Wonderful Wade produces record-breaking display to progress at Grand Slam of Darts

James Wade produced an inspired display to reach the last 16 of the Grand Slam of Darts, recording his highest ever televised average to dispatch Rob Cross 5-2 on a dramatic night of action in Wolverhampton.

Three-time finalist Wade suffered defeat to Jim Williams in his opening Group C encounter on Saturday, and although he recovered to ease past Boris Krcmar, ‘The Machine’ was faced with the prospect of elimination unless he defeated ‘Voltage’ by a margin of 5-3 or better.

The three-time Grand Slam finalist duly delivered, posting a remarkable 111.71 average to leapfrog Cross into top spot and qualify at the expense of an unfortunate Williams, who departed the tournament with two wins to his name.

The Welshman reeled off five consecutive legs to complete an emphatic 5-1 victory over Croatian qualifier Krcmar – meaning he would qualify if Cross claimed four legs, or if Wade whitewashed the newly crowned European Champion.

Nevertheless, Wade raced out of the blocks and never relented – registering winning legs of 11, 12, 13, 14 and 15 darts to advance through to the knockout stages by virtue of legs difference.

“I’m happy with that win and proud of the performance,” reflected the current UK Open champion. “I’ve had higher highs in this game but it was a good win and I did the job I needed to do.”

Wade will take on World Cup finalist Rowby-John Rodriguez for a place in the quarter-finals, after the diminutive Austrian produced arguably his finest televised display to thrash a shell-shocked Stephen Bunting.

Bunting drew first blood with a clinical 79 kill, before Rodriguez reeled off five legs without reply – firing in three 180s, converting seven of his five attempts at double, and averaging 104.82 – his highest on the big stage.

‘Little John’ also converted a crucial 122 checkout in leg five, and his victory sealed his spot in the last 16 of a PDC ranking major for just the second time in his career.

“I feel like I have played superb this week. The 122 was an immense relief for me and I’m really happy to be through. Getting to the next round was my first target. I’m not here to make up the numbers and I can beat anybody if I can perform like that again,” said Rowby-John.

It was a memorable night for the next generation at the Aldersley Leisure Village, as Nathan Rafferty and Bradley Brooks both produced the goods to progress to the knockout phases.

Rafferty came through a dramatic battle with World Matchplay semi-finalist Krzysztof Ratajski to secure his spot in the second round, surviving six match darts from ‘The Polish Eagle’ across the last two legs, before nailing a nerveless 67 combination to seal the deal.

“Words can’t describe how I am feeling right now,” admitted Rafferty, who qualified for this year’s showpiece via the UK Development Tour Order of Merit. 

“It’s unbelievable to beat a player like Krzysztof to qualify. I am so happy with that and I can’t wait to play again. I’m starting to make a name for myself in this sport and this feels amazing.”

Elsewhere, in a battle between two of the sport’s most prodigious talents, World Youth champion Brooks overcame Rusty-Jake Rodriguez to advance to the last 16 on debut.

Brooks landed a brace of ton-plus checkouts in defeating the Austrian to set up last 16 tussle against world No 1 Gerwyn Price, who topped Group A despite defeat against Martin Schindler.

“This is massive for me. I’m over the moon to get through. I enjoyed the match and I got over the line, which is the main thing,” the 21-year-old added post-match.

“It was probably the hardest game I’ve had to play in my career so far and I’m buzzing to be going through to the longer format matches.”

Price – who also survived a match dart in his opener against Rafferty – will play Blackburn’s Brooks for a last eight spot on Wednesday evening, but he suffered just his second loss in 17 matches at this venue after surrendering a 3-1 cushion against a spirited Schindler.

‘The Wall’ was unable to qualify following sub-par displays against Ratajski and Rafferty, but he reaffirmed his credentials with a superb fightback against the two-time Grand Slam winner, averaging 101 to triumph in a nine-leg thriller.

Jonny Clayton almost suffered the same fate as his compatriot, only to survive two match darts against Mervyn King in a repeat of this year’s Masters final in Group B.

King was faced with the unenviable task of having to thrash ‘The Ferret’ 5-1 to qualify, and although that prospect was curtailed early on in the piece, the 55-year-old fashioned out a golden opportunity to sign off with victory.

Nevertheless, Clayton defied a 101 average from ‘The King’ to maintain his 100 per cent record in this year’s competition and continue his bid for a fifth televised title of 2021.

Meanwhile, Monday’s curtain-raiser saw Chris Dobey bow out with a win over his North East neighbour Ryan Joyce, who was already assured of qualification from Group D having won his first two round-robin fixtures.

Despite scooping two Players Championship titles in 2021, Dobey has struggled to showcase his blistering best in Wolverhampton, yet he underlined his quality by firing in a brace of 11-dart legs to deny ‘Relentless’ a third consecutive victory.

Groups E-H will draw to a close on what promises to be a fascinating even on Tuesday, featuring Fallon Sherrock’s tie against Gabriel Clemens, and a winner-takes-all clash between two of the sport’s finest – Gary Anderson and Raymond van Barneveld.

Image Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC

Cazoo Grand Slam of Darts
Schedule of Play
Monday November 15

8x Group Matches
Chris Dobey 5-3 Ryan Joyce (D)
Martin Schindler 5-4 Gerwyn Price (A)
Jim Williams 5-1 Boris Krcmar (C)
James Wade 5-2 Rob Cross (C)
Bradley Brooks 5-3 Rusty-Jake Rodriguez (B)
Jonny Clayton 5-4 Mervyn King (B)
Nathan Rafferty 5-4 Krzysztof Ratajski (A)
Rowby-John Rodriguez 5-1 Stephen Bunting (D)

Tuesday November 16 (1900 GMT)
8x Group Matches
Michael Smith v Joe Davis (H)
Joe Cullen v Lisa Ashton (G) 
Michael van Gerwen v John Henderson (G) 
Mensur Suljovic v Matt Campbell (F)
Jose de Sousa v Luke Humphries (F) 
Peter Wright v Mike De Decker (E)   
Gabriel Clemens v Fallon Sherrock (E) 
Gary Anderson v Raymond van Barneveld (H)

Wednesday November 17 (1900 GMT)
4x Second Round – Order of Play TBC
Gerwyn Price v Bradley Brooks
Jonny Clayton v Nathan Rafferty
James Wade v Rowby-John Rodriguez
Ryan Joyce v Rob Cross

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