Raymond van Barneveld rolled back the years to dispatch Maik Kuivenhoven with a majestic display on his Minehead return, to set up a mouth-watering second round showdown against defending champion Michael van Gerwen at the Players Championship Finals.
Van Barneveld – a four-time quarter-finalist at this event – recorded his highest average in a televised ranking tournament since March 2017 to demolish Kuivenhoven 6-1 – averaging 103.99 to avenge a sequence of two consecutive defeats against his compatriot.
Six-time champion Van Gerwen produced a clinical display to overcome a spirited Kevin Doets, averaging 97.14, landing two maximums and converting 75% of his attempts at double to close out a 6-3 win, and he will take on Van Barneveld for the first time since the five-time world champion returned from retirement.
Grand Slam champion Gerwyn Price survived a minor scare in his opener against Jason Lowe, benefitting from a host of missed opportunities from the 49-year-old to reel off five consecutive legs from 3-1 adrift, and the world No 1 will now take on Martin Schindler in a repeat of their Grand Slam group-stage clash, after ‘The Wall’ defeated Ian White 6-3.
Top seed Jose De Sousa fended off a spirited fightback from Devon Petersen to set up a meeting with Darius Labanauskas in round two, after the plucky Lithuanian produced a classy display to dump out last year’s finalist Mervyn King in Friday’s afternoon session.
Elsewhere, Two-time world champions Gary Anderson and Adrian Lewis triumphed in entertaining ties. Anderson staged a remarkable fightback from 4-0 down to edge out a shell-shocked Stephen Bunting, while Lewis conjured up finishes of 127 and 119 in his 6-3 success over Kim Huybrechts – his first win in a TV ranking event for 492 days.
Lewis will play world No 2 Peter Wright for a place in the third round, after the Grand Slam runner-up battled past a brilliant Keane Barry in an absorbing affair. The young Irishman appeared poised to claim a major scalp after levelling at four apiece, but a sensational 10-darter from ‘Snakebite’ turned the tide.
Third seed Jonny Clayton began his bid for a fifth televised title of 2021 with a hard-fought 6-4 victory over Alan Tabern in a contest dominated by missed doubles, and The Ferret’s reward is a match-up against former Lakeside champion Scott Mitchell, who survived SIX match darts to account for Martijn Kleermaker on debut.
Ryan Meikle prevailed in arguably the match of the opening day against tenth seed Dirk van Duijvenbode, averaging 108 to Van Duijvenbode’s 105 and taking out a nerveless 116 kill in a decider, while Chris Dobey extraordinarily succumbed 6-5 to William O’Connor, despite averaging 103 and landing TEN 180s.
Rob Cross and James Wade both boast major titles in 2021, and they eased past Jermaine Wattimena and Ricky Evans respectively to advance to Saturday afternoon’s second round, while Dimitri Van den Bergh, Michael Smith and Nathan Aspinall also ran out convincing winners earlier in the day.
Fifth seed Ryan Searle survived multiple match darts in the tournament’s curtain-raiser, scraping past 2012 semi-finalist Simon Whitlock in a nervy affair to book a last 32 meeting with Ryan Joyce, who recovered from 4-3 down to defeat Luke Woodhouse.
Seventh seed Joe Cullen landed a 170 finish and averaged 99 in his clash against Andy Boulton, but it still wasn’t enough to prevail against an inspired ‘X-Factor’, before 2016 finalist Dave Chisnall suffered a surprise first-round exit against Ritchie Edhouse.
2018 champion Daryl Gurney dumped out dangerous debutant Alan Soutar on Stage Two, while there were also wins for UK Open finalist Luke Humphries, World Matchplay semi-finalist Krzysztof Ratajski and 2014 semi-finalist Vincent van der Voort, who dumped out Jelle Klaasen in an all-Dutch contest.
Callan Rydz boasts two Players Championship titles to his name in 2021, and ‘The Riot’ lived up to his name to storm past a below-par Mensur Suljovic in his opener, with Brendan Dolan and Damon Heta closing out resounding 6-2 wins against Chas Barstow and Steve Lennon.
Heta will play Germany’s No 1 Gabriel Clemens for a place in the last 16, after ‘The German Giant’ defied a valiant fightback from the evergreen Steve Beaton to prevail in a deciding-leg, and it was a day to forget for the Rodriguez brothers, as Rusty-Jake and Rowby-John slipped to 6-2 defeats against Ross Smith and Danny Noppert.
Image Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC
2021 Ladbrokes Players Championship Finals
Schedule of Play
Friday November 26
Ryan Searle 6-5 Simon Whitlock
Krzysztof Ratajski 6-1 Ron Meulenkamp
Michael Smith 6-3 William Borland
Andy Boulton 6-5 Joe Cullen
Dimitri Van den Bergh 6-3 Madars Razma
James Wade 6-1 Ricky Evans
Nathan Aspinall 6-2 Jeff Smith
Adrian Lewis 6-3 Kim Huybrechts
Scott Mitchell 6-5 Martijn Kleermaker
Ryan Joyce 6-4 Luke Woodhouse
Martin Schindler 6-3 Ian White
Darius Labanauskas 6-4 Mervyn King
Brendan Dolan 6-2 Chas Barstow
Ross Smith 6-2 Rusty-Jake Rodriguez
Danny Noppert 6-2 Rowby-John Rodriguez
Gabriel Clemens 6-5 Steve Beaton
Gary Anderson 6-5 Stephen Bunting
Raymond van Barneveld 6-1 Maik Kuivenhoven
Rob Cross 6-2 Jermaine Wattimena
Jose de Sousa 6-4 Devon Petersen
Gerwyn Price 6-3 Jason Lowe
Michael van Gerwen 6-3 Kevin Doets
Peter Wright 6-4 Keane Barry
Jonny Clayton 6-4 Alan Tabern
Vincent van der Voort 6-4 Jelle Klaasen
Daryl Gurney 6-3 Alan Soutar
Damon Heta 6-2 Steve Lennon
Callan Rydz 6-1 Mensur Suljovic
Ryan Meikle 6-5 Dirk van Duijvenbode
Luke Humphries 6-4 Jason Heaver
William O’Connor 6-5 Chris Dobey
Ritchie Edhouse 6-4 Dave Chisnall
Saturday November 27
Afternoon Session (1245 GMT)
Callan Rydz v James Wade
Rob Cross v Nathan Aspinall
Ryan Meikle v Gary Anderson
Peter Wright v Adrian Lewis
Michael van Gerwen v Raymond van Barneveld
Gerwyn Price v Martin Schindler
Jonny Clayton v Scott Mitchell
Dimitri Van den Bergh v Danny Noppert
Andy Boulton v Vincent van der Voort
Ryan Searle v Ryan Joyce
Michael Smith v Daryl Gurney
Brendan Dolan v Ritchie Edhouse
Damon Heta v Gabriel Clemens
Ross Smith v Luke Humphries
William O’Connor v Krzysztof Ratajski
Jose de Sousa v Darius Labanauskas