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Players Championship 1 & 2. Euro tour qualifiers 1 & 2

Players Championship 1 & 2. Euro tour qualifiers 1 & 2

Matthew Miller |

Players Championships 1

The first Players Championships event of the year took place in Wigan and was the first time we got to see the new tour card holders in ranking action, the event featured nine-darts and amazing averages mixed in with a touch of controversy from one former world champion.

The first round of the event saw some shock results the most notable of these were Stephen Bunting who came into this tournament fresh off his win in The Masters, lost to Dom Taylor a new tour card holder who won his only challenge tour in Wigan last year. Other shocks in the first round included Dave Chisnall who lost to Michele Turetta, Peter Wright who lost to Maik Kuivenhoven and Jonny Clayton who lost to Frenchman Thibault Tricole.

The biggest name to exit the tournament in the last 64 was Luke Humphries, who was whitewashed by fellow Englishman Ian White also departing in this round was Rob Cross who lost in a last leg decider to Belgium’s’ Andy Baetens who is the current WDF World Champion. Elsewhere in the second round Danny Noppert departed the tournament losing to Nathan Rafferty, the other big names to lose in this round were Gary Anderson, Raymond van Barneveld, and Michael Smith while new tour card holders and young darting sensations Luke Littler and Leighton Bennett won their games moving forward in the tournament.

The third round consisted of some controversy as Brendan Dolan was awarded a walkover victory over Gerwyn Price after the latter decided to forfeit the match while 4-2 down, Price after the forfeit took to Instagram to air his frustrations over what he said were “amateur” conditions in the playing hall. Darts journalist Pieter Vierbeek clarified that the playing hall in Wigan was quite cold compared to what players are used to playing in, however, the conditions in the playing hall are the same for all players and the other 127 players all chose to get on with it.

Despite Prices’ absence the third round continued, and the game of the round was Michele Turetta against Luke Littler, while not the best game ever seen as Littler easily walked past the Italian 6-5 it is notable that in the last leg of the game Luke Littler hit a nine darter to complete his victory, his second professional nine darts in the same number of months he has been a tour card holder. This round saw the end of the road for Leighton Bennet who lost out in a last leg decider to Cameron Menzies, UK Open champion Andrew Gilding also bowed out at this stage alongside Chris Dobey, Ian White, and Daryl Gurney.

Now with just sixteen players left the first day of ranking action in Wigan carried on, Luke Littler continued his run with a 108 average to defeat Cameron Menzies 6-2. James Hurrell also closed out a victory on Board 2 with Hurrell taking down Jamie Hughes 6-3. On Board 3, Alan Soutar took an easy 6-1 victory over Lee Evans while on Board 4 in a closer game Nick Kenny came past Mickey Mansell in a last leg decider. Ryan Searle whitewashed Mike De Decker to move forward while Jose de Sousa came through against Nathan Aspinall in a last leg decider. Brendan Dolan and Gian van Veen completed the quarter-final lineup for the event.

In the first quarter-final Luke Littler took on James Hurrell in a game which saw Luke Littler take out back-to-back four visit leg victories to beat Hurrell 6-3 and move through to the semi-finals. On Board 2 a last leg decider saw Alan Soutar beat Nick Kenny 6-5. Ryan Searle took on Jose de Sousa in the third of the days’ quarterfinals in which the Englishman won 6-2 and the final quarter-final also went to a last leg decider as the young Dutchman Gian van Veen took out Brendan Dolan.

The semi-finals proved to be a battle for the young Luke Littler who took out 150 with his opponent sat on 18 on his way to a narrow 7-6 victory over Alan Soutar as Littler won the last leg decider in 18 darts. In the other of the days’ semi-finals Ryan Searle overcame Gian van Veen 7-3 to reach the final.

The final was contested between Luke Littler and Ryan Searle and it turned out to be a thrilling affair as the pair played out to a combined average of over 220 and battled all way to a last leg decider which eventually went the way of Luke Littler, the worst leg in the game was an 18 darts hold of throw from Searle with the majority of legs being won in just four visits and Luke Littler won only after his opponent had missed a match darts at tops to take out a 160.


And with that came an end to the first day of ranking darts in the new season and Luke Littler came out on top and darts’ new superstar aims to move further up the rankings, and he starts with adding an additional £15,000 onto his ranking list. The action continues at Players Championship two when the players will again battle it out to see who the best on the day in Wigan is.


Players Championships 2

Following on from Luke Littler’s victory in the first event of the year the players are back for another day of darting action that sees 128 of the best players in the world take on one another, missing from action today is Gerwyn Price who opted not to return to play today following his controversial withdrawal from the opening event of the year.


The first round saw another set of upsets with the biggest names to leave the tournament straight away including the last two world champions as Luke Humphries and Michael Smith were both defeated in last leg deciders. Danny Noppert was knocked out by Luke Littler in the opening round of the day while Alan Soutar who reached the semi-finals just one day ago was knockout out in the first round by Peter Wright.

The shock results continued in the second round as Stephen Bunting still fresh off his masters win lost 6-4 to Martin Lukeman and Rob Cross also took an early exit from the tournament losing out to Niels Zonneveld. The big result of the second round however came from Board 4 as yesterdays’ champion Luke Littler was defeated in a last leg decider by Radek Szaganski.

There were less shocks although still plenty of excitement as the tournament entered the last 32 stage which saw victories for Peter Wright and Raymond van Barneveld among others the notable names to be defeated in this round were Jonny Clayton who lost to Callan Rydz and Daryl Gurney who lost to Gary Anderson.

The last 16 at Players Championship 2 saw yesterdays’ defeated finalist Ryan Searle move onto another quarterfinal as he walked past Arron Monk, this round proved to be the end of the road for Chris Dobey and Jose de Sousa among others while notable names Peter Wright and Raymond van Barneveld managed to secure their spots in the Quarterfinals.

In the quarterfinals Gary Anderson achieved an average of 117.12 the highest of the two days of action we saw this weekend and for a long portion in the match he looked like he could be on course for one of the highest averages of all time, he even admitted in an interview at the end of the day that it was playing on his mind and that he was trying to at least match Michael van Gerwens’ TV record of 123.4 but it wasn’t to be in the end albeit still an incredible performance from the two time world champion.

The quarterfinals begin with a match between Peter Wright and Robert Owen which goes the way of the Scotsman 6-2 with an easy enough victory for Wright. The second quarterfinal was contested between Gary Anderson and Raymond van Barneveld two legends of the game in the end it was the Scotsman who had seemed to find a large uptick in form this weekend who managed to prevail with a 6-3 victory. The third quarterfinal was Martin Lukeman and Callan Rydz the two Englishman battled in a lower quality affair and in the end, Lukeman won 6-2. The final of the quarterfinals was contested between Niels Zonneveld and yesterdays’ runner-up Ryan Searle, and again it was Searle who battled and moved on to another semi-final as he looked to make up for what happened the day before.

The semi-finals saw a battle between the two best Scottish darts players we have seen in the modern era as Peter Wright and Gary Anderson battled for a spot in the final just reaching the semi-final seemed to be an achievement for both men who have been out of form recently with Gary Anderson regularly facing calls that it’s time to retire and Wright recently clapping back at this critics by claiming he was going to win “loads” of titles this year so this run was already a big step for both. In the Anderson was the one who prevailed and moved into his first ranking final of the year. In the other semi-final a closely contested game between Ryan Searle and Martin Lukeman took place battling all the way to a last leg decider before Searle won it managing to bag his spot in a second consecutive ranking final.

The final was therefore contested between Ryan Searle and Gary Anderson and in the end the match was well contested by both players but averaging over ten points above his opponent it was ultimately the Scotsman who prevailed in a defiant performance with a 8-5 win to add another £15,000 into his bank account and onto the ranking list. Ryan Searle did battle hard all weekend and reaching two finals while obviously not what he wanted will help him move up the Tour Order of Merit which will help secure his qualification to other event. Today however, was the day of Gary Anderson he was by far the best player all day and missed the nine darts on no less than three occasions. He will be hoping he can carry this form into the upcoming European Tour events and UK Open.

The Player’s Championships return next week when the travelling tour heads to Leicester for its next two days of action.

European Tour Qualifiers

In addition to the Player’s Championship events this week the PDC also held the first Tour Card Holder Qualifiers for the opening two round of the European tour to decide which ten tour card holders would get to join the 32 already qualified players at the events. The new qualification system this year sees the top 16 in the main order of merit and the top 16 in the tour order of merit automatically qualify for the tour events.


Belgian Darts Open

The first qualifier was for the 2024 Belgian Darts Open and the ten players that secured their spot in the event were Mike De Decker, Luke Woodhouse, Lukas Wenig, Jermaine Wattimena, James Hurrell, Richard Veenstra, Daniel Klose, Luke Littler, Berry van Peer, and Chris Landman.

They join the players that have already qualified for the event to make up the field in the opening European Tour round of the season.


German Darts Grand Prix

The second tour card holder qualifier was held to decide which ten players would get to play in the second round of the European tour set to be held in Germany at the end of March.

The most notable player who failed to qualify for the second event was Luke Littler who lost to Jim Williams in the Top 40 and so will miss the second European Tour of the year.

The player’s that managed to do a double qualification and secured their spots in both events were Mike De Decker, Lukas Wenig, Richard Veenstra and Jermaine Wattimena.

The other players that managed to qualify only for the second event were Alan Soutar, Steve Lennon, Jeffery de Zwaan, Niels Zonneveld, Kevin Doets and Cameron Menzies.


And we will see how all the players that have managed to qualify for the European Tour get on when the tour kicks off in Belgium at the start of March.

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