Mensur Suljovic determined to focus on International Darts Open title defence after beating William O’Connor in opener

Mensur Suljovic kicked off his HappyBet International Darts Open title defence a winner, as he beat William O’Connor 6-3 with a ton-plus average.

Suljovic—the number two seed in Riesa—won the first two legs, but three missed darts at tops allowed the Irishman to break back and get a foothold in the match.

“I lose focus on the game and it goes 2-1, 2-2,” Suljovic told Love The Darts.

“I say to myself, ‘Mensur, please, come back into the game. You focus on the game, you’ll play well.’”

After O’Connor held to level at two, Suljovic threw in a 12-dart hold, before narrowly missing bull for a 161 for another 12-darter two legs later.

Up 4-3, O’Connor left 41 after nine, but Suljovic took out 84, his highest finish of the match, to complete an 11-dart break for a 5-3 lead.

Suljovic then landed tops at the third attempt to complete a victory in his first match since his maiden television title in Cardiff last weekend.

“For me, there’s big pressure now as Champions League winner,” Suljovic said. “But I focus on my game and never think that I’m Champions League winner. That tournament was last week, not this week.”

While Suljovic survived an early scare, multiple top seeds did not, with one last 16 matchup tomorrow being between two unseeded players.

Ron Meulenkamp started the upset train off by knocking out the fourth-seeded Michael Smith 6-3 in a scrappy contest.

“I’ve played Michael Smith four or five times and I’ve always played a good match against him but lost,” Meulenkamp said. “Now I play awful against him and I win, but I’ll take it anyway.”

Smith started strongly, holding throw and leaving 54 after 12 against the darts in the next leg. But Meulenkamp took out 116—the highest finish of the match—to level.

“I didn’t feel comfortable on stage, and the 116 made a difference,” Meulenkamp said. “I settled down a bit. I felt a little bit more relaxed.”

Both players missed a slew of doubles over the next few legs, with Smith himself missing three in a leg in three consecutive legs.

Meulenkamp, who is playing with new, heavier darts, punished him each time, as he won the final four legs of the match.

“I’m a real fighter,” Meulenkamp said. “I’m not the biggest talent, but I can fight like an animal, and I think I did.”

Meulenkamp’s opponent in the last 16 will be Josh Payne, who upset Rob Cross 6-4.

Payne started strongly, averaging over 105 through the first few legs, as he raced into a 3-0 lead.

“There’s a lot more that I could do, but I thought I played well there, especially the first half of the game,” Payne said.

Cross raised his game in the middle legs, wheeling off four in a row, including one with a tournament-high 170 out while Payne himself waited on 170.

But Payne steadied the ship late, winning the last three legs to advance. He now plays Meulenkamp in a battle of players who both recently increased their dart weights.

“My preparation has been really good,” Payne said. “I’ve been working on my practice routine at the moment and progressing my game .”

Earlier in the night, Dave Chisnall put in a top performance, averaging over 100 in a 6-4 win over Darren Webster, while going six and seven darts into a perfect leg.

The pair exchanged holds early on, with Chisnall looking the more comfortable in his legs. Chisnally didn’t require more than five visits in any leg he won, while Webster required at least six in each of his four.

Chisnall kicked off leg five with six perfect darts, but he missed two darts at double to let Webster in for a chance at 140. Webster hit to the two treble 20s, but was well wide of the mark on double 10.

Chisnall cleaned up, and it would prove to be Webster’s only good opportunity to break.

In the final leg, Chisnall kicked off again with two perfect visits, this time against the throw, and added the treble 20 with the seventh dart. He missed with his eighth, but still left a double after nine. He cleaned up second dart next turn to advance into Sunday.

Dennis Nilsson, who spoke with Love The Darts on Friday after his win over Steve Beaton, followed that win up with a last-leg upset of the fifth-seeded Daryl Gurney on Saturday night.

Gurney broke into the lead in leg three, but he missed two darts at double 16 to consolidate the break in the next leg. Nilsson took out 60 to level at 2-2, and the two held the rest of the way.

Nilsson had to withstand an onslaught of six 180s and a 100 average from Gurney, but threw one of his own in the final leg to leave 100. He then took it out on double ten, completing a 12-dart hold and a 6-5 victory.

Nilsson, who is scheduled to compete on Monday at the World Masters in Bridlington, plays Chisnall on Sunday afternoon.

Peter Wright also advanced into Sunday, getting over the line 6-2 in a match with 30 missed darts at double.

Wright won the first two legs, with Quantock missing 11 darts at double in the first leg, but Quantock bounced back to level.

But the world number three was too much for Quantock, as he wheeled off four on the spin, including a 120 out, to win.

Alan Norris put in his best performance on the Euro Tour this year, averaging 105 in knocking out the last remaining German, Max Hopp, 6-1.

Hopp broke in the very first leg, landing 72 after Norris missed three darts at tops. But Norris was nearly perfect the rest of the way, missing only three more darts at double over the next six legs and winning all but one leg in four or five visits.

In the final match of the night, Simon Whitlock had to withstand a scorching start from his compatriot Kyle Anderson, as Anderson won three of the first four legs for a 3-1 lead.

But Whitlock bounced back from there, winning four of the last five legs for a 6-4 win and a 100 average.

Both players hit over half their doubles, but it was Whitlock who created more opportunities in a match where all but one leg was won in five visits.

Picture: PDC Europe


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