Gerwyn Price and Michael van Gerwen will renew their rivalry in a highly-anticipated quarter-final at the European Championship after dominating their second round ties in Salzburg on Saturday.
Top seed Price stormed into the quarter-finals with a comprehensive 10-3 success against Czech teenager Adam Gawlas, who made a flying start to establish a 2-0 cushion.
Van Gerwen also enjoyed serene progress, cruising past 2018 European Champion James Wade 10-4, to continue his bid for a first major PDC title of 2021.
Price – who won both European Tour events held this year – started sluggishly as Gawlas raced into a 2-0 lead, following up a 12-dart opener by doubling his lead, only for the Welshman to roar back.
Finishes of 119 and 116 ignited ‘The Iceman’, who reeled off five consecutive legs to seize command of the contest, and although Gawlas stopped the rot in leg eight, a spectacular 10-darter from Price sparked another five-leg burst, as he prevailed with a 102.96 average.
“It was a really slow start but he flew out of the blocks in the first two legs, and the 119 was a big shot,” reflected 2019 runner-up Price.
“From being 2-0 down I won ten of the next 11 legs, and for most of that game I played really well – but I need to up that again and take it into tomorrow.”
Van Gerwen displayed signs of his blistering best against Boris Krcmar in round one, and the Dutchman was relatively untroubled by Wade in a star-studded last 16 clash.
The four-time European Championship winner led 8-2 at one stage, only for Wade to reduce the arrear with clinical 88 and 142 checkouts, although this didn’t prompt a stirring fightback, as Van Gerwen regained his poise to close out a convincing 10-4 victory.
Van Gerwen was beaten by Price in their most recent meeting in a thrilling quarter-final clash at the Gibraltar Darts Trophy, although the world No 3 dominates the pair’s head-to-head record.
‘Mighty Mike’ has won 19 of their 23 meetings, and having dethroned ‘The Iceman’ last November en route to his last ranking success at the Players Championship Finals, he was in defiant mood when chatting to Online Darts post-match.
“He [Gerwyn] is never in my head, and he is never going to enter my head either. I played so many games against him, I’ve won probably 80 or 90% of them.
“The last time he beat me he probably shouldn’t have beaten me, and he was nervous there. I only need to concentrate on my own game. If I play good, he’s not capable of beating me, but I have to show it.
“Me and Gerwyn – we get on really well. Even if he’s world No 1 and world champion, I don’t really care. I have still beaten him so many times, and I think he needs to get over that first.
“I only believe in my own capabilities. I’m going to give it everything against Gerwyn; he knows that, and we are going to see how he wakes up.”
“They have the fear factor anyway. If you really look deep inside their hearts, they are scared still of me.”
Elsewhere, major champions Rob Cross and Jose De Sousa will lock horns in another intriguing quarter-final tussle, after overcoming Brendan Dolan and Luke Humphries respectively.
Cross was in clinical mood against an in-form Dolan, averaging 97.61, firing in four 180s and converting a superb 124 checkout on the bullseye to reach a fourth European Championship quarter-final.
“I played steady and thought I was clinical at certain times, but I let a few legs go,” reflected Cross.
“My game’s really good at the minute, I’m enjoying the game and it’s a massive difference to where I’ve been for the last 18 months, but I’ll keep trying.
“It’s nice to start making inroads to where I think I should be for my ability. I don’t think that I’ve got to get better to win, I’ve just got to get back to where I was.”
Grand Slam champion De Sousa defied FIVE ton-plus checkouts from UK Open finalist Humphries to prevail 10-8 in a pulsating affair, as he eyes a second major title of his career in Salzburg.
‘Cool Hand’ drew first blood with a classy 130 kill, but De Sousa responded and led 6-4 at the interval, producing a crucial 123 combination on the bull, just moments after Humphries had wired the bull for a spectacular 170 leveller.
‘The Special One’ moved 8-4 ahead before Humphries reeled off 106, 146 and 160 finishes to reduce the arrears, but the Portuguese star kept his nerve to book a last eight clash against ‘Voltage’.
“It’s amazing for me to make the quarter-finals here,” insisted De Sousa. “Playing against Luke is always difficult – he has such talent.
“The 123 was a special moment from the Special One! I think it was crucial. I’m very happy that I’m through and I hope in the next round I can play my best game.”
Elsewhere, Danny Noppert continued his magnificent form to dispatch Ryan Searle 10-4 and secure a place in his second successive major quarter-final.
Both men posted 101 averages, but Noppert’s relentless nature on the outer ring proved decisive. There was nothing to separate the pair after six legs, but the former Lakeside finalist won seven of the next eight legs to seal the deal.
The crucial moment came in leg nine, with Searle poised on 42 after nine darts to reduce the arrears to 5-4, yet he wasn’t afforded an opportunity, after ‘The Freeze’ delivered a crushing blow, conjuring up a sublime 170 finish to hold.
“It was a really good performance again,” reflected the World Grand Prix semi-finalist. “I’m playing really well at the moment and enjoying my darts.
“Ryan is a really good player but he missed some doubles and I hit mine – the 170 finish was really good. I’m feeling great, really confident at the moment, and looking forward to every game.”
Noppert’s reward for his victory over ‘Heavy Metal’ is a tie against former UK Open champion Nathan Aspinall, who battled past Damon Heta in another high-quality affair, which saw both players post three-figure averages.
Heta opened with back-to-back 13-darters and also took out 104 to lead 3-2, but Aspinall turned the game with four straight legs, before defying checkouts of 127 and 141 from the Australian to secure his quarter-final spot.
“I really enjoyed it and it’s a fantastic win against a great opponent,” said Aspinall. “I felt really good tonight. I had a job to do and I was really happy with how I performed.
“The practice is paying off and I felt so at home up there, I felt back like I felt two years ago. I was buzzing, the adrenaline was pumping and the crowd were fantastic.
“I’ve got Danny Noppert next and he’s playing unreal darts at the moment. I need to perform at that level tomorrow, and if I do then I’ll be hard to beat.”
Hometown hero Mensur Suljovic delighted the partisan crowd at the Salzburgarena with a dramatic 10-9 success against Florian Hempel in a dramatic finale to Saturday’s action.
‘The Gentle’ opened his account with a majestic 136 finish before Hempel hit the front with back-to-back legs, only for 2016 runner-up Suljovic to win five of the next six legs to establish a commanding 6-3 cushion.
Hempel showed his class in a hostile atmosphere; converting a wonderful 124 combination to reduce the deficit to 7-5, and after Suljovic squandered a match dart for a 10-7 victory, the emerging German forced a last-leg decider, but the Austrian kept his cool to triumph with his seventh match dart at tops.
“I couldn’t see if the last dart was in but it’s a brilliant feeling,” said Suljovic. “I gave it my best and I played good darts. I’m feeling good and I’m so happy.
“I won my last tournament in Austria [at a European Tour event in 2019] and I will give it my best tomorrow. The crowd is brilliant and I have nothing to lose.”
The former Champions League of Darts winner will take on 2018 semi-finalist Joe Cullen for a place in Sunday evening’s semi-finals, courtesy of The Rockstar’s impressive 10-5 quarter-final defeat of Willie Borland.
The 24-year-old Scot, who accounted for 2012 champion Simon Whitlock in round one, opened up a narrow 3-2 advantage at the first interval, but a sensational 147 finish from Cullen sparked a sequence of three straight legs.
Borland continued to battle and fired in a 116 finish as he sought to secure a place in his first televised quarter-final, but Cullen proved too strong, and is now eyeing a place in the world’s top 10 as he chases a maiden PDC major.
“I felt like my experience would always show in the end. Willie’s a brilliant player on the floor but it takes a lot to bring your floor game to the stage,” Cullen admitted.
“I did more than enough to win the game. I tried to keep on top of him because I couldn’t afford to get complacent.”
“I realise I’m in a favourable half of the draw but I’ve still got to go up there and win. It’s a big jump prize-money wise and £10,000 is a lot of money, so I knew it was an important win for me.”
Image Credit: Kais Bodensieck/PDC Europe
2021 Cazoo European Championship
Saturday October 16
Second Round x4
Joe Cullen 10-5 William Borland
Rob Cross 10-4 Brendan Dolan
Jose de Sousa 10-8 Luke Humphries
Danny Noppert 10-4 Ryan Searle
Second Round x4
Nathan Aspinall 10-6 Damon Heta
Gerwyn Price 10-3 Adam Gawlas
Michael van Gerwen 10-4 James Wade
Mensur Suljovic 10-9 Florian Hempel
Sunday October 17
Afternoon Session (1345 local time, 1245 BST)
Danny Noppert v Nathan Aspinall
Gerwyn Price v Michael van Gerwen
Rob Cross v Jose de Sousa
Mensur Suljovic v Joe Cullen