The first Players Championship event of the season commenced today at the Metrodome Leisure Complex in Barnsley, South Yorkshire.
A brand new season with some brand new and returning faces, the Pro Tour always gives us some exciting drama throughout the day as we begin the first of 30 events on the calendar.
It’s a chance for players to get some competitive darts under their belts and it’s a chance for the new faces to show us what they’re capable of.
So what drama will we have instore for the first PC event of the year?
Michael van Gerwen began his pro tour season with a win. The world number one comfortably defeated former world champion Scott Mitchell 6-2 with a 101 average, despite Mitchell hitting a 170 finish in the sixth leg. Damon Heta began life on the pro tour with victory over Geert Nentjes. Both players averaged 100 there. Ross Smith averaged 103 in beating Devon Petersen 6-2 with Welshman Gerwyn Price also averaging the same, however he needed to win the final three legs to defeat Jason Lowe 6-5.
Dutchmen Danny Noppert and Wesley Harms also scored 100 averages in their victories in the first round. Noppert averaged dead on 100 in beating Ryan Murray 6-4 and Harms averaged 100.4 in his 6-4 victory over former world finalist Jamie Lewis. Gary Anderson began his campaign with a 107.5 average in beating young German Christian Bunse 6-3 but his protege Michael Smith did even better, he averaged a whopping 110.3 in beating Ryan Joyce 6-3, with Joyce averaging 106 in defeat! Another player who lost despite averaging 106 was Luke Humphries, losing 6-5 to Stephen Bunting, who averaged 100 himself.
Other first round winners were world champion Peter Wright (6-2 over Niels Zonneveld), Adrian Lewis (6-0 over Kai Fan Leung), Daryl Gurney (6-3 over Scott Baker), Simon Whitlock (6-3 over Andy Hamilton) and Joe Cullen (6-1 over Aaron Beeney).
A few players managed to survive such as Nathan Aspinall and Rob Cross, both winning deciders against Krzysztof Kciuk and Mike De Decker. Steve Beaton also got through in a decider to Vincent Van der Meer with Glen Durrant edging past David Pallett 6-4.
However it was disappointment for four time women’s world champion Lisa Ashton. The 49 year old won her tour card after being 12th on the UK Q-School Order Of Merit but she fell 6-2 to former World Grand Prix runner up Brendan Dolan.
There were a few casualties that fell at the first hurdle! Mensur Suljovic lost 6-3 to Simon Stevenson, Chris Dobey lost 6-5 to Mike Duivenbode, James Wade (who won 5 PC titles last year) lost 6-5 to Steve Brown, Jonny Clayton lost 6-1 to Swede Daniel Larsson, Dave Chisnall lost 6-5 to the returning Canadian Jeff Smith, Max Hopp lost 6-5 to Reece Robinson, Ian White lost 6-4 to Darren Webster, inform Pole Krzsyztof Ratajski lost 6-4 to Josh Payne (despite Ratajski averaging 100) and Belgian Dimitri Van den Bergh lost 6-5 to Ipswich’s Ryan Meikle.
Two nine darters were hit in the first round! First one was Mickey Mansell, who hit one in the fourth leg of his match against Nathan Derry and the second one was Mike van Duivenbode in the fifth leg of his match against Chris Dobey. Both went on to win their matches (Duivenbode pre mentioned).
Michael van Gerwen booked his place into Round 3. He was given a bit of a test by Brisbane Masters champion Damon Heta but the world number one comes through 6-3, averaging over 102. He will face Brendan Dolan in the next round after the Northern Irishman averaged 100 in whitewashing Greece’s John Michael 6-0! World champion Peter Wright was also impressive, averaging 107 in beating Gary Blades 6-0. Dirk van Duijvenbode also put in a 100 plus average in his match, the Dutchman averaging 105 in his 6-1 thrashing of Ted Evetts.
Nathan Aspinall cruised past Richard North 6-1 with Adrian Lewis coming through 6-3 against Gabriel Clemens. Gerwyn Price came from 3-1 down to beat Adrian Gray 6-3 and he will face his arch rival Gary Anderson in a tasty third round encounter! The Scotsman won 6-1 against Simon Whitlock. Rob Cross and Michael Smith both breezed to 6-0 wins over Barrie Bates and Robert Thornton. Steve Beaton and Glen Durrant were also second round winners.
A few names departed in Round 2. Former world champion Stephen Bunting was defeated 6-2 to Ireland’s Ciaran Teehan, Mervyn King was thrashed 6-1 by Czech player Karel Sedlacek, Jeffrey de Zwaan lost 6-5 to Dirk Telnekes, Ricky Evans lost 6-5 to Lithuanian Darius Labanauskas and Daryl Gurney was also thrashed 6-1 by fellow countryman Mickey Mansell.
Michael van Gerwen’s hopes were dashed at this stage! The world number one succumbed to a 6-4 defeat to Brendan Dolan, who averaged 101 in his superb win! Maik Kuivenhoven averaged 101 himself in defeating Mike van Duivenbode 6-2. Gary Anderson made it two Gerwyn Price wins in a week after beating him 6-3 with an impressive 104 average! Gerwyn averaged over 100 again in losing to Anderson! Dirk van Duijvenbode also averaged 100 and lost, losing 6-3 to Canadian Jeff Smith.
Reigning world champion Peter Wright came through an all Scottish battle against Aberdeen’s John Henderson with Rob Cross coming through a last leg decider against Michael Smith. Glen Durrant and Steve Beaton took on each other in the battle of the former BDO World Champions but it was the Adonis who took the honors 6-5! Nathan Aspinall also survived 6-5 to Wolverhampton’s Wayne Jones.
Joe Cullen, Nick Kenny, Steve Brown and Adrian Lewis were other winners in the third round.
Brendan Dolan backed up his win over Van Gerwen by edging past Ross Smith 6-5 after the man from Dover came from 4-0 down to take it into a final leg. The Northern Irishman will face Maik Kuivenhoven in the quarter finals after the Dutchman came from 2-1 behind to beat Steve Brown 6-3.
World Champion Peter Wright kept up his strong start on the pro tour this year. The world number two averaged 100.4 in beating Gillingham’s Conan Whitehead 6-3. He will face Canada’s Jeff Smith in the quarter finals after the Canadian came from 4-1 behind to defeat UK Open and US Masters champion Nathan Aspinall 6-5.
Two time world champion Adrian Lewis booked his place into the quarter finals after he defeated Darren Webster 6-1. He will face Steve Beaton after the 1996 BDO World Champion beat Mickey Mansell by the same score!
Gary Anderson was solidly impressive once again as he breezed past Rob Cross 6-2 with a vintage 106 average, Cross did little wrong, only averaging 101 in defeat. Anderson will face Joe Cullen in the quarter finals after Joe defeated Welshman Nick Kenny 6-1 in his match!
Jeff Smith became our first semi finalist of the day after the Canadian defeated Peter Wright in a last leg decider. Smith breezed into a 5-1 lead before Wright showed us his battling qualities to level it up at 5-5. However Smith held his nerve in the decider and he faces Brendan Dolan in the semis after the Northern Irishman defeated Maik Kuivenhoven 6-3 in his quarter final match. The first four legs were shared but Dolan then won four of the next five to progress.
Gary Anderson defeated Joe Cullen 6-2 in their quarter final. Cullen won the first leg with a 95 finish but Anderson reeled off five on the spin. Cullen won the seventh but Anderson secured victory in the eighth leg. He will face Adrian Lewis in the semis after Jackpot defeated Steve Beaton 6-3. Lewis stormed into a 5-1 lead but Beaton then won two on the spin to give himself hope but Lewis secured the victory in style with a 108 finish!
The semi final in the top half of the draw was between Brendan Dolan and Jeff Smith. It was the Canadian Smith that got off to a blistering start, winning the first three legs in 14,14 and 16 darts! Dolan put in a 96 finish to stop the rot but Smith piled in a 13 darter on double 8 to go 4-1 ahead. Dolan won the sixth with a 14 darter but that was all she wrote for Brendan as Smith reeled off three legs in a row to win 7-2 and reach a players championship event final on his return to the PDC. Fantastic darts from the 44 year old and could he add the icing on the cake on what has been a brilliant day for him?
The semi final in the bottom half of the draw was between Adrian Lewis and Gary Anderson. Lewis started well, taking out a 71 checkout to win the first leg before Anderson won three in a row to lead 3-1. Lewis won the fifth before Anderson took out 61 to restore his two leg lead. A 57 finish kept Lewis on his tail but then Anderson took over, winning three in a row (including finishes of 94 and a match closing 130) to beat Lewis 7-3 and secure his first final in a PC event since the 11th event in 2018. The Scot averaged 102 in his win! It’s been brilliant stuff from Anderson all day and he’s shown signs of his return to form, but could he end his wait for some sliverware?
So after a long day of darting action it was time for the first final of the players championship events for 2020.
Jeff Smith took on Gary Anderson in their bid to kick off their pro tour campaigns in style! Jeff Smith beat Dave Chisnall, Reece Robinson, Dirk van Duijvenbode, Nathan Aspinall, Peter Wright and Brendan Dolan on his route to the final whilst Gary Anderson defeated Christian Bunse, Simon Whitlock, Gerwyn Price, Rob Cross, Joe Cullen and Adrian Lewis on his route to the final. Could Smith win some silverware on his PDC return? Or will Anderson end a long spell without some?
Off we go and it was Anderson who started the better, taking out the first two legs in 14 and 15 darts to lead 2-0. A 62 checkout finally got Smith a chalk on the board but Anderson won the fourth to remain two ahead. Smith put in a 13 darter in the fifth before Anderson went on a spree, taking out finishes of 60 and 84 to race into a 6-2 advantage! Smith then won back to back legs with an 82 finish and a 14 darter to make it 6-4 but today was Anderson’s day, picking out double 12 to move within one of the title and then he took out 86 on double 16 to secure his first singles title since the Champions League in 2018 and his first PC event win since PC 11 in 2018. It was also Anderson’s 49th PDC singles title!
Absolutely delighted for Gary Anderson to win some silverware after months of fighting with backpain, and after today’s performances, we can safely say that Anderson is back.
“It’s been a while since I won something, but I’ve got the hunger back,” said Anderson. “I want to get back to how I was throwing before [injury], I don’t mind if I win or lose, but as long as I throw them how I used to then I’ll be alright.”
“I still have work to do, but it’s not a bad start.”