In this fans special, I offer darts fans the chance to have their say on the opening day of the Coral UK Open finals in Minehead.
On Day One, we seen some of the best players in World darts bow out on the opening day. Michael van Gerwen, Peter Wright, Raymond van Barneveld, Dave Chisnall & Simon Whitlock suffered defeats on day one, the standard is getting better all the time as we all know, and on their day, any of the participants can snatch a win off some of the biggest names in the sport.
18-year old Nathan Rafferty produced the performance of his life as he edged out the defending champion Peter Wright 10-9, then Jeffrey de Zwaan pushed aside the World no.1 Michael van Gerwen 10-8.
The cold weather seemed to affect some players more than others, and with no fans in attendance, It must’ve been very different to what the big names are used to, but take nothing away from the underdogs as they continue to stun the top players.
Here is what the fans had to say on reflection following day one…
” I think it’s obviously been interesting we all know it’s been disrupted by the weather plus not having the fans in to watch has also had a massive impact. I think actually It’s been a great leveller as far as some of the performances go, the players with less stage experience haven’t felt the impact of having to play in front of a large boisterous audience which has possibly helped some of them settle into their playing rhythm, in some ways it doesn’t feel or play like a major.
As far as the top players go, they can put in high level performances whether it’s on the floor or the stage in a big Arena but I think we’ve seen during this event that not having the fans around has taken a little bit away from their results, if not performances. Many players we know feed off of each other and the crowd during Major events and this serves to create the atmosphere that we’ve become accustomed to. Many of the players expected to make it through to the latter stages have fallen at earlier hurdles, without looking individually at players averages I wouldn’t like to say whether they have underperformed or the lesser known players have over-performed in the context of a Major. I’m very interested to see the tournament averages in comparison to previous years. As this is a somewhat unique scenario, playing without an audience, it’s a good opportunity to gain a better understanding of the impact of the fans when they are around. ”
– Dr Linda Duffy (former Ladies world no.1, sports psychology professor, coach & PDC registered agent)
” We’ve seen some brilliant darts as well as some poor darts so far in Minehead. The cold hasn’t really helped! Personally, I think we’ve seen a whole new breed of players who show what they’re capable of this weekend and with the crowd not being there It has definitely worked to the ‘outsiders’ advantage. I think Butlins made a huge mistake not letting in the crowd that travelled down to the venue and that has been the reason for many seeds tumbling, in my opinion. It’s really opening up now for the likes of Corey Cadby, Michael Smith and even Krzysztof Ratajski – who are searching for their first PDC major titles. ”
– The Maximum
” Day one of the UK Open produced some great games of darts and once again showed a shift in power towards the up and coming players on both the pro tour and challenge tour. Without a doubt the highlight for me was Nathan Rafferty beating Peter Wright 10-9.
Paul Nicholson and Terry Jenkins produced a thriller which kind of summed up both the event and the weather.
It was fantastic to see John Part is still going strong aswell, but in my opinion the PDC need to have a long look at themselves over going ahead with this event.The venue is far to cold and considering 1000’s of fans had arrived to decide a couple of hours before start to play behind closed doors is a farse. I’m looking forward to another good days action now today and with format and the field now, I expect a Gary Anderson win come tomorrow evening. – Mick O’Brien
” It’s been a really odd weekend with no crowds and the freezing conditions. Whilst the standard has definitely suffered it made for a fascinating day one.
MVG losing (particularly on ITV) a huge shock but De Zwaan has shown this year he’s a dangerous player.
Brilliant win for extremely talented Nathan Rafferty over Peter Wright. Another success story for the development tour.
The other great story so far has been the reemergence of John Part. Helped perhaps by his draws but win over Evans was a very good performance – averaging over 93 on outer boards one of better averages. Tough game v Meulenkamp next though.
Someone like Ian White, Michael Smith or Stephen Bunting may never get a chance of reaching their first PDC Major final. All three played well.
This is just the type of event – with big names falling by the wayside- that James Wade wins.
I think afterwards there will be lots of discussion in the PDC as to whether Butlins get stripped of the event in the future though as Barry Hearn doesn’t seem happy.” – Warren Allsworth
” The weather conditions and no fans being allowed into the venues has made this UK open different to many, which in my opinion has made it more like a tour which is why I believe we have seen big names like Michael van Gerwen, Peter Wright, Raymond van Barneveld dumped out in the earlier rounds and seeing players who normally produce on the challenge tours, but due to big crowds and pressure moments don’t always do what their capable of which has made this one unique and made Gary Anderson the favourite for the title, but with the way the tournament’s going who knows.. ” – Lee Mackay
” I’d say that there is a wealth of talent in darts – not just the younger players, but seasoned County players who choose to pit themselves against the elite in an environment that the PDC have created for all players who are talented enough.
The “shock” results are not really such a surprise – for me the surprise is that these results are not more common – the “open” format of the Coral UK is a real leveller and one of the most exciting for fans to watch – winning a UK match let alone the title is never a “given”
I personally would love the format to be expanded and played over an extra day or two. Going forward, I believe that a few of those players proving they have the skill and mental strength on the oche will soon become household names and this can only be good for the future of our sport – new talent, new technology, more opportunities all equate to truly exciting times ahead. ”
– Andy Walsh
” I think that everyone saying that it’s different because it’s basically a floor tournament is wrong, everyone has three darts and is chucking them at a dartboard 7 ft 9 & a 1/4 inches away. I know that boards 3/8 are colder than the main board 2, however you’re playing in the same place as your opponent so really there’s no excuses. As for a potential winner now I reckon Corey could do it, obviously we’ve got Gary Anderson and Rob Cross, I think Michael Smith could give it a good go and if Daryl Gurney could put some form together he could be in with a shout. ”
– Finlay Earnshaw
” It is such a shame that yesterday will probably be overshadowed, by the fans not being allowed in Barry Hearn has made his views quite clear! However, it again showed why it is one of the best tournaments on the calender. Players who are not normally in the spot light get their chance. Yesterday was brilliant not just for the shocks, but the nearly’s as well. Mike Norton should have KO’d Barney, but the pressure got to him at the crucial time. Up and coming players like Chris Dobey were given chance to shine and I expect plenty of them to progress further today. Jeffrey De Zwaan though takes all the headlines and rightfully so, it is hard to beat MVG at any point, but to do so at a TV major is something else. ” – Simon Hahn
” I’ve really enjoyed it. It’s been a blast back to my favourite competition in the Championship league of darts which ended in 2013. Numbers wise it hasn’t been an event to remember, but it has been full of drama so far. Yesterday shown that you don’t need 110 averages to make very interesting television. The competition is wide open and, I think we could see a first time major winner this weekend. The results from day one reminder me of the Players Championship final that Kevin Painter won in 2011. ” – Andrew Dougan
” Many Darts fans will be shocked with the amount of stalwart world class players suffering early exits in this weekends UK open in Minehead. I for one am not one of them. Given the lack of spectators in the venues and to go with it a lack of atmosphere and razzmatazz that televised darts brings with it this event has become little more than a glorified pro-tour competition. The underdogs are shining and the seeds are falling.
Particularly impressive and the highlight of round one was Lee Evans who took care quite convincingly of one of THE real in form players in Dimitri Van den Bergh. He seemed totally un-phased and was brilliant on his own throw throughout to triumph 6-3. That set a precedent for the day in my opinion and just goes to show that just because you haven’t had your big break in darts yet any player making it to Minehead is to be considered dangerous over a short format.
It was great to see the prowling,scowling Richie Burnett back on our screens playing big time darts again after his well documented ban. Oh how we have missed that wild throwing action and self-depreciating mumbling under the breath of one of darts great entertainers. To be honest it was unbelievable how he managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory going down to a relieved Ryan Harrington 6-5 mainly due to some really inadequate finishing hitting next doors double bed on not one not two but 3 occasions! Still it was great to see him back. Long live the Prince of Wales!
Other players in Round one dishing out the punishment were blasts from the past Ace of Hearts Alex Roy Canada’s own John Part and The Karate Kid Kirk Shepherd however the biggest shocks were yet to come.
Into round two and for me the two stand out performances were by Dirk van Duijvenbode and Mike Norton. Van Duijvenbode took Alan Chuck Norris to the cleaners in a relatively straight forward 6-4 victory sealing a place in round 3 against Adie Lewis.
Then came a first televised performance from 54 year old Mike Norton against the 5 time champion of the world…. 1/20 Shot The Dutch master Raymond van Barneveld.
Raymond was given the fright of his life being outscored by his much lesser known opponent pretty much throughout the whole match. If only’s will be the first thing that Mike woke up to this morning having missed a string of match darts to KO the great man in an eleven leg thriller.
Raymond stuttered into round 3 where he would meet a resurgent Mervyn King. Other notable departures in Round 2 were Benito van de Pas Danny Noppert Andy Hamilton and Ted Evetts.
Round 3 brought out the best in the way of shocks.
World number 1 Michael van Gerwen was up against fellow countryman Jeffrey De Zwaan who judging by last nights performance looks to have some future in the game. At 5-4 down he smashed in 3 of the next 4 legs to lead 7-6. Jeffrey allowed Michael no room to manoeuvre in what was to come and saw out the win in impressive fashion by 10 legs to 8 sending MvG packing back to their homeland at his first hurdle.
Current world champion Rob Cross came through an epic tie with The Asp, Nathan Aspinall. It looked for long periods like at least one Snake would make it through to round 4 but Cross drew on some of his relatively new big game experience to see the match out by 10 legs to 8.
Maybe the shock of the entire tournament came as Youngster Nathan Rafferty ended the title defence of Snakebite Peter Wright. In a tight contest to beat the current champion 10-9 is a massive scalp for the 18yo Welshman.
Meanwhile Gary Anderson overcame qualifier Robert Rickward 10-3 in a contest that may not have been as straight forward as the score line suggests after Rickward started like a house on fire but just couldn’t maintain the consistency to pressure the new favourite for the competition.
Elsewhere defeats for Lewis to Van Duijvenbode, Van Barneveld to King and Thornton to Pallet ensures Day 2 and the last 32 is open to anybody to have a good run and pick up some much needed prize money.
Who can take the title? Your guess is as good as mine. My money is on the inform man Michael Smith! But it really could be anybody’s. ” – Gavin Ould
” What a day of upsets for the UK open finals as my predictions went straight down the toilet as I predicted only 8 correct out of the 18 matches that I had a little punt on! So some of those matches included the loss of MvG against an inspired Jeffrey De Zwaan 10-8 who played fantastic at the right moments! Peter Wright losing to an almost unknown 18 year-old in Nathan Rafferty 10-9 where nobody expected that to happen! RVB getting blown away by Mervyn King 10-4 and almost having a 100 average in the cold. Adrian Lewis and Dave Chisnall are still on the slide in the professional ranks losing to Dirk van Duivenbode 10-5 and Ryan Meikle 10-6 respectively.
Ryan Meikle, by the way, I am really impressed with in this tournament and I expected him to do well after he recieved his tour card in January. It was predictable that Simon Whitlock was going to struggle against Ian White, John Part is rolling back the years with his 10-2 win over Dave Evens and I’m looking forward to seeing more upsets from the last Rileys qualifier Paul Hogan as he beat Paul Nicholson. As any fans of mine know I’m a huge Aussie darts fan and it was great to see Kyle Anderson beating a tough opponent Vincent van der Voort and Corey Cadby is still showing his quality as he swept through convincingly over Michael Rastovits. It’s interesting that going into the fourth round there are only 5 Premier League Players left. Gerwyn Price, Gary Anderson and Michael Smith all winning fairly easy while Rob cross come through beating another young player I like in Nathan Aspinall 10-8 and game of the round Daryl Gurney scraping through in a nail biter 10-9 against former Premier League star Jelle Klaasen. It’s interesting that flying under the radar is former Premier League stars Kim Huybrechts and James Wade hoping to pick up some much needed ranking points for the first major of the year! So moving on to the 4th round now and your probably wondering what my picks are for the 4th round. Well, I’m not going to go into every match but, I want to talk about half of them as I believe there are some really good contests. Dirk van Duijvenbode vs Gerwyn Price – Will there be another upset win for Dirk after he has really had some tough games so far, beating Adrian Lewis and Allan Norris. I think Gerwyn will win 10-7 but I cant wait to watch if it happens. Gary Anderson vs “Rapid” Ricky Evans – Blink and you will miss it, there’s going to be so many 180’s, but I believe in this match but I have to go with the favourite in this contest 10-7 to the “Flying Scotsman”. Ryan Meikle vs Michael Smith – I’m looking forward to this match because I predicted Ryan to have a good season after getting his Tour card. I’d like to sit on the fence but I won’t and say this battle of two young players will end 10-8 in favour of “Bully Boy” Michael Smith. Rob Cross vs Kyle Anderson – This match has 10-9 written all over it but to who ? Although Rob Cross is World Champion he is still new and I don’t think players fear him like the likes of MVG or Phil Taylor so Kyle will believe he can win this if he plays his game and I think he will. “The Original” gets the thumbs up from Benny G. Corey Cadby vs Martin Schindler – Corey couldn’t have asked for a better fourth round draw and in my opinion will bully the young German. With a lot of the big names out of the competition he is a player who actually believes he can lift the trophy and so do the bookies with the Sponsors Coral making Corey 11/1 to win it all with 32 players left! I have this as a 10-3 win. Daryl Gurney vs Kim Huybrechts – This is another potential match of the round if the real Kim turns up! Otherwise it has a Gurney win written all over it. Going on form, I’m also picking Darryl to win this 10-7. And last game I want to talk about is Paul Hogan vs Jeffrey De Zwaan – Paul has been the giant killer before but Jeffrey has done this for him and they will be both feeling super confident against their oppenent. I believe this could also have 10-9 on the cards and I’m giving it to the younger opponent who I said would also have a great year after Q School “The Cobra” Jeffrey De Zwaan. ”
– Ben Gaiter
(If you’d like to see more of Ben’s thoughts and predictions from around the darts, you can find him on YouTube @BenGaiter in the Sub Section “Around the Board Darts” or on facebook @AroundtheBoardDarts)
[Photo : Chris Dean / PDC]