Ireland’s Steve Lennon steals the show on opening session of International Darts Open in Riesa

Irishman Steve Lennon stole the show Friday afternoon at the SACHSENarena in Riesa, averaging just under 100 in a 6-2 win over Simon Stevenson, in the first round of the HappyBet International Darts Open.

“I’m relieved to win,” Lennon told Love The Darts after the match. “It’s my fourth time on the European Tour this year and it’s a relief (to win).”

The victory follows on the back of a successful debut season on the PDC circuit for Lennon, who stands in the race to qualify for the World Championship.

“My original goal for the year was to qualify for the UK Open, the Players Championships, and a few Euro Tours,” Lennon said. “But it’s gone a lot better than expected. I didn’t think I’d be in the race for Ally Pally.”

Seven other players joined Lennon with wins during the first session of play.

In the first match on Friday, Brendan Dolan whitewashed an out-of-sync Andy Hamilton. Dolan was clinical if not spectacular, hitting half his darts at double.

Meanwhile, Hamilton only had darts at double in two legs, and kept changing his speed of play to play to no avail.

Darren Webster also kept his hot run of form going, beating Luke Woodhouse 6-4 while averaging over 95. Webster kept his cool under pressure, and took out the last three legs, including a 138 out to level in the eighth leg.

Christian Kist was also a winner, as he overcame a slow start to beat Justin Pipe in a last-leg decider.

Kist was averaging 65 through the first two legs, but came back from two breaks of throw down to win.

Pipe had checkouts of 150 and 164, and wired double 7 for a 122. But his game deserted him late, and Kist punished with a 15-dart hold in the final leg.

Later, Chris Quantock put in one of his best performances on the European Tour stage, as he dispatched of host nation qualifier Dragutin Horvat 6-3.

Quantock was 60 per cent on the doubles, and very well could have won 6-1 had Horvat not taken out a 164 outshot—which alongside Justin Pipe was the highest outshot of the session—to stay alive in the seventh leg.

Willie O’Connor joined compatriot Steve Lennon in the second round, beating Dimitri van den Bergh 6-4.

Van den Bergh missed 13 darts at double, including two in the final leg, as O’Connor got the victory despite the lower average.

Mick McGowan could not make it a trio of Irishman into Saturday’s play, as Ron Meulenkamp won his first match on the European Tour this year, 6-1.

Both players struggled to put in big scores, but Meulenkamp created more opportunities in the entire match. He took out ton-plus shots in the first leg, and never let McGowan back in.

In the final match of the afternoon, Josh Payne defeated Germany’s Bernd Roith 6-4.

Roith battled back from 4-2 down to level at 4-4, but Payne took out legs of 14 and 16 to see himself over the line.

Picture: PDC Europe

Double qualifying delight in European Qualifiers for van der Voort, Kist and van den Bergh

Vincent van der Voort, Christian Kist and Dimitri van den Bergh have all qualified for the last two European Tour tour events of the season after winning through the European Qualifiers double-header in Riesa last night.

The HappyBet International Darts Open, which starts in Riesa today, and the HappyBet European Darts Trophy, which takes place in Göttingen next month, represent the final two tournaments on the European Tour for 2017.

And with qualification for the European Championship once again based solely on prize money won on the European Tour, the trio have all boosted their chances of qualifying for the major in Hasselt by securing spots in Riesa and Göttingen.

In the International Darts Open European Qualifier, world number 29 van der Voort defeated Yordi Meeuwisse 6-3 in the final round of qualifying, while Kist and van den Bergh won last-leg deciders against Rowby-John Rodriguez and Arjan Konterman respectively.

Other players to come through the qualifier included Ronny Huybrechts, who saw off Willy van de Wiel 6-1 in the final round, John Michael, a 6-5 winner over Jimmy Hendriks, and Jerry Hendriks, who pipped Jermaine Wattimena in a final-leg shootout.

Ron Meulenkamp will make only his second appearance on the European Tour this year after defeating Jan Dekker 6-4 in the final round, while his Dutch compatriot Michael Plooy clinched his spot in the field this weekend with a 6-3 victory against Mario Robbe.

In the European Darts Trophy European Qualifier, the final round saw van der Voort beat Berry van Peer 6-2, van den Bergh see off Dirk van Duijvenbode 6-3, and Kist edge past Antonio Alcinas 6-3.

Recent Players Championship finalist Zoran Lerchbacher secured his spot in Göttingen with a 6-2 win over Jimmy Hendriks, while Dekker qualified with a last-leg victory against Meulenkamp in the final round, and Wattimena defeated Plooy 6-5 to qualify.

Jeffrey de Zwaan secured a second appearance on the European Tour this season with a 6-2 win against Cristo Reyes, while Yordi Meeuwisse qualified for his first European Tour event of 2017 with a 6-2 win over Konterman in the final round.

Last night also saw the Host Nation Qualifier held for this weekend’s International Darts Open, with World Cup team-mates Max Hopp and Martin Schindler among the qualifiers.

Hopp beat Stefan Stoyke 6-3 in the final round, while Schindler edged past Marvin Eßer in a last-leg decider to also qualify.

The duo were joined by Bernd Roith, a 6-4 winner over Christian Bunse, and Dragutin Horvat, who saw off Thomas Junghans to secure a spot in the penultimate European Tour event of the season.

Fifth Development Tour title of 2017 moves Luke Humphries back to the top of Order of Merit

Luke Humphries returned to the top of the Unicorn Development Tour Order of Merit after winning his fifth title on the tour in Barnsley on Sunday.

Berkshire’s Humphries overcame his Red Dragon Darts stablemate Ryan Meikle 5-1 in the Event 16 final as he followed up an earlier quarter-final in Event 15 by taking the £2,000 top prize.

Humphries lost just four legs in his opening four matches as he defeated Shane Reidy, Dylan Powell, Josh Payne and Thomas King, before seeing off Dan Read 5-2 in the quarter-finals and Dimitri van den Bergh 5-3 in the last four.

Suffolk’s Meikle was aiming to win his second Development Tour title of the year, having previously won Event Three back in February.

The left-hander enjoyed wins over Jack Seymour, Tom Lonsdale, Joshua Church, Craig Reeves, Kevin De Vries, Harry Ward and Steve Lennon as he reached the final, only to be denied by Humphries.

The victory for Humphries has propelled him back up to top spot in the Development Tour Order of Merit on £10,100, with van den Bergh close behind on £9,800, and then Adam Hunt back in third on £8,000.

The final Development Tour weekend will be held on November 4-5 at the Robin Park Tennis Centre in Wigan, and will be followed on November 6 by the early rounds of the Unicorn World Youth Championship.

The top two players on the Order of Merit following the final event on November 6 will earn two-year tour cards onto the main PDC circuit for 2018 and 2019.

Unicorn Development Tour Event 16
Dimitri Van den Bergh 5-3 Adam Hunt
Luke Humphries 5-2 Dan Read
Steve Lennon 5-4 Rusty-Jake Rodriguez
Ryan Meikle 5-3 Harry Ward

Luke Humphries 5-3 Dimitri Van den Bergh
Ryan Meikle 5-4 Steve Lennon

Luke Humphries 5-1 Ryan Meikle

Martin Schindler clinches first Development Tour title with victory in Event 15 in Barnsley

Germany’s Martin Schindler won his maiden title in the Unicorn Development Tour after beating Justin van Tergouw 5-2 in the Event 15 final in Barnsley on Sunday.

The 21-year-old, who reached the quarter-finals alongside Max Hopp in the World Cup of Darts this summer, won through to his first Development Tour final yesterday, thus surpassing his run to the Event Two semi-finals earlier this year.

After seeing off Austria’s Rowby-John Rodriguez 4-2 in his opening game, Schindler then defeated Bradley Brooks, Sam Carter, Callum Goffin and Kenny Neyens to reach the last eight.

A 5-2 win over Ireland’s Steve Lennon put him through to the semi-finals, where he repeated the scoreline against fellow German Nico Ziemann, before also losing just two legs as he took victory in the final against van Tergouw.

Van Tergouw, who made his European Tour debut a fortnight ago in the Dutch Darts Masters, reached two semi-finals on the Development Tour weekend in Germany back in May.

And the 17-year-old continued to show his promise as he recorded wins over Justin Bradshaw, Reece Kiley, Josh McCarthy, Rob Hewson, Callum Loose, Ronnie Roberts and Harry Ward to make the final, where he was denied the £2,000 prize by Schindler.

Unicorn Development Tour Event 15
Harry Ward 5-4 Luke Humphries
Justin van Tergouw 5-3 Ronnie Roberts
Nico Ziemann 5-3 Dawson Murschell
Martin Schindler 5-2 Steve Lennon

Justin van Tergouw 5-2 Harry Ward
Martin Schindler 5-2 Nico Ziemann

Martin Schindler 5-2 Justin van Tergouw

Mensur Suljovic wins first televised title after beating Gary Anderson 11-9 in Champions League of Darts final

Mensur Suljovic is the newest first-time winner of a PDC televised title after beating Gary Anderson 11-9 in the Unibet Champions League of Darts final in Cardiff on Sunday night.

The 45-year-old Austrian, ranked seventh in the world, was the 40/1 pre-tournament outsider with Unibet heading into the weekend, but racked up five straight wins over players in the world’s top eight to claim the £100,000 title.

Suljovic opened the tournament with a 10-3 group stage win over Anderson and also recorded victories against Peter Wright (10-8) and Dave Chisnall (10-5) to finish top of Group B.

An 11-9 win over Group A runner-up Raymond van Barneveld, which was sealed with a stunning 160 checkout, booked his spot in his second TV final, where he repeated the scoreline against Anderson to win his maiden TV title.

“I feel perfect,” Suljovic said. “I never thought I could win this tournament.

“Gary is a brilliant player, a gentleman and I’ve got so much respect for him but I played well and I never gave up.

“I played well and was focused on my game but I never thought I could beat Gary twice.

“I couldn’t dream of being in the semi-finals but I gave it my best and fought so hard.

“I was so happy to get to the final against the best players in the world.”

Anderson led 2-0 and 3-1 in the final before Suljovic took out checkouts of 116 and 118 in a run of five successive legs to move 6-3 up.

The world number two then took three legs in a row to level at 6-6, with an 11-darter squaring the game up again in the 16th leg and an 80 finish with two double tops in leg 18 sending the final into a three-leg shootout.

Suljovic’s favourite double 14 moved him 10-9 up, before three missed doubles from Anderson allowed his rival back in to seal victory by hitting the same bed.

Anderson had earlier bounced back from his group stage loss to Suljovic by overcoming Chisnall on Saturday night, before surviving eight missed match darts from Wright in their Sunday afternoon winner-takes-all clash to claim a semi-final place with a 10-9 triumph.

The Scot then ended Phil Taylor’s title defence at the Motorpoint Arena with an 11-6 victory in the last four, recovering from 102 and 121 finishes in the opening two legs from Taylor to win eight on the spin on his way to victory.

However, it was Suljovic again who enjoyed victory over the two-time world champion to deny him the £100,000 title, with Anderson admitting: “Mensur has been brilliant and you can see how much it means to him.

“He’s been phenomenal for the last two years and he’s been the best player this weekend.

“He deserves it – he’s been the player of the tournament and smashed the lot of us.

“It’s been a great event. It’s a couple of weeks since I won in Perth and I got better as the event went on.

“I struggled against Mensur, then played better on Saturday evening and played well today.

“I did alright in the final and I’d have loved to have made it 10-all and then see what happened in the last leg, but I had three clear darts at double 10 and made a complete mess of it, so we’ll never know.”

Alan Tabern ends three-year trophy drought in Challenge Tour with victory in Event 20 in Wigan

Former Pro Tour winner Alan Tabern brought to an end a three-year trophy drought in the Unicorn Challenge Tour with victory in the final event of the season today.

The 50-year-old, who reached the semi-finals of the 2006 UK Open, as well as three other major quarter-finals, won three Challenge Tour titles back in 2014.

Those triumphs had helped the St Helens thrower to finish second on the Challenge Tour Order of Merit that year and win back his tour card, but he was back at Qualifying School trying to win his tour card back in January this year.

The left-hander overcame Chris Jackson, Radoslaw Szaganski, Michael Dawson and Adam Huckvale to reach the quarter-finals, where he was a 5-3 winner against Barry Lynn.

Tabern then picked up a fifth successive 5-3 triumph as he saw off Brazil World Cup star Diogo Portela in the semi-finals, before repeating the scoreline in the final against Adam Smith-Neale.

Warwickshire’s Smith-Neale, a winner on the Unicorn Development Tour five years ago, enjoyed his best run on the Challenge Tour to reach the final.

The 23-year-old claimed wins over Steve McNally, David Copley, Peter Mitchell, Curtis Hammond, Warrick Scheffer and Luke Humphries as he secured his spot in the decider.

Unicorn Challenge Tour
Event 20
Alan Tabern 5-3 Barry Lynn
Diogo Portela 5-4 Kevin Edwards
Luke Humphries 5-1 Martin Lukeman
Adam Smith-Neale 5-3 Warrick Scheffer

Alan Tabern 5-3 Diogo Portela
Adam Smith-Neale 5-3 Luke Humphries

Alan Tabern 5-3 Adam Smith-Neale

Wayne Jones wins back tour card after Event 19 triumph secures top spot on Unicorn Challenge Tour Order of Merit

Former major finalist Wayne Jones has won back his tour card after securing top spot in this year’s Unicorn Challenge Tour Order of Merit today.

The 2010 European Championship runner-up defeated Stuart Kellett in the final of Event 19 this afternoon, which was enough to ensure he finishes top of the Order of the Merit.

Jones, who lost his tour card at the end of last season, had already won two Challenge Tour titles this year, and followed up Saturday’s run to the Event 17 final by picking up the £2,000 first prize in the first of Sunday’s two tournaments.

The Wolverhampton thrower claimed wins over Bradley Brooks, Rohit Rabadia and Brett Claydon, before being taken to a deciding leg by Paul Harvey, Craig Gilchrist and Gary Stone.

Having come through those tight matches, Jones then won the title with a 5-3 triumph against Kellett, the Cheshire ace who was appearing in his first Challenge Tour final.

Kellett had earlier beaten Rachel Brooks, James Hubbard, Edward Lovely, Event 18 winner Nick Fullwell, Paul Phillips and Peter Hudson in his run to the final, as he picked up £1,000 in prize money.

Unicorn Challenge Tour
Event 19
Stuart Kellett 5-2 Paul Phillips
Peter Hudson 5-4 Martin Lukeman
Gary Stone 5-0 Sam Head
Wayne Jones 5-4 Craig Gilchrist

Stuart Kellett 5-4 Peter Hudson
Wayne Jones 5-4 Gary Stone

Wayne Jones 5-3 Stuart Kellett

Michael Smith aiming to follow up Gibraltar triumph with a fifth career European Tour win tomorrow

Michael Smith has his sights set on a fifth career European Tour win as he heads into the final day of the HappyBet German Darts Grand Prix tomorrow.

The world number nine, who won the Gibraltar Darts Trophy in May, defied seven 180s and a missed match dart from Jamie Lewis before escaping with a 6-5 win from a thriller with the Welsh youngster earlier today.

“My partner was due to give birth a few days ago so I’m waiting for a message that she’s gone into labour!” admitted Smith.

“The only thing I’ve come here for is to win the tournament and I’ve done it four times before, so I don’t see why I can’t make it a fifth tomorrow.”

Smith now plays Joe Cullen, who produced a hugely impressive 108.30 average and hit four 180s and half of his darts at a double in a superb 6-3 win over Tony Martinez, the Belgian debutant who had won through to the second round.

Benito van de Pas was also in a clinical mood as he overcame Jamie Caven 6-3, finishing 6/9 on his doubles after opening the game with a 104 checkout to set up a tie with Darren Webster, who knocked out seeded Alan Norris 6-3.

World number 99 Nathan Aspinall also finished six doubles from nine attempts as he defeated sixth ranked Dave Chisnall 6-2.

Aspinall now meets former European Championship winner Simon Whitlock, who was a 6-2 victor against Sweden’s Daniel Larsson to begin his bid to claim a second European Tour title.

Ronny Huybrechts hits six from eight doubles to stun second seed Peter Wright in HappyBet German Darts Grand Prix last 32

Ronny Huybrechts produced a stunning display of double hitting to knock out second seed Peter Wright 6-2 in the last 32 of the HappyBet German Darts Grand Prix this evening.

The Belgian hit six out of his eight attempts at doubles as he ended the world number three’s bid to win a fifth European Tour title of the season.

For Huybrechts it keeps alive his hopes of qualifying for next month’s Unibet World Grand Prix, as the world number 44 set up a third-round clash with Vincent van der Voort, who also has his eyes on snatching a Dublin spot before Monday’s cut off.

The Dutchman was a 6-5 winner in a dramatic clash with Mervyn King, averaging 101 as he hit back from 5-2 down before surviving three missed match darts from his rival in the deciding leg.

Sixth seed Daryl Gurney took out six doubles from his 10 attempts as he averaged 98 in a strong 6-1 win over former world youth champion Keegan Brown.

The recent US Darts Masters finalist now plays Ian White, who defied ton-plus finishes of 104, 105 and 156 from Jermaine Wattimena before sealing a 6-4 victory over the Dutchman with a 120 checkout this afternoon.

Third seed Mensur Suljovic – who became a father for a second time last month to daughter Ema – swept past Irish ace Mick McGowan with a 6-1 victory and now takes on 2017 shooting star Rob Cross in the last 16 tomorrow.

Cross impressed once again by averaging 104 and taking out finishes of 150, 112 and 104 among 6/8 on his doubles to defeat Jan Dekker 6-3.

Michael van Gerwen whitewashes Richard North with a 111 average in HappyBet German Darts Grand Prix second round

Michael van Gerwen took just nine minutes to whitewash Richard North with a 111 average in the second round of the HappyBet German Darts Grand Prix this evening.

The world number one had marked his return to action following a month’s break for the birth of his daughter by winning last weekend’s Dutch Darts Masters in Maastricht, and the top seed laid down a marker in Mannheim with a 6-0 win over the qualifier.

Van Gerwen began his bid to win a fifth European Tour title of 2017 in ruthless fashion, winning six straight legs in 13, 14, 15, 15, 13 and 11 darts to set up a third-round clash with Gerwyn Price tomorrow.

“It’s been a great last month and I’m really enjoying myself and you could see that in my game last week,” the top seed said.

“I played really well in Maastricht and I hope I can continue the good form.

“I’ve got the spirit and good motivation at the moment. You always need to be critical of yourself – I had two legs where I had some 57s and 59s, but for the rest I’m doing quite well and that’s what I like to do.”

Welshman Price was a 6-3 winner against leading Polish ace Krzysztof Ratajski, who led 3-2 only for missed doubles in two successive legs to allow the UK Open finalist to start a run of four straight legs as he swept to victory in the afternoon.

Auckland Darts Masters champion Kyle Anderson posted his fifth successive average of over 100 on the European Tour with a brilliant display to defeat eighth seed Kim Huybrechts.

The Australian twice hit six perfect darts as he hit back from an early 2-1 deficit to land seven maximums and end with a 102.17 average – despite missing 15 darts at doubles.

Anderson now takes on ninth seed Jelle Klaasen in the last 16 tomorrow, with the former BDO world champion enjoying a 6-4 win over Scottish qualifier Jamie Bain in their second-round tie earlier in the day.

Bain, who had knocked out Dutch Darts Masters finalist Steve Beaton in the first round yesterday, hit back from 2-0 down to lead 3-2, but Klaasen dominated the second half of the game to progress.