Classy Cross wins first title of 2023 at Players Championship 11

In the Players Championship 11 final on Saturday in Leicester, Rob Cross decisively defeated Mike De Decker 8-3 to win his first PDC championship of 2023.

Cross won the £12,000 top prize at the Morningside Arena with a string of strong performances, earning his first ranking title since October 2022 in the process.

The world number five had a quiet start to the season, but he proved his mettle in Saturday’s championship match by defeating De Decker with a 101 average.

De Decker conjured up a magnificent 141 checkout to restore parity at two apiece after the opening four legs of the decider of the afternoon were matched despite a large discrepancy in averages.

The former World Champion quickly took control of the match with a three-leg run of 14, 13, and 14 darts as he proceeded to outperform the young Belgian.

De Decker responded with a 12-darter to trim the lead to 3-5, but Cross stormed to victory in spectacular fashion, finishing off 92, 89, and 146 checkouts in back-to-back legs to win his seventh Players Championship title.

” I just love winning,” reflected Cross, who moves further clear of Luke Humphries in the race to represent England alongside Michael Smith at next month’s World Cup of Darts.

“In these last couple of weeks I’ve really wanted it again, and I think that’s been a massive turning point.

“Last week I really wanted it but it didn’t quite work out. I’m so glad that I got the win today.

“You’ve got the best of the best coming through now and it’s hard. Even these players that haven’t won titles, they are still so dangerous and you have to do your job.

“I have lost in so many finals in certain disciplines and nobody remembers the runner-up. I was desperate to win, and it’s a good kickstart now. I want to keep moving forward.”

Cross began his campaign by defeating a determined Owen Roelofs by averaging nearly 106, and he continued to advance with victories over Florian Hempel and Scott Waites, defeating the latter in a last-leg shoot-out.

The 32-year-old easily defeated Lee Evans and Joe Murnan by scores of 6-0 and 6-1 to advance to the semi-finals, setting up a matchup with Radek Szaganski, Saturday’s big surprise.

After sprinting to a 3-0 lead, Cross was ready to win easily. However, he was forced to hold off the Pole’s incredible comeback before prevailing in a thrilling final race.

Classy Cross wins first title of 2023 at Players Championship 11
Classy Cross wins first title of 2023 at Players Championship 11

De Decker won a number of noteworthy victories in Leicester despite losing his first PDC ranking final, boosting his chances of the World Matchplay after adding the £8,000 runner-up prize to his ranking.

The Belgian defeated Luc Peters with a ton-topping average in his opening four rounds before defeating second seed Luke Humphries in three deciding-leg sets.

De Decker then defeated Niels Zonneveld 7-5 in the semifinals after an exciting quarterfinal match in which he averaged 105 and made three tonnes or more of checkouts to defeat Gerwyn Price.

Zonneveld advanced to the semi-finals after defeating four other Dutchmen, averaging 101 and 99 in victories against Jermaine Wattimena and Kevin Doets, respectively.

At the Morningside Arena, Szaganski also had a historic day, eliminating Masters champion Chris Dobey, Australian World Cup winner Simon Whitlock, and Joe Cullen in the quarterfinals by averaging 107.

Along with Price, who finished first in the Premier League table, Cullen was eliminated in the round of eight. Price had averages of more over three tonnes before falling to a determined De Decker.

After making it to their first ProTour quarterfinals of 2023, Joe Murnan and Jimmy Hendriks also retired at the same time.

Meanwhile, Michael van Gerwen resumed play after being forced to leave Thursday’s Cazoo Premier League match in Aberdeen due to an injury to his upper arm.

Van Gerwen averaged 101 in his first-round match against Boris Krcmar, but the Croatian defeated him in a decisive leg.  Along with van Gerwen,  Jonny Clayton and Gary Anderson suffered early exits.