The PDC World Grand Prix has now been and gone – and let’s be fair, it wasn’t a classic.
It didn’t have the explosiveness of the World Matchplay in July. It couldn’t produce fairytales left, right and centre like the World Championship back at the start of the year. But, like any PDC major, the Grand Prix had its moments. Here, we select five highlights from the Dublin showdown, which concluded in a triumphant return to the top of the podium for Michael van Gerwen.
5) Wilson shows his class
Adrian Lewis might’ve thought that after a tough tussle with Michael Smith, a tie against the loveable James Wilson might’ve been kinder to him. But there was no respite for Jackpot, who was forced to cash out by the excellent Yorkshireman. Twice Wilson lead in a gripping game. Twice, Lewis bounced back. But, buoyed by brilliant 125 and 150 finishes, it was Wilson who added to the first round scalp of Simon Whitlock and went through.
That 125 from Wilson, though. Woof.
Look at his face! Just look at his face!
You’ve got to love a bit of oche needle. Think Taylor and Barney in their pomp. Lewis vs Manley. Jocky vs Eric. A bit of snide and some angry finger-pointing never ceases to entertain. Danny Noppert and Gerwyn Price provided a watered-down version of it in the first round. It was Daryl Gurney’s 3-0 win over pre-tournament favourite Gary Anderson in the quarter-finals that was the real peak – the tip of the needle, if you will.
Anderson never got going in what was a largely disappointing tie, and struggled to push on even when annoyed by a perceived slight against him. Gurney, for his part, was flummoxed by Anderson’s accusations. After sending the Flying Scotsman packing, Gurney was more than happy to usher his opponent off the stage. Superchin’s title defence would end at the next hurdle, in a much more sedate defeat to van Gerwen.
3) Wright’s super comeback
At 3-0 up and cruising, Mensur Suljovic must have thought a first World Grand Prix final spot was his. The Austrian didn’t even let Peter Wright have a dart to double out in the first set of their semi-final. Finishes of 133, 96 and 113 sent him on his way. Set two quickly followed, and the third, before a tight fourth set went all the way. With Suljovic waiting on 34 for a whitewash win and Wright holding just one dart, Snakebite struck a decisive double one to make it 3-1.
It turned out to be the turning point in a simply stunning turnaround. Wright won set five in style, and when a 130 checkout was landed to make it 3-3, Suljovic must have feared the worst. And the worst is what he got. Wright sauntered through the final set, winning it 3-0 to seal a memorable comeback. Dublin-stanbul, if you will.
2) Barney brilliance
“Form is temporary, but class is permanent.”
So said Raymond van Barneveld – though we think that quote might’ve been made before. Either way, Barney brought the saying to life in a real humdinger of a first round tie. His opponent was a real rising star in Ricky Evans, a man who can’t help but entertain. Unfortunately he was nowhere to be found in the first set, as van Barneveld wandered through the opening legs like a boxer watching his opponent struggle to get up off the canvas.
The context makes the second set even more remarkable. Evans simply exploded into life, winning the set 3-1 to mirror Barney’s performance in the preceding chapter of this tale. No story’s worthwhile without a twist or two, and the decider had plenty of them. First Evans made it 1-0 with a timely double five, then he struck 242 points with his first six darts, compared to Barney’s 48.
It was all set up for a 2-0 lead and a direct route to the second round on debut for ‘Rapid’. From 298, van Barneveld hit a 134 to leave an unlikely 164 out. Evans, on 143, wired double 16 to take the leg. It was a great effort, and surely enough to seal three further darts for the leg.
Enter Barney. Treble 20, treble 18 and the bull had the crowd on their feet, Evans clapping and the tie sitting in the Dutchman’s lap. Despite Evans’ best efforts, the moment of magic had done the job, and van Barneveld was through. It’s a pity he utterly flopped in the second round and was whitewashed by Dave Chisnall, really. But then again, not all storybook endings deserve a sequel.
1) MVG and Chizzy’s record bout
Only four players recorded a higher average in the entire tournament than Dave Chisnall’s 97.78. And only one of those four did so after the first round. How unlucky for Chizzy then that the outstanding average was the one notched against him.
The world number eight had to settle for the highest losing three-dart figure in the history of the competition. He was good but Michael van Gerwen was otherworldly, averaging 101.54 over four sets. It could have been much higher, but for short bouts of double trouble. Both were excellent, and if the tournament rules could’ve been bent enough to allow two players through a tie, it’d be here that fewest objections would be raised. But that’s the nature of the sport, and van Gerwen proved in this win that he still had both the Mighty Mike magic and the guts to outfire an opponent in top form. It was here, not in the final, that van Gerwen’s title worthiness was forged.
Author: Ed McCosh