The rollercoaster that is Jelle Klaasen's career is going to make sure the Dutchman comes full circle in December. After a journey that began in Frimley Green, with the Lakeside 2006 final victory, Klaasen will make his appearance there again after nearly seventeen years: at the WDF World Championship. The memories of Klaasen vs Van Barneveld 2006 are in everyone's mind.
For this edition of Darts Throwback we return to Klaasen's first footsteps on television. The final against Van Barneveld was the big event, but in the last sixteen, the then 21-year-old Klaasen turned the darts world upside down. Mervyn King, the highest ranked player, was defeated 4-2.
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Playing against 'The King" is no small thing. In the interview before the match, the inexperienced Jelle tried to nuance the situation: "On stage you don't think about it, you just play a match." A day earlier, he had already eliminated Dennis Harbour after falling behind 0-2 in sets. As a result, Klaasen knew: "If I throw freely, I can achieve great things."
On stage, King, who was allowed to start the match, immediately made an impression. The first set went 3-0 to the Englishman, including a 14-darter. Klaasen had trouble keeping up with King's pace, although he did throw a few 180s in the first set.
In the second set Klaasen struggled to get his first leg: after seven attempts in the first leg of the second set he could cheer. The legs in the set went with the darts, but King impressed with 13 and 14-darters in his leg. In the important fifth leg of the set, which Klaasen had the darts, he picked up steam. In 14 darts Klaasen took the second set: 1-1 with a 47 checkout.
In the third set, the first real blow was dealt. After King and Klaasen bravely held their own legs in 16 darts, Klaasen broke King with a 15-darter. A 180 and 140 in a row put The King at bay. The next leg there was the 1-2 lead in sets. Klaasen held his own leg in 17 darts.
In the fourth set, King seemed determined to fight his way back into the match. He opened furiously with a 14-darter, but saw Klaasen break him right back with another 14-darter. Klaasen's trick was to cash in on that rebreak with a 120 finish in 12 darts. Although King answered that again in 14 darts, Klaasen finished it off in the fifth leg.
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High tempo affair
Klaasen was 3-1 ahead in a match of real pace. The BBC showed a graphic as proof of that: King throws away his darts in 5.2 seconds - Klaasen in 4.1 seconds. Fine for the viewer, because he sees an attractive duel.
King knew that Klaasen needed only one more set, but in the first leg of the fifth set Klaasen broke him immediately. In "only" 18 darts. King seemed to be going for the axe, but the next leg he turned the room upside down with a 161 finish in 12 darts. It meant a break, and King went on to win the fifth set in 17 and 13 darts: it was now only 2-3 for Klaasen.
King had the momentum going. In the sixth set, which could level him, he broke Klaasen immediately. Yet Klaasen responded strongly again with a 15-darter rebreak. In a 13-darter he then put himself in the seat for the win. King kept his own leg with a 104-finish, but in the fifth leg of the seventh set Klaasen finished it off on tops.
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Klaasen title candidate?
Klaasen had the shock of the tournament so far. He himself would say to the BBC afterward, "I wasn't expecting anything at all, I just wanted to play the best possible darts and I did." The BBC immediately saw title potential in him. "Maybe, I don't know. I have no expectations, but I'm going for it."
Kingwas realistic afterwards: "I threw too many singles, not enough trebles. That cost me the match." He showed himself a classy loser praise for Klaasen. "He has the momentum to win. As long as he doesn't feel nervous. If he keeps himself calm, he can win the tournament."
And we all know what happened.