Seeds tumble in Minehead as Price and Smith among the big names to crash out
Gerwyn Price, Michael Smith, Nathan Aspinall, and Damon Heta were among the big-name players knocked out on Friday at the Cazoo Players Championship Finals in Minehead.
The first day of the £500,000 event saw 32 first round ties played over one marathon darts session, and the tournament was blown wide open when four of the top eight seeds crashed out at Butlin’s Minehead Resort.
Ryan Joyce sent out world number one Price after he blew three match darts in a dramatic last-leg match on the Main Stage.
Joyce, who led 3-0 at one point, missed three match darts before winning on double eight, and he now faces a resurgent Jermaine Wattimena, who defeated Brendan Dolan in his opener.
Elsewhere, newly crowned Grand Slam of Darts champion Michael Smith was knocked out in the first round by Ritchie Edhouse, who defied a 12-point difference in averages to secure one of his biggest wins of his career.
Smith, who averaged 98, led 5-3 before Edhouse reeled off three consecutive legs to win, and the Enfield ace will face Dimitri Van den Bergh for a spot in round three after the Belgian defeated Martin Lukeman.
Ricardo Pietreczko of Germany caused a major upset on his TV debut, defeating top seed Damon Heta in a deciding-leg tie to set up a showdown with Callan Rydz, who defeated Madars Razma in a similar fashion.
In other results, third seed Nathan Aspinall was defeated 6-4 by Martijn Kleermaker, and the Dutchman will face Matt Campbell for a place in the last 16 after the clinical Canadian defeated Steve Beaton.
Six-time champion Michael van Gerwen, on the other hand, avoided the same fate as his main rivals, reeling off three straight legs to win a high-quality battle against Suffolk’s Ryan Meikle.
Van Gerwen – chasing a record-extending seventh title at this event – closed out a 6-3 victory to create a tie against Cameron Menzies, who impressed in defeating Josh Rock by the same scoreline.
“It’s only a short format so you have to play your best if you want to win games,” reflected Van Gerwen, who averaged 102 and converted six of his 11 attempts at double.
“Cameron Menzies is a good player and when he’s on it, he can do some real damage, but I don’t care who I play, you have to beat them all to win this tournament.”
Second seed Luke Humphries also avoided an early exit, defeating Nathan Rafferty 6-3, and Mike De Decker now awaits, after the Belgian defeated Jim Williams in a contest that featured nine 180s.
Danny Noppert delivered the opening-day performance of the season in Minehead, converting stunning 140 and 164 finishes in consecutive legs to complete a 6-1 demolition of Simon Whitlock.
Noppert, making his first Minehead appearance since winning the UK Open in March, averaged 106 and held off Whitlock’s five 180s to book a meeting with ten-time TV title winner James Wade, who defeated a below-par Mensur Suljovic.
Ross Smith dispatched debutant Gian van Veen with a flawless display of finishing, converting all six of his double attempts to set up a mouth-watering showdown with Jonny Clayton – a whitewash winner against John O’Shea.
Former World Champions Rob Cross and Gary Anderson will square off in another enthralling battle after both men defeated Kevin Doets and Gabriel Clemens.
Fourth seed Dirk van Duijvenbode came back from 4-2 down to defeat Mickey Mansell in a last-leg decider, and his reward is a second round match against 2018 winner Daryl Gurney, who defeated Keegan Brown 6-3.
Masters champion Joe Cullen cruised past Rowby-John Rodriguez and into the second round, where he will face Kim Huybrechts, who averaged 101 in his 6-4 victory over Grand Slam semi-finalist Raymond van Barneveld.
Former finalist Dave Chisnall won again on the big stage, holding off a spirited rally from Niels Zonneveld to advance to a match against Scott Williams, who knocked out Grand Slam quarter-finalist Alan Soutar earlier in the day.
Jose De Sousa won emphatically 6-2 over Dutch debutant Danny Jansen, and the Portuguese ace will face Krzysztof Ratajski in round two, after Poland’s number one defeated William O’Connor.
Keane Barry, a UK Open semi-finalist, continued his love affair with Minehead by defeating two-time finalist Adrian Lewis, and the Irishman will face Andrew Gilding, who defeated Ricky Evans 6-2 with a ton-plus average.
Martin Schindler also averaged three figures in his 6-4 win over Vincent van der Voort, holding off the Dutchman’s late rally to set up a last-32 meeting with Chris Dobey, who defeated Geert Nentjes 6-1 to advance.
Meanwhile, last year’s runner-up Ryan Searle won an impressive comeback win over two-time runner-up Mervyn King on Stage Two, and he will face Jamie Hughes on Saturday afternoon, after the Tipton star defeated Stephen Bunting.
2022 Cazoo Players Championship Finals
Friday November 25
Rob Cross 6-3 Kevin Doets
Joe Cullen 6-2 Rowby-John Rodriguez
Ricardo Pietreczko 6-5 Damon Heta
James Wade 6-2 Mensur Suljovic
Cameron Menzies 6-3 Josh Rock
Ross Smith 6-2 Gian van Veen
Martijn Kleermaker 6-4 Nathan Aspinall
Dimitri Van den Bergh 6-5 Martin Lukeman
Danny Noppert 6-1 Simon Whitlock
Ritchie Edhouse 6-5 Michael Smith
Ryan Joyce 6-5 Gerwyn Price
Kim Huybrechts 6-4 Raymond van Barneveld
Michael van Gerwen 6-3 Ryan Meikle
Luke Humphries 6-3 Nathan Rafferty
Dave Chisnall 6-3 Niels Zonneveld
Andrew Gilding 6-2 Ricky Evans
Callan Rydz 6-5 Madars Razma
Daryl Gurney 6-3 Keegan Brown
Scott Williams 6-4 Alan Soutar
Jermaine Wattimena 6-3 Brendan Dolan
Mike De Decker 6-4 Jim Williams
Krzysztof Ratajski 6-4 William O’Connor
Keane Barry 6-4 Adrian Lewis
Jose de Sousa 6-2 Danny Jansen
Dirk van Duijvenbode 6-5 Mickey Mansell
Ryan Searle 6-4 Mervyn King
Jamie Hughes 6-4 Stephen Bunting
Chris Dobey 6-1 Geert Nentjes
Martin Schindler 6-4 Vincent van der Voort
Jonny Clayton 6-0 John O’Shea
Matt Campbell 6-3 Steve Beaton
Gary Anderson 6-4 Gabriel Clemens
Saturday November 26
Afternoon Session (1245-1700 GMT)
Dirk van Duijvenbode v Daryl Gurney
Ritchie Edhouse v Dimitri Van den Bergh
Rob Cross v Gary Anderson
Ross Smith v Jonny Clayton
Luke Humphries v Mike De Decker
Danny Noppert v James Wade
Cameron Menzies v Michael van Gerwen
Joe Cullen v Kim Huybrechts
Ricardo Pietreczko v Callan Rydz
Andrew Gilding v Keane Barry
Krzysztof Ratajski v Jose De Sousa
Martin Schindler v Chris Dobey
Ryan Joyce v Jermaine Wattimena
Martijn Kleermaker v Matt Campbell
Dave Chisnall v Scott Williams
Ryan Searle v Jamie Hughes
Best of 11 legs
Evening Session (1900-2300 GMT)
Main Stage & Stage Two
Best of 19 legs