World champion Peter Wright revealed he considered pulling out of this year’s UK Open, after battling through the pain barrier to defeat his Premier League counterpart Joe Cullen on Friday evening in Minehead.
‘Snakebite’ began his bid for a second UK Open crown with a hard-fought 10-6 success against Cullen in a blockbuster fourth-round showdown, punishing a below-par display from ‘The Rockstar’ to triumph with a 97.18 average, six 180s and a 50% checkout success rate.
However, the world No 2 revealed post-match that his preparation had been hampered by illness, caused by suspected gallstones.
The 51-year-old lost over two stone in weight after being rushed to hospital with gallstones in November 2017, although he fears that a reccurence of the problem could derail his title bid over the coming days.
“I didn’t feel well tonight at all. I was in a lot of pain. I came in here and I felt fine, I did a couple of photographs for the photographer and then all of a sudden, I just couldn’t get out of the chair to be honest,” Wright told Online Darts’ Phill Barrs.
“It is the gallstones coming back again, which is obviously not nice. I was this close to pulling out. I said to Jo [his wife]: ‘I can’t go on. No way in the world’. I couldn’t even stand up to throw some darts.
“I was in a lot of pain up there and obviously Joe wasn’t himself, I don’t know why. He must have felt sorry for me!”
Just 24 hours earlier, Wright defeated world No 1 Gerwyn Price and James Wade on Night Four of the Premier League in Exeter, before succumbing to an imperious Michael van Gerwen in the evening’s showpiece.
The two-time world champion will now take on Simon Whitlock for a place in the last 16 on Saturday afternoon, following a thrilling day of darting drama in the South-West.
Three-time champion Van Gerwen edged out 2018 winner Gary Anderson 10-7 in an absorbing fourth-round clash, to set up a showdown with in-form Australian Damon Heta in round five.
Anderson was one of four former champions to depart on the opening day, with Nathan Aspinall, Adrian Lewis and Raymond van Barneveld losing out to Callan Rydz, Ryan Searle and William Borland respectively.
Reigning champion James Wade endured no such trouble however, beginning his bid for a fourth UK Open crown with a resounding 10-6 victory over Steve Lennon, defying a 105.58 average from the Irishman to prevail in a high-quality affair.
World No 1 Price eased past Krzysztof Ratajski in his opener on the main stage, while World Championship runner-up Michael Smith followed up his first win of this year’s Premier League with a 10-7 win over Chris Dobey, averaging 99.96 and crashing in seven 180s.
Dimitri Van den Bergh produced a dominant display to thrash two-time PDC major winner Daryl Gurney 10-2, while Rob Cross joined the list of high-profile casualties as he went down 10-7 to German number one Gabriel Clemens.
Development Tour qualifier Sebastian Bialecki is the last non-PDC Tour Card Holder remaining in the field and the only player remaining whose campaign began in round one, with the Polish youngster registering four victories on a frenetic day of action.
Jose Justicia landed the 13th nine-darter in UK Open history, albeit in a losing cause against Czech talent Adam Gawlas, while Ian White conjured up an inspired 170 checkout to seal a 10-9 victory over last year’s finalist Luke Humphries in an astonishing deciding-leg contest.
Van Gerwen’s clash against Heta and Wright’s tie against Whitlock will both feature on the main stage on Saturday afternoon, along with Price’s tussle against Jamie Hughes, and an enthralling encounter between Searle and Van den Bergh.
Wade continues his title defence against Ron Meulenkamp on Stage Two, before Jonny Clayton takes on Jose de Sousa in a repeat of last year’s Premier League finale.
Image Credit: Taylor Lanning/PDC
Saturday March 5
Afternoon Session (1245-1700 GMT)
Ryan Searle v Dimitri van den Bergh
Damon Heta v Michael van Gerwen
Peter Wright v Simon Whitlock
Jamie Hughes v Gerwyn Price
Danny Noppert v Devon Petersen
Gabriel Clemens v Michael Smith
Jonny Clayton v Jose de Sousa
Ron Meulenkamp v James Wade
Dave Chisnall v Boris Krcmar
Dirk van Duijvenbode v Martin Schindler
Niels Zonneveld v Keane Barry
Callan Rydz v Vincent van der Voort
Scott Waites v Ricky Evans
Mensur Suljovic v Geert Nentjes
Ian White v Sebastian Bialecki
William O’Connor v Stephen Bunting