Two-time women’s world champion Mikuru Suzuki was dumped out on a dramatic night at the WDF World Championship, as reigning men’s champion Wayne Warren also crashed out at the Lakeside on Thursday evening.
Suzuki boasts an extraordinary World Championship record, having not relinquished a set in claiming back-to-back titles in 2019 and 2020, although she saw her bid for a third consecutive crown curtailed by two-time semi-finalist Aileen de Graaf.
‘The Miracle’ appeared destined to maintain her unblemished record when she claimed a scrappy opening set, but De Graaf was undeterred; reeling off six straight legs to stun a beleaguered Suzuki, who struggled for fluency throughout.
Three-time major champion De Graaf will lock horns with pre-tournament favourite Beau Greaves in the quarter-finals, after the fifth seed edged out Hungary’s Veronika Ihasz in a thrilling three-set contest.
The 18-year-old came into this year’s showpiece on a 16-match winning run following her exploits at the Isle of Man Darts Festival, and she drew first blood in a hard-fought opening set, despite Ihasz creating a slice of history.
The debutant converted a sensational 164 checkout on the bullseye in leg four – the highest checkout in the history of the Women’s World Championship – yet Greaves maintained her composure to close out an 18-dart hold in a fifth and decisive leg.
‘Beau ‘n Arrow’ moved to the cusp of victory with a clinical 109 kill to lead 2-0 in the second, but the Hungarian fought back valiantly, surviving three match darts to force a deciding set.
The pair exchanged 16-dart holds to set up a potential grandstand finish, yet Ihasz was left to rue a missed dart at double 15 for a 104 finish in the penultimate leg, as Greaves sank 64 and 55 combinations to triumph with a 78 average and two 180s.
Prior to Suzuki’s surprise exit in the women’s draw, 2020 BDO world champion Wayne Warren was also sent packing, losing out to the highly-fancied Cameron Menzies in straight sets.
Warren recovered from a two-set deficit to defeat Lee Shewan on Wednesday, but he was punished for a profligate display against the enigmatic Scot, converting just four of his 36 attempts at double.
Menzies wasn’t at his blistering best, but he displayed glimpses of his undeniable quality, averaging 87.35 and landing three 180s to advance to the last eight.
Fresh from Richard Veenstra’s record-breaking heroics on Wednesday, Andy Baetens produced a similarly eye-catching display, registering the third highest average in Lakeside history to demolish Scott Marsh in straight sets.
The seventh seed was threatening to eclipse Veenstra’s 104.91 average at one stage, after ‘Flyers’ usurped the 103.83 posted by five-time world champion Raymond van Barneveld in 2004.
However, Baetens reaffirmed his title credentials with a magnificent performance, averaging 102.79, firing in seven 180s and posting legs of 14, 17, 15, 14, 15, 14, 15, 13 and 12 darts to breeze through to Friday’s quarter-finals, despite a very respectable 96.20 average from Marsh.
The Belgian now meets second seed Thibault Tricole, who is bidding to become the first Frenchman to be crowned world champion. The 32-year-old recovered from a set adrift to account for the veteran Steve Hine, courtesy of four ton-plus finishes.
‘The Muffin Man’ made a strong start to proceedings, but Tricole produced 116, 120 and a brace of 104 checkouts to prevail with a 90.36 average, having also registered 11 140s.
Elsewhere, Scotland’s Jim McEwan came through a gruelling five-set tussle against 13th seed Michael Warburton to keep his hopes of debut glory alive.
‘Chucky’ averaged 101.32 on his Lakeside bow against Landon Gardiner, but he was unable to hit those heights against the Welshman, falling 2-1 behind following a mid-game slump.
Nevertheless, the 54-year-old restored parity at two apiece with a crucial 82 kill, before delivering the goods in a high-quality fifth set. McEwan secured the initiative with a nerveless 118 combination on tops, before sealing the deal with a wonderful 11-dart hold.
McEwan remains the bookmakers’ favourite to prevail on Sunday, but he faces a tough quarter-final assignment against fifth seed Neil Duff, who battled past Nick Fullwell in Thursday’s curtain-raiser.
The Northern Irishman established a commanding 2-0 cushion with Fullwell struggling on the outer ring, and while the PDC Tour Card holder clinched the third set to halve the deficit, Duff delivered in the latter stages, firing in his first maximum to wrap up a 3-1 success.
Meanwhile, WDF world No 1 James Hurrell continued his title bid with an emphatic 3-0 victory over Dutchman Ryan de Vreede earlier in the afternoon.
The sixth seed was significantly below-par in his opening round win over John Desreumaux, but he produced a much improved display to set up a last eight showdown against Cameron Menzies, averaging 89.87 in the process.
Image Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC
WDF World Championship – Thursday 7 April
Afternoon session (1pm)
R3 – Neil Duff (88.06) 3-1 (85.67) Nick Fullwell (3-1, 3-1, 1-3, 3-1)
R2 – Beau Greaves (78.01) 2-1 (73.90) Veronika Ihasz (3-2, 2-3, 3-1)
R3 – Jim McEwan (84.01) 3-2 (84.71) Michael Warburton (3-1, 0-3, 0-3, 3-1, 3-1)
R3 – James Hurrell (89.87) 3-0 (85.98) Ryan de Vreede (3-1, 3-2, 3-1)
Evening session (from 19:00)
R3 – Wayne Warren (86.32) 0-3 (87.35) Cameron Menzies (1-3, 1-3, 2-3)
R2 – Aileen de Graaf (76.48) 2-1 (69.90) Mikuru Suzuki (1-3, 3-0, 3-0)
R3 – Thibault Tricole (90.36) 3-1 (88.35) Steve Hine (2-3, 3-0, 3-1, 3-2)
R3 – Andy Baetens (102.79) 3-0 (96.20) Scott Marsh (3-1, 3-2, 3-0)