A review of day four of the Betfred World Matchplay, as Simon Whitlock caused a huge upset by thrashing Michael van Gerwen 11-4 to reach the quarter-finals.
Wizard casts spell over van Gerwen
Simon Whitlock conjured up one of the greatest results of his career as he dismantled a strangely out-of-sorts Michael van Gerwen 11-4 to reach the quarter-finals of the World Matchplay in Milton Keynes.
The world number one was not only tournament favourite to win the prestigious title for the first time since 2016, but he was also 1/14 to see off the Wizard, who took to the Marshall Arena stage on the back of a poor season so far and a 15-match losing streak against MVG dating back to 2016.
Even during a 10-4 win over Ryan Joyce in the first round on Saturday, Whitlock only managed an 89 average so very few expected him to even run van Gerwen close, let alone win and by such a jaw-dropping scoreline.
The Aussie was 7/1 outsider to pull off the shock victory before a dart was thrown, while the correct scoreline could have been audaciously backed at 125/1.
MVG was still available at even-money when trailing 5-0 at the end of the first session with an average in the low 80s and when he punished Whitlock for missing double 18 to extend that lead to 6-0, a comeback was on the cards.
Whitlock, who won the last of his 16 PDC titles back in 2017, refused to buckle when MVG further reduced the deficit to 5-2 and took out a classy 84 checkout to complete a 12-darter.
The UK Open champion was steadily improving - although that was hardly difficult after such a poor start - and pinched the next leg in 18 darts after his opponent spurned two attempts at tops.
MVG then reduced the gap to 7-4 with a break after Whitlock missed the bullseye for a 90 checkout and on another day the 51-year-old may have folded.
But on this occasion it would be the last leg the three-time champion would win, as the 2012 European champion reeled off the next four legs to complete an astonishing victory.
Van Gerwen, who won two titles during the PDC Summer Series and averaged close to 100 in his first-round win over Brendan Dolan, posted a mark of 90.8 compared to Whitlock's 98.11 and hit half as many 180s with just three.
But the worst area of his game was undoubtedly his finishing as he missed a total of 20 darts at doubles, with the victor converting 11 of his 27 to set up a last-eight showdown with Gary Anderson.
The result comes a day after joint second favourite Gerwyn Price crashed out at the hands of Danny Noppert, which now means world champion Peter Wright heads the betting at a best of 3/1, while Gary Anderson is close behind at 10/3.
"I'm over the moon with that, but I always believe I can beat the best," Whitlock told www.pdc.tv. "Michael is the best player on the planet but he had an off-day today and I took advantage of it. I just put Michael out of the picture and pretended I was playing local darts.
"I believed in myself and that's the only way to do it. If you play the player you will put yourself in trouble. Experience counts for that, and along with a love for the game, that's what keeps us older players going."
Anderson takes down the Machine
Gary Anderson battled past fellow darting heavyweight James Wade 11-9 to book his place in the World Matchplay quarter-finals in Milton Keynes.
The 2018 champion wasn't particularly pleased with his performance - describing some of it as 'rubbish' - but his average of 92.91 was still enough to prevail against an old foe.
Although he lacked consistency on the scoring front, Anderson did manage to hit nine maximums, with two of those coming at the start of the ninth and 10th legs as he twice threatened the first ever televised behind-closed-doors nine-darter.
The first over those came to an abrupt halt with a single one and he'd later scramble to a scrappy 18-darter after Wade missed three attempts at doubles.
A single 20 ended his hopes in the 10th leg but this time he made it home in 15, with his opponent waiting on tops.
Anderson, who hit a World Matchplay nine-darter two years ago, later made it five legs on the spin to make it 9-4 before Wade fought back with a run of three of his own.
The next two legs were shared as Wade produced a classy 11-darter from 96 but it proved in vain as the 49-year-old completed the job.
Wade averaged903.96 and fired in five maximums while the 148 checkout that put him 3-2 up was the highest of the match. The Aldershot man crucially missed 14 attempts at doubles, with Anderson pinning 11 of his 27.
"Tonight was a continuation of how my game has been going recently, some good and some bad," admitted Anderson. "One minute my throw is fine, the next minute it's all over the place and I'm not quite sure why.
"I found it fine playing the online darts during lockdown, but I'm still finding this very weird playing in front of no fans. But, even though I'm not too happy with how I'm playing, I've got that winning feeling so hopefully I can keep it going."
Smith edges ton-tastic thriller
Michael Smith mounted a stirring comeback against Mensur Suljovic before snatching a dramatic 14-12 victory that books his place in the World Matchplay quarter-finals.
This pulsating affair featured no fewer than eight 100+ checkouts, with the five-time major runner-up nailing his fourth from 110 to break Suljovic's heart and prevent a sudden-death leg.
It marked an incredible turn around from Smith, who was showing negative body language and frustration for large periods of a match that he'd trailed 8-5 and 9-6 due to multiple missed chances and inconsistent scoring.
Nevertheless, his below-par average of 94.99 was lifted by a barrage of 10 maximums while he ended with a creditable checkout percentage of 45% having only spurned two darts at the outer ring after he'd got it back to 9-7.
Two of the St Helens man's other three ton+ efforts were also like daggers to the heart of Suljovic.
Smith, whose best was 116 in leg seven, weighed in with one from 103 to make it 9-8 after Suljovic had left himself 40 while a 104 at 6-4 down came after his opponent had missed two darts at double 16.
Bully Boy also impressively took out 84 on the bullseye to edge 11-10 ahead when the Austrian waited on 32 and also a crucial 72 to level it up at 9-9 after the 2018 runner-up had just missed double 18.
'The Gentle' will be crestfallen to let victory slip away and will rue the face he couldn't conjure up the same scoring power that helped him average over 100 in the first round.
On this occasion he hit just two 180s - eight fewer than against Jamie Hughes - and averaged 91.7 although there was not a lot wrong with his high finishing as he took out 136 to go 4-1 up, 101 for 8-5, 125 for 9-6 and another from 136 to edge 10-9 ahead.
Overall he missed 16 doubles, with Smith converting 14 of his 31 attempts.
The 29-year-old, who was one of our outright tips at 25/1 each-way, will now meet either Gabriel Clemens or Krzysztof Ratajski in the quarter-finals.
"I wasn't ready to go home tonight, I had to fight really hard for my place in the tournament," said Smith. "I've showed over the last year or so that I have got the fight to stick in games and come out on top.
"People associate me getting annoyed with myself as a sign that I'm 'giving up' but it's not at all, it's me trying to get myself going. I often boss games with my scoring but tonight I wasn't scoring well so I had to make up for it with good finishing, which isn't what I'm known for, but tonight I made the most of my chances."
Polish Eagle rises above the pressure
Krzysztof Ratajski survived a real scare against World Matchplay debutant Gabriel Clemens as he reached the quarter-finals for the first time in his blossoming PDC career with a 12-10 triumph.
The highly-fancied Polish Eagle, who was tipped on these pages pre-tournament at 40/1 each-way due to his sparkling form and rapid rise up the ranks since joining the circuit full-time in 2019, produced the performance of the first round when averaging over 107 in a demolition job of Jermaine Wattimena but this was a far more tense affair.
Ratajski still played to a high standard by averaging 99.69 and landing three 100+ checkouts, including a stunning 130 to complete a 12-darter that put him 9-7 up, while he showed tremendous bottle to hold throw at 10-9 down and again at 10-10 to earn a crucial break when the German spurned three darts at a double after leaving 40.
Having previously wasted three clear chances of his own to open up a 10-8 lead, the former BDO World Master made the advantage of throw count in what proved to be the final leg, with strong visits of 121, 125 and 140 paving the way to a match-sealing 14-darter that sets up a last-eight meeting with Michael Smith.
The 43-year-old, who has won eight PDC titles since the start of 2018 but until now has struggled to show his best on the televised stage, always had his nose in front by a single break after a 110 checkout in the opening leg but credit must go to Clemens for staying with him and never falling more than two legs behind.
Ratajski's second ton + finish came in the 14th leg when he took out 113 for a 15-darter and at that point it looked as if he'd coast to the finish line rather than become embroiled in a nervy finale.
The world number 13 hit five fewer maximums with four but his finishing was slightly more clinical, pinning 12 of his 33 attempts as Clemens missed 18 of his 28.
Dream debut for Dimitri
Dimitri van den Bergh enjoyed a dream World Matchplay debut as he upset the odds to defeat Nathan Aspinall 10-5 in Milton Keynes.
In a match that brought the first-round to a conclusion, the 'Dream Maker' claimed his first ever victory over the 2019 UK Open champion at the seventh attempt and will now fancy his chances to go even further in a wide open bottom section of the draw.
Van den Bergh, who will next meet the unseeded Joe Cullen for the right to face either Danny Noppert or Adrian Lewis in the quarter-finals, averaged an impressive 98.42 compared to Aspinall's 93.54 and while he hit one fewer maximum with four, he was superior on his finishing.
The two-time World Youth champion hit 10 of his 24 attempts at the outer ring, including one at double 18 that completed a killer 156 checkout to go 8-4 up.
Despite it virtually spelling the end for the rising Premier League star, who was agonisingly waiting to come back on tops, Aspinall sportingly gave his opponent a thumbs up and applause to show his appreciation of the shot.
It was Van den Bergh's second 100+ finish of the match having also landed a 103 checkout for a 7-3 lead, while a strangely below-par Aspinall's best was just 40.
The Stockport man was widely expected to come through due to his fantastic stage and floor form over the past couple of breakthrough seasons and looked fairly comfortable with the settings when a 13 darter made it 2-2.
Aspinall, who has hit a nine-darter and won two two titles this year in addition to the Home Tour crown, then fell away as the Belgian reeled off four legs in a row, including back-to-back 13 darters and another in 14.
On a rare off-day, he'd miss nine of his 14 attempts at doubles and lacked the same consistency as van den Bergh.
"Winning against a player like Nathan is a great job, I'm very proud of myself," said Van den Bergh. "Seeing Nathan achieve what he has over the last couple of years makes you focus on yourself and gives you belief that you can get there as well.
"I miss the fans and I miss their support, but even still I feel at home on the stage. I just feel so relaxed up there. If I perform for the rest of the tournament how I know I can it doesn't matter who I play."
World Matchplay: Tuesday results and Wednesday schedule
Tuesday July 21 (1800 BST)
TV Channel: Sky Sports
- 1 First-round match (best of 19 legs)
- Nathan Aspinall 5-10 Dimitri Van den Bergh
- 4x Second-round match (best of 21 legs)
- Michael Smith 14-12 Mensur Suljovic
- Gary Anderson 11-8 James Wade
- Michael Van Gerwen 4-11 Simon Whitlock
- Gabriel Clemens 10-12 Krzysztof Ratajski
Wednesday July 22 (1900 BST)
Second Round (best of 21 legs)
TV Channel: Sky Sports
- Daryl Gurney v Vincent Van der Voort
- Aspinall/Van den Bergh v Joe Cullen
- Peter Wright v Glen Durrant
- Danny Noppert v Adrian Lewis
Related Darts Content
- Chris Hammer's Player-By-Player Guide
- Paul Nicholson's World Matchplay analysis
- World Matchplay betting preview & tips
- 2020 World Matchplay draw and schedule
- Carl Fletcher's vital statistics
- 2020 Premier League venues & dates
- 2020 PDC event calendar & results
- 2020 World Darts Championship results
- 2019 PDC event results
- Sky Bet's darts odds
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