Now we’ve seen a couple of shocks in the first round of the World Grand Prix, Daniel Hall tells us his top five matches from this famous tournament.
The partypoker.com World Grand Prix started Sunday in Dublin. It’s the only PDC tour event that requires a double start, and I’ll be taking a look at the top 5 matches that have occurred in the competition since it moved to the prestigious Citywest Hotel in 2001.
Number 5: Callaby Turns Off The Power
After World Grand Prix wins in 2002 and 2003, Phil Taylor was favourite to make it a hat-trick of wins in 2004. when he faced the relatively unknown Andy Callaby in Round One. Before the match, Callaby was a longshot of up to 2000/1 to win the tournament and around 14/1 to advance to the second round.
Taylor really struggled to deal with Callaby, who hit a 108 checkout in the second leg of the match. As the first set went to the fifth leg, many felt that Taylor would take the leg on his throw, however after 2 missed darts at doubles, Callaby hit double 8 to take the first set. Callaby was ferocious on the doubles, regularly striking the double 16, and regularly starting within his first 3 darts.
Callaby then went on to demolish Taylor in the second set 3-0, hitting a 145 to take the match and complete the greatest shock that Darts had ever seen – it truly was one of the biggest upsets Taylor and the sport of Darts, has ever experienced.
Number 4: Dudbridge Produces the Great Escape
In 2007, the Second Round clash of Mark Dudbridge and Andy Jenkins served up a real treat for everybody. Dudbridge looked really impressive in the first round, defeating ‘One Dart’ Peter Manley 2-1, while Jenkins struggled against Jason Barry.
This match is famously remembered for the heroics shown by ‘Flash’ in the last leg of the match, but the match itself was high quality and thoroughly entertaining throughout.
Jenkins took the lead 2-1 in sets, before a thrilling 4th set decider in the 5th leg as Dudbridge broke the throw with an 86 checkout, forcing the game to a 5th and final set.
At 2-2 in sets, 2-2 in legs and Dudbridge having the throw, an early start from ‘Flash’ would have seen the leg swing in his favour, but, with 10 missed doubles to start and Jenkins already down to 216 when he eventually got away, the writing looked on the wall for Dudbridge. However, with a 120 start mixed with a perfectly timed 180, the pressure got to Jenkins who missed 2 darts for the match. This allowed Dudbridge to fire in a 101 checkout to send the man from Bristol into ecstasy.
A real strong comeback from Dudbridge, who was eliminated in the next round 4-1 by Andy’s namesake, Terry Jenkins.
Number 3: MVG is the MVP
Last Year’s final between Michael van Gerwen and James Wade, was a classic to say the least. van Gerwen came into the final as favourite after demolishing Stephen Bunting 4-0 in the Semi-Final. Wade was also in great form after knocking out defending champion Phil Taylor 3-1 in the Quarter-Final.
Wade struck first in the final, winning the first set 3-1, taking out 44 to break the van Gerwen throw. However, MVG hit back to level the score at 1-1. Wade regained the lead, going 2-1 ahead after van Gerwen missed 3 darts at 36, leaving Wade to take out 117. Van Gerwen answered straight back and to make it 2-2 in sets, hitting double 8 and averaging around 106 in the 4th set to gain a foothold in the match.
An intense fifth set, saw MVG take control as it was Wade’s turn to miss 3 darts at a double, allowing van Gerwen in to hit a 110 finish. Wade then responded well to level at 3-3 before the Hurricane of van Gerwen struck.
A key 180 in the fifth leg of the seventh set, allowed MVG to go 4-3 ahead and within a set of the match, taking out 86 with Wade sat on 52.
The eighth set was a resignation from Wade, who struggled to match the intensity of van Gerwen and the second leg was a key example. Mighty Mike broke the throw after Wade missed 4 darts at a double. van Gerwen won the set 3-0, hitting double 20 to secure his second Grand Prix title.
Number 2: History Maker – 9 Dart Delight for Dolan
The 2011 Grand Prix saw homegrown Irishman, Brendan Dolan, face ‘The Machine’ James Wade in the semi-final for a place in the final against Phil Taylor.
The match was a fantastic performance for Dolan, who came from a set down to win 5-2 against the third seed. However, the match is more famously known for Dolan’s 9 dart leg in the 4th leg of the second set which really kick started his match.
James Wade took a low key first set, 3-,1 after Dolan missed 5 darts at doubles to take it to a final leg. Dolan produced a fine response in the second set, as he went 2-1 up in the set. And then the magic happened.
Dolan fired in the first ever 9 dart leg at the Grand Prix, with a 160, 180, 161 finish that sent the Dublin crowd into jubilation. Dolan then turned it up another level, winning the third set and taking out 50, where Dolan really started to find his range on double 16.
Wade seemed really under pressure, as he was struggling to start the leg off, missing two, three, sometimes for darts at a double before he eventually got away. This was punished by Dolan, who broke Wade for the 4th time in the match, to win the 4th set and extend his lead to 2 sets.
The fifth was a set of missed doubles, as Dolan missed 3 darts to take the first leg and Wade missed 2 darts to take the second leg. However, when it really mattered the Irishman stood up and hit the doubles, checking out 69 to break Wade again and leave him stunned by what he was seeing in front of him.
However, the fightback looked to be back on when Wade won the sixth set 3-0 and it looked like the ‘Machine’ was producing a revival. Dolan ended all hopes of a Wade fightback after again breaking him in the fifth and final leg, Wade missed 5 darts to open the leg, effectively giving Dolan the throw. Dolan hit double 2 on his last dart to secure the 5-2 victory and get him to his first major final.
Number 1: 18 Perfect Darts – Who Would Have Thought It?
Wade v Thornton in 2014 is known for both players hitting nine-dart legs, but after re-watching it, it had so much more. The execution of starting on doubles of these players was sublime, and really emphasised the craftsmanship of the profession we all love to watch.
The first 4 legs of the match, each player hit the starting double of their choice first time. Both players started strong, however Wade took the first set hitting double eight after just missing a 149.
Then Wade struck, and struck big. Wade hit the first 9 dart leg of the match. Thornton looked bewildered as Wade, known for his consistency, looked strong to push on and take the second set. However, the ‘Thorn’ really lived up to his name as his fantastic scoring and consistency on the doubles meant he fired back taking the second set after being 2-0 down, breaking Wade twice in the process. Wade missed 2 darts to go 2 sets up, but Thornton held his nerve to hit double three and level the score.
Both players averaged over 100 in set 2, and for a double start, that’s unbelievable. The match in itself was really close throughout, and again the third set went to the final leg, as Thornton looked to hold his throw, and he succeeded by taking out 71 in 2 darts and turn the match on it’s head.
Wade then started the fourth set really well, showing his intent by taking out 24 with his first dart. However, Thornton hit Wade with a huge sucker punch and returned the favour with a 9 dart leg of his own. With the 160, 180 and 161 route, Thornton showed his quality and levelled the fourth set at 1-1. As the match showed again, the pair couldn’t be separated and the fourth set was 2-2 again, before Wade split 26 to take the match into a fifth and final set.
Wade took the initiative as he broke Thornton in the first leg, hitting double for to go 1-0 in front. Wade again showed his mental strength, hitting double 10 with his last dart to go within one leg of the match. Thornton held his throw, to make it 2-1, however Wade hit double 20 to finish off a quite brilliant match.
Over to You
What do you think of Daniels five choices? What’s he missed out? What’re your favourite memories of the World Grand Prix? Let us know in the comments below…