2010 is drawing to a close, and after some cracking darts in the Second and Third Rounds at the Ally Pally, the battle lines are drawn for the Quarter Finals on Saturday. New Year is always a hectic time of year, but there is just time to go through some of the highlights and look forward to Saturday, before I head off to see in the New Year in the traditional way :o)
More big beasts have inevitably been taken down, most prominent among whom - not just because he is the World Number 2 but also for reasons closer to home, which I may have alluded to in the past :o) - was James Wade, who went down 4-2 to Austrian newcomer Mensur Suljovic. Suljovic was doing very well to be level at 2 sets apiece, but in the 5th and 6th sets he stepped up to a whole different level. He stood up to everything the new Grand Slam Champion could throw at him, and returned the compliments with extra, hitting 36 ton plus, 18 140 plus and 7 maximums, compared to 36, 18 and 1 by Wade. Wade didn't lay down, and managed to win the 4th leg of the 6th set under tremendous pressure to keep his hopes alive, but it was just not to be and Suljovic took the next leg and the match to complete a victory he will remember all his life - and in front of his little son too, which was extra nice :o) Suljovic departed this tournament in his next match, losing 4-0 to Wes Newton, but hats off to him for getting that far in style.
Another high profile and unexpected casualty was Simon Whitlock. The Beard to be Feared had been cruising in the Second Round, taking out veteran Dennis Ovens in straight sets, and was definitely the favourite going into his Third Round match against the Dutch Machine Gunner Vincent van der Voort; however, it was not to be for the Wizard of Oz. He took the opening set and it seemed like everything was going to plan, but then that was what Roy thought before the tiger went for him. Van der Voort suddenly bared his fangs and pounced, taking the next 3 sets and hitting 6 maximums in the 4th set alone to leave Whitlock stunned. He recovered sufficiently to win the 5th set, but van der Voort now had the bit (and Whitlock) between his teeth and took the 6th set to round off a cracking and unexpected victory.
He was soon to be joined in the Quarter Finals by his fellow Dutchman Raymond van Barneveld, who booked his place In a 7 set thriller against the other Wizard, Colin Osborne. The pride of Derby looked set for victory at 3 sets to 2, and Barney looked tired and deflated. Whatever brand of water they use for the players on stage, however, it must be worth the money, because the effect on Barney was like giving Buckey to a Glaswegian. Barney was suddenly throwing like his dangerous old self again, taking 6 of the next 7 legs to leave Osborne looking like the dazed survivor of a natural disaster on a Red Cross poster. Barney will now face Gary Anderson in the Quarter Finals, who got there via Dennis Priestly in the Second Round and Andy 'Pieman' Smith in the Third.
And so to the Quarter Finals...
Phil Taylor, who seemed happier and on better form than he has been for a while when he defeated Peter Wright 4-1 (a large part of which may be due to the fact that his third grandchild's health is now improving after an illness), will play Mark Webster, which if both guys are on top form should be a cracking fixture. Phil Taylor goes into every match he plays as the favourite, but Webster is very capable and should not be written off.
As mentioned earlier, Gary Anderson takes on Raymond van Barneveld in another match which sparkles with darting potential energy, Adrian Lewis takes on Vincent van der Voort and Wes Newton faces Terry Jenkins; what a cracking start to the darting year we have in prospect :o)
Happy New Year everyone :o)