Monday, 11 June 2012

UK Open - Finals

Ok - and be honest now - how many of you picked Robert Thornton to win the UK Open? I didn't. The commentators didn't - they thought, as most of us did, that the likely result was Taylor v. Chisnall, with Taylor to win.

Whilst Thornton winning is, overall, a surprise result, Taylor losing in the final - to whoever - is much less so. We've seen the same phenomenon before over the last year or so; Taylor seems to be in great form, master of all he surveys, blitzes the semi-final - and then, when he gets into the final, we realise he's peaked too early, and he's just not throwing with the same confidence or authority as he did in earlier rounds. How often, for example, do we see Phil Taylor miss 3 darts at double sixteen, get another chance, and then miss another 3 at double eight? Such an event is the darting equivalent of the recent transit of Venus. It can't be nerves; this man has been in more major finals than Katie Price has had possible husbands.

The UK Open is gruelling, particularly for those who start at the preliminary round, and counter-intuitively the relatively short matches don't help. In a short format match, the whole kit and kaboodle can turn on a couple of legs; the matches themselves are shorter, but also more intense, because your opponent can run away from you very quickly and very easily, and once you get behind there's a mountain to climb. Conversely, even when you're in front you can't relax, because all it takes is a break of throw against you and your opponent is suddenly looming large in the rear view mirror.

A long series of short-format matches is, for my money, more of a test of darting stamina than a series of long-format, multi-set matches, and Robert Thornton, like a champion long-distance runner, managed to keep enough in the tanks to power him through the final sprint. For Taylor, however, the signs were there in the semi-final; against Denis Ovens he looked invincible, but the question was always going to be whether he could keep it up in the final. When at his absolute best, the answer is a definite yes, but the more vulnerable Power of the last year or so has been more likely to fall at the final hurdle.

Ok, so at the start few of us would have picked Robert Thornton to win. But then, how many of us would have picked Denis Ovens to beat Paul Nicholson? Or John Jukes to beat Steve Beaton? Or Arron Monk to beat Kevin Painter? That's the great thing about the UK Open, and hats off to Robert Thornton for an absolutely terrific performance.

Oh, and what was going on with that scuffle during the final? It looked to me like some bloke tried to rush the stage; I was hoping to find some explanation of it on the PDC site this morning (since, thanks to my girlfriend wanting to watch 'William at 30' I was watching the final on my laptop with the volume down - humph!), but answers came there none.

Congratulations to Robert Thornton, and thanks to all the players for a terrific tournament :o)

Looking forward to the World Matchplay :o)

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