Chris Dobey claimed his maiden PDC ranking title in remarkable fashion to defeat Jose De Sousa in Tuesday’s Players Championship 18 final in Coventry on Tuesday, to put himself in the provisional World Matchplay qualification places.
‘Hollywood’ produced a series of sublime performances to advance to his fifth ranking final, although he appeared poised to miss out on silverware yet again after relinquishing 3-0 and 4-1 leads against top seed De Sousa.
Nevertheless, having recovered to lead 7-6, ‘The Special One’ incredibly squandered eight match darts in the final two legs and Dobey duly capitalised to scoop the £10,000 top prize and keep his World Matchplay qualification hopes firmly alive, with just two events remaining before the cut-off.
The 31-year-old posted a 105 average as he kicked off his campaign with a thumping 6-1 victory over Jeff Smith, before defying a 106 average from UK Open finalist Luke Humphries to close out a convincing 6-2 success.
The Bedlington star survived match darts as he rallied from 5-3 adrift to defeat William Borland, before setting up a quarter-final showdown against Stephen Bunting courtesy of a 6-3 win over Premier League champion Jonny Clayton.
Dobey fired in a 105.64 average to defeat Bunting 6-5 in an absorbing contest that saw all 11 legs go with throw, sealing his progression with a 12-darter in the decider. He then recovered from 3-1 down to defeat Dutchman Maik Kuivenhoven – appearing in his first Pro Tour semi-final – averaging 107.33 in another last-leg epic.
Dobey made a blistering start to Tuesday’s showpiece, racing into a 3-0 lead in just 43 darts. De Sousa responded emphatically however, registering legs of 11, 11, 12 and 14 darts to restore parity at four apiece, before a clinical 96 kill, followed by a second 12-darter, saw the Man O’Scores establish a 6-5 cushion.
‘Hollywood’ secured an instant break back via double two, but the pendulum shifted once more as De Sousa conjured up a majestic 122 checkout to move to the cusp of his fourth ranking title in 2021.
However, the Grand Slam champion missed double 18 and spurned a further three darts at double nine in the next leg as Dobey forced a last-leg decider, before De Sousa fluffed his lines with four more championship darts – having missed the bull for a 170 finish.
Dobey also missed two opportunities at tops, but having been afforded another reprieve, he regained his poise to complete the biggest win of his career.
“To finally get a title means the world,” said Dobey. “I’m happy with today – I’ve played solid all day. I’ve played in local competitions and last-leg deciders have been my game, and I’ve proven it today. I was down and out against Willie Borland, same against Stephen Bunting.
“I don’t think I’ve ever lost against Jose – I’ve got a great record. I’ve never been so nervous in my life going for those doubles [at the end of the final]. They weren’t far away but he missed doubles, he probably should have won but I’ve done it now.
“I’ve had the experience of being in finals before but I haven’t got over that winning line. I’ve said for a long time now that once I get that first one then hopefully I can get some more under my belt.”
“I was a mile out before this week. I’ve been playing well for quite a few months and had no luck whatsoever. It will be amazing to play in front of fans again – I think that’s what everybody’s missing. Hopefully I can keep performing like I did today, and who knows.”
De Sousa was left to rue his profligacy in the latter stages of Tuesday’s showpiece, but he profited from some good fortune in his semi-final clash against Ryan Searle, surviving three match darts from ‘Heavy Metal’ and taking out 152 and 107 checkouts to triumph from 6-4 behind.
The 47-year-old also edged out Darius Labanauskas in a last-leg thriller, but he was dominant in his other clashes – surrendering a total of six legs in wins over Mervyn King, Steve Lennon, Jelle Klaasen and Adam Gawlas.
Searle was denied by De Sousa in the latter stages for a second consecutive Super Series, but the Somerset star all but sealed his World Matchplay qualification with a series of sensational displays in Coventry.
Having averaged 104 in his second-round win over Andy Boulton, the 33-year-old then claimed the scalp of Michael van Gerwen to reach the last 16, before he posted consecutive 110 and 111 averages to account for Chas Barstow and Boris Krcmar respectively.
Croatia’s Krcmar recorded a memorable win over world champion Gerwyn Price as he reached the last eight for the second time in 2021, while Kuivenhoven claimed wins over Ian White and former Lakeside champion Scott Mitchell to reach the semi-finals, as ‘Scotty Dog’ featured in the last eight alongside Mervyn King, who made it back-to-back quarter-finals.
Tuesday’s event also featured an astonishing second-round clash between Danny Noppert and Martin Atkins, which saw both players achieve perfection. Noppert landed a nine-darter in leg two, Atkins in leg six, before the Dutchman ran out a 6-3 winner with a 110 average.
Players Championship 19 takes place on Wednesday as Super Series 5 continues at the Coventry Building Society Arena, although play will begin from the earlier time of 12pm.
Image Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC
Players Championship 18
Tuesday July 6, Coventry Building Society Arena, Coventry
Jose de Sousa 6-5 Darius Labanauskas
Mervyn King 6-5 Vincent van der Voort
Ryan Searle 6-3 Chas Barstow
Boris Krcmar 6-4 Gerwyn Price
Stephen Bunting 6-3 Jeffrey de Zwaan
Chris Dobey 6-3 Jonny Clayton
Maik Kuivenhoven 6-2 Jesus Noguera
Scott Mitchell 6-5 Ron Meulenkamp
Jose de Sousa 6-1 Mervyn King
Ryan Searle 6-0 Boris Krcmar
Chris Dobey 6-5 Stephen Bunting
Maik Kuivenhoven 6-5 Scott Mitchell
Jose de Sousa 7-6 Ryan Searle
Chris Dobey 7-6 Maik Kuivenhoven
Chris Dobey 8-7 Jose de Sousa