I’ve got confidence and consistency; my averages are quite high in the 90s and maybe in the 100s, and my confidence is flying with that kind of average. I take everything day by day, and hopefully it keeps going.”
Wade followed up Wednesday’s quarter-final appearance in Players Championship Six by reaching the decider 24 hours later during a high-quality day of his own, which began with a brace of ton-plus averages in wins over Ciaran Teehan and Wayne Jones respectively.
‘The Machine’ battled past Luke Humphries in round three, in a repeat of their recent UK Open final, before recovering from 5-2 adrift to dump out Australia’s Gordon Mathers, who had accounted for Krzysztof Ratajski in his opener. This set up a last-eight clash against Darius Labanauskas, who thrashed Raymond van Barneveld 6-1 en route to winning his board for a fifth straight day.
The Lithuanian posted a ton-plus average in a high-quality quarter-final tussle, although Wade’s experience paid dividends. Trailing 3-2, Wade fired in back-to-back 11-darters and kept his cool in the closing stages to prevail, before extending Gabriel Clemens’ wait for a first PDC ranking title by edging out ‘The German Giant’ in an attritional semi-final tussle.
Elsewhere, Winchester’s Chas Barstow, who narrowly missed out on a Tour Card, knocked out World Champion Gerwyn Price during his run to a first professional quarter-final, as he capitalised on earning a top-up place in the field as a PDPA Associate Member,
Van der Voort and Labanauskas continued their impressive starts to the new season by progressing to the last eight, while Mathers enjoyed his best run on the ProTour since winning his Tour Card as he reached the last 16.
Yet again, there were a number of high-profile casualties in the early stages on Thursday. Peter Wright was beaten in a last-leg shootout by Austria’s Rowby-John Rodriguez, despite recovering from 5-0 down to send the match into a decider. Glen Durrant also succumbed in a scrappy opener against Rodriguez’ compatriot Michael Rasztovits, while Dave Chisnall, Ian White and Adrian Lewis crashed out at the same stage.
Top seed Joe Cullen suffered his earliest exit on the Pro Tour in 2021, departing in round two at the hands of Ryan Murray, while Rob Cross and Nathan Aspinall were dumped out by the Belgian duo of Kim Huybrechts and Geert de Vos. Wednesday’s winner Gerwyn Price also bowed out in round two, alongside his Premier League colleagues Gary Anderson and Dimitri Van den Bergh.
Image Credit: Getty Images
2021 Players Championship 7
Thursday March 18, Marshall Arena, Milton Keynes
Darius Labanauskas 6-3 William Borland
James Wade 6-5 Gordon Mathers
Chas Barstow 6-5 Scott Mitchell
Gabriel Clemens 6-1 Michael Smith
Jose de Sousa 6-3 Jeff Smith
Jonny Clayton 6-3 Steve Lennon
Jason Heaver 6-1 Luke Woodhouse
Vincent van der Voort 6-2 Maik Kuivenhoven
James Wade 6-4 Darius Labanauskas
Gabriel Clemens 6-3 Chas Barstow
Jonny Clayton 6-4 Jose de Sousa
Jason Heaver 6-4 Vincent van der Voort
James Wade 7-5 Gabriel Clemens
Jonny Clayton 7-0 Jason Heaver
Jonny Clayton 8-5 James Wade