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Andy Hamilton is the cover star for this week’s issue, in an exclusive chat with the Hammer he discusses getting a late call up to the Players Championship Finals and his first round clash with Michael van Gerwen.
Speaking of a certain Dutchman, MVG was in ruthless form once again at the weekend as he successfully defended his Grand Slam of Darts title. We’ve got two pages of reports and reaction, as well as Christopher Kempf’s Match of the Week, which focuses on the dramatic quarter-final at Wolverhampton between Gary Anderson and Raymond van Barneveld.
Talk of who will be selected for the Premier League next year continues to hot up. One man who won’t be there though is Mensur Suljovic. The in-form Austrian has ruled himself out of the running, find out why inside our new issue.
Dave South is back to look ahead to the Players Championship Finals this weekend and discusses whether the increase from 32 to 64 players will improve the tournament.
The Unicorn World Youth Championship final takes place in Minehead as well this weekend. We grabbed a word with one of the finalists, Corey Cadby, to get his thoughts ahead of it.
Elsewhere inside our new 16-page issue, we cover the new TV deal for the BDO, Andy Baetens winning his first WDF title, and we’ve also got all of the latest results, fixtures and The Darts Dozen in our handy database too!
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Former World Championship finalists Andy Hamilton and Kevin Painter head the list of entries for Monday’s William Hill World Darts Championship PDPA Qualifier.
Hamilton has been an ever present in the PDC’s World Championship since joining the tour in 2004, but is currently set to miss out on a place at the Alexandra Palace next month.
The world number 40 would need a run to the final at the Cash Converters Players Championship Finals this weekend to stand a chance of climbing back into the top 32, otherwise he will be among 121 players competing in Monday’s PDPA Qualifier.
Painter has played in the last 15 PDC World Championships since switching over from the BDO in 2001, but is also set to miss out on this year’s tournament, which has an increased prize fund of £1,650,000.
Andrew Gilding, currently 32nd on the PDC Order of Merit, is the highest ranked player to have entered the qualifer. But barring a surprise winner or finalist at Minehead this weekend he should not need to go to the PDPA Qualifier next week.
Gilding will need to reach the last 16 at least this weekend to have a chance of staying in the top 32, but even if he drops out he occupies the last qualifying place on the Pro Tour Order of Merit.
Former Players Championship Finals winner Paul Nicholson is also in the field for Monday’s qualifier in Wigan, and will be joined by former major finalists Ronnie Baxter, Wayne Jones and Wes Newton.
The winner of the qualifier will go straight into the first round of the World Championship, while the runner-up qualifies for the preliminary round.
William Hill World Darts Championship PDPA Qualifier
Coni Singh Nagi
Dirk van Duijvenbode
Darren Webster says he is ‘over the moon’ after whitewashing Phil Taylor 5-0 in his final game of the SINGHA Beer Grand Slam of Darts last night.
The Norwich-based thrower, ranked 40th on the PDC Order of Merit, could not qualify for the knockout stages of the Grand Slam after losing his opening two group games against Ian White (5-3) and Darryl Fitton (5-4) at the weekend.
But the 48-year-old pulled off arguably the biggest win of his career with a surprising whitewash victory against the 16-time world champion in their dead rubber encounter in Group D.
“I never give up ever, no matter who I play,” Webster said. “Phil was off sorts, but it’s worse playing him when he’s off sorts because you think he’s going to kick in any minute.
“I just kept steady and I’m prepared now for the Players Championship (Finals) and the World Championship with that win. I’m over the moon.
“(The win against Phil) gives you confidence. Ok, Phil normally averages 104, 108 all the time.
“I just tried to keep steady. A 95 average, I average 10, 15, 20 points higher than that on tour, but I’m starting to learn how to get it up there.
“It hasn’t been a great tournament for me, but it has in one way. It’s a big boost for me for the end of the year.”
Last night was not the first time Webster has recorded a whitewash win over Taylor. The Demoltion Man thrashed the Stoke legend 6-0 in a Players Championship event in Ireland back in 2014.
Despite the defeat, Taylor still finished top of Group D, albeit by legs difference after Darryl Fitton clinched the runners-up spot with his second win of the tournament, beating Ian White 5-4 in a nervy decider.
Michael van Gerwen continued the defence of his SINGHA Beer Grand Slam of Darts title with a 5-1 thrashing of Max Hopp to finish top of Group A last night.
The PDC number one dropped just four legs over three group games, with the 5-1 triumph over Hopp following wins over Martin Adams (5-2) and Brendan Dolan (5-1) at the weekend.
Van Gerwen also lost only four legs in the group stage on his way to winning the Grand Slam for the first time last year, and the Dutchman is in a confident mood heading into the knockout stage of this year’s tournament.
“I think I couldn’t do much more to be fair,” he said. “I did enough. I did the right things at the right moments and I’m glad to be through to the next round.
“I also didn’t need to use much energy. This was a nice warm up in the group. I wasn’t really worrying about anything.
“I just need to make sure I get my confidence for the next round and then I will be sure that this tournament is going to be fine.”
Phil Taylor, one of van Gerwen’s main challengers in the Grand Slam this week, suffered a surprising 5-0 defeat to Darren Webster last night, but the Dutchman is only concentrating on his own game, with the two potentially set to meet in the semi-finals on Sunday.
“Sometimes people surprise me, like the Darren Webster game earlier on,” van Gerwen said.
“I never expected him to win 5-0. You never know what happens in darts, that’s the difficult thing.
“I know my strong points and I need to show them myself in the next game.
“I don’t want to look to other people. I just want to rely on my own game and no one elses.”
BDO number one Glen Durrant and World Trophy holder Darryl Fitton booked their places in the last 16 of the SINGHA Beer Grand Slam of Darts after prevailing in winner-takes-all clashes tonight.
The final matches in Groups A, D, E and H took place at the Wolverhampton Civic Hall, with defending champion Michael van Gerwen and reigning PDC world champion Gary Anderson both finishing top of their respective groups.
Benito van de Pas took top spot in Group H, while Phil Taylor finished in pole position in Group D despite a surprising 5-0 defeat to Darren Webster in his final group game.
Current World Masters champion Durrant booked his place in the last 16 with a 5-0 whitewash over Nathan Derry.
The BDO number one, making his debut in the cross-code tournament, averaged 97.60 and took out 150 as he secured runners-up spot in Group E.
Anderson, runner-up in the Grand Slam in 2011, made it three wins from three to top Group E with a comfortable 5-2 win over Alan Norris.
Van Gerwen came through the group stages with maximum points, as a 5-1 win against Max Hopp saw him top Group A.
The defeat for Hopp meant he was relying on the result in the final Group A match between Brendan Dolan and Martin Adams, which saw the former come from behind to pip the German to the runners-up spot.
Three-time BDO world champion Adams needed to win 5-2 or better, and at 3-2 up still had a chance of getting the result he needed to reach the knockout stages for a second consecutive year.
But Northern Ireland’s Dolan then reeled off three legs on the spin to triumph 5-3 and snatch the last qualifying place up for grabs in Group A.
Adrian Lewis finished with a tournament average of more than 102 as he bowed out of the Grand Slam in the group stages for the sixth time in 10 years.
Van de Pas was a 5-2 victor over the two-time world champion to finish top of Group H with maximum points, while Lewis left Wolverhampton without a point to his name.
Chris Dobey continued his breakthrough year after toppling former world champion Scott Mitchell 5-3 to finish runner-up in Group H and progress to the last 16 of a TV tournament for the first time.
Six-time Grand Slam winner Taylor had already qualified for the knockout stage heading into his final Group D encounter with Webster, but was handed a 5-0 thrashing by the Norfolk thrower, ranked 40th on the PDC Order of Merit.
The final qualifying place up for grabs in Group D went to the BDO’s Fitton, who battled back from 4-2 down to beat Ian White 5-4 in a nervy final game of the day.
SINGHA Beer Grand Slam of Darts Order of Play Monday, November 14
Adrian Lewis (100.19) 2-5 Benito van de Pas (100.90) (H)
Gary Anderson (97.33) 5-2 Alan Norris (94.60) (E)
Phil Taylor (87.08) 0-5 Darren Webster (96.35) (D)
Michael van Gerwen (95.93) 5-1 Max Hopp (87.37) (A)
Brendan Dolan (80.87) 5-3 Martin Adams (80.96) (A)
Chris Dobey (92.74) 5-3 Scott Mitchell (92.61) (H)
Nathan Derry (76.20) 0-5 Glen Durrant (97.60) (E)
Ian White (88.86) 4-5 Darryl Fitton (87.27) (D)
Ahead of making his debut in what he calls his home tournament, Hughes was yesterday expecting the birth of his second child.
The 30-year-old, lives in Tipton, a mere six miles away from the Wolverhampton Civic Hall, the venue for the 10th staging of the SINGHA Beer Grand Slam of Darts, which starts tomorrow.
And for Hughes, who qualified as one of the top four ranked players in the BDO not already in the tournament, it is an occasion which he can’t wait to experience.
“It’s my home tournament so I should have a lot of support there,” he said.
“I’ve been up there and watched it a couple of times as well, so it’ll be a bit special to be going up there myself this time.”
Hughes has arguably the toughest draw of the eight BDO players in the cross-code tournament, with James Wade, Dave Chisnall and James Wilson joining him in Group G.
“It’s very tough,” the former World Masters finalist said.
“James Wade and Dave Chisnall are two Premier League regulars from the last few years, and I’ve also got probably one of the most in-form players in James Wilson, so it’s going to be tough.
“I’ve played Wilson a few times before, but I’ve never played Chisnall or Wade, so that’ll be something new.”
The best of nine leg format for the group stages of the Grand Slam is one of the shortest formats which the PDC players experience on the circuit, while for the likes of Hughes and his BDO players, he is used to even shorter formats.
“The shorter format puts it a bit more in my favour I think,” he said.
“The PDC players will be used to playing over a lot longer format.
“I suppose ranking wise you’ve got most of the top eight in the BDO there so it’s one of the best groups of players the BDO have taken there.”
Since helping England win the WDF Europe Cup team event in late September, the build up to Hughes’ Grand Slam debut has been a quiet one on the oche.
Aside from a trip to Turkey at the end of last month, which saw him lose out in the final of the Turkish Open to Martin Phillips in a deciding leg, Hughes has had his focus elsewhere.
“It’s been quite quiet to be honest,” he said. “I went to Turkey, that was the last one I went into, two weeks ago.
“I’d of preferred to be busier because it keeps your arm sharp you know.
“It is what it is. I haven’t been able to do much because my partner has been pregnant, so it’s all good preparation for the Grand Slam!
“It’ll be nice to have it off my mind but whatever happens happens. I’ll just deal with whatever happens.
“I’ve got a seven-year-old girl. I wasn’t on the circuit or anything back then (when she was born), so it didn’t really affect me. I was just a county player then.”
The Grand Slam this weekend marks the start of an important couple of months for a lot of players, including those of BDO persuasion.
At the start of December, Hughes heads to Lakeside for the Winmau World Masters, before heading out for the Finder Darts Masters and then after Christmas, back to Lakeside for the World Championship in early January.
“It’s the Masters and then Finder Masters just after that,” he said.
“And then it’ll be Lakeside. It’ll be nice to have good runs in all the tournaments again.
“I never go into a tournament thinking I’m going to win it because that’s a bit of an arrogant attitude, and you’re disrespecting the other players.
“It would be great to have some good runs again, but I don’t think you can look that far ahead.
“It’s disrespectful to the other players thinking that you can just beat them all.
“I think that’s when it can come back and bite you and you can lose a bit of an edge on your game as well.
“I played well in Turkey, so hopefully I can carry it on.
“It’s all on the day though, so we’ll see what happens.”
If Hughes is to have a prolonged debut year in the Grand Slam, then he will not have to travel far to get back home.
“I’m only like six, seven or eight miles away,” he said. “So it’s a £10 taxi.”
The PDC promotes a competitive atmosphere at its stage events in which spectators are allowed to take part in matches, should they choose to do so.
Apart from the occasional mild approach of “thank you, best of order, please” from the referee, fans can effectively whistle, cheer, jeer and call out to the players – even when they are throwing – with the intent of distracting a disliked player or spurring a favoured player on to win.
The extent to which players and commentators view this behaviour acceptable depends on their opinion of what a fan’s obligation is.
Some think that the punters, by means of paying to watch the match in person, are entitled to do as they please.
Others decry the lack of respect to the players that inevitably results from that sense of entitlement.
And some profess both opinions as the situation dictates.
The extent to which a boisterous crowd can influence the outcome of a match is incredibly difficult to analyse in a statistical way.
But there is no doubt that Phil Taylor, in his semi-final loss to Peter Wright this past weekend in Glasgow, reacted and performed directly in response to provocations from the partisan Scottish crowd.
That Taylor missed seven match darts over the final three legs is simply a fact.
But it is to Wright’s credit that he produced a sensational performance, averaging 105, in spite of The Power’s relentless scoring and ruthless finishing.
Between his results in the European Championship and the World Series of Darts Finals, Taylor has made a case for himself as the most consistent performer – and most difficult opponent – in darts.
In his past six games, consisting of 78 legs, Taylor failed to reach a finish only twice.
He had darts at double in 55 of those legs, won 45 of them, and checked out in 15 darts or less in 40.
Sunday’s performance at the Braehead Arena against Wright continued in that same vein of excellence and surpassed the highlights of his other recent matches.
After the 18th leg of the match, which saw him win his seventh leg out of the previous nine, Taylor was averaging over 109 and reaching a finish, on average, after 9.2 darts.
Taylor responded to pressure from Wright in the 15th leg with a magnificent 149 checkout, and to the suddenly crestfallen crowd with pantomime yawns.
Wright, who fell 10-8 behind after a spectacular 6-3 start, finished the final three legs to win one of the most suspenseful finishes of 2016.
A Wright dart at double 16 to steal the 19th leg made a visible dent in the wire as it bounced out.
But as Taylor attempted three match darts, the Scottish fans laid it on thick. The bravado with which Taylor had reacted to the crowd noise evaporated as he repeatedly failed to close out the match.
Wright goaded on the fans with a nine darter attempt which did not result, alas, in the perfect leg, but gave him a break of throw and the advantage in the deciding leg.
After surviving a dart at the bull from Taylor, Wright finished the match with 16 darts to a roar of approval from the crowd.
It was the second TV semi-final of the year in which Taylor missed seven match darts and lost the 21st leg.
That he did it once with the crowd cheering him on, and once under duress, perhaps indicates more about Taylor than it does about the punters.