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Unibet World Grand Prix – Winners & Losers

Unibet World Grand Prix – Winner & Losers

By James Nolan

The 2017 edition of the Unibet World Grand Prix concluded on Sunday night and, as ever, the double in extravaganza produced nothing but excitement and surprises right from the off.

The absence of 16 time World Champion, Phil Taylor, and the late withdrawal of Gary Anderson were major losses in the field, though it did not affect the quality of the tournament. Despite the two notable absentees, the big names that did enter did not have it all their own way in the slightest, with a number of lower ranked players reaching the event’s latter stages in Dublin.

In this piece, we will analyse who will be departing the Emerald Isle pleased with their weeks work, and who will be be looking to put right some wrongs heading into this week’s pro tour events in Barnsley and the hectic end of year schedule as a whole.

WINNERS

Daryl Gurney – Champion

Daryl Gurney (Lawrence Lustig, PDC)

Picture (c) Lawrence Lustig/PDC

The most obvious winner is without a doubt the newly crowned World Grand Prix champion, Daryl Gurney. After 18 months of climbing up the Order of Merit ladder in the PDC , ‘Superchin’ made claim to his first ever Major title, defeating Simon Whitlock by five sets to four in the final.

Gurney dispatched of Adrian Lewis and Joe Cullen respectively in the opening two rounds, got the better of 2015 Grand Prix champion, Robert Thornton, in a last leg decider in the quarters, before ending the fairytale run of John Henderson in the semi finals.

A huge aid on his road to success was his exceptional doubling in stats, hitting 53.9% of his starting doubles, 3.3% superior than 2016 champion, Michael van Gerwen, 12 months ago. The 31 year old’s calmness under pressure, as well as his usual scoring prowess made him a force to be reckoned with throughout the week.

A culmination of semi final appearances in the UK Open and World Matchplay, a first pro tour win and this title has seen the Derry Man propel himself up to World Number 6. One question remains – Just how much further can he go from here?

Simon Whitlock – Runner Up

Simon Whitlock (Lawrence Lustig, PDC)

Picture (c) Lawrence Lustig/PDC

Is the Wizard finally back where he belongs? The man himself along with his many fans will give you a resounding yes!

Whitlock continued his climb back up the darting ladder adding a first ever appearance in a World Grand Prix Final to his previous pro tour successes at the back end of 2016 and 2017. The Aussie survived a match dart to edge past Christian Kist in round one, before comfortably dispatching his good friend and debutant, Richard North, in the second round.

He proceeded to overcome Benito van de pas and Mensur Suljovic in the quarters and semis respectively, before narrowly losing out to Gurney in the final showdown.

Whitlock gave the crowds their money’s worth when it came to excitement, taking out high checkouts at pivotal moments, the most notable ones being the 120 out on two bullseyes in the quarter finals and the 108 to save his skin versus Kist.

The run to the final sees Whitlock secure his qualification for next months’s Grand Slam, as well as returning him to World Number 12.

John Henderson – Semi Finals

John Henderson - Unibet World Grand Prix (Lawrence Lustig, PDC)

Picture (c) Lawrence Lustig/PDC

The big Scot’s fairytale run in the tournament was one of the major talking points of the week. Hendo provided darts fans with plenty of feel good moments throughout the tournament, namely defeating defending champion and World Number One, Michael van Gerwen on the opening night, despite being an 8/1 outsider.

However, that wasn’t the only occasion he upset the odds. Hendo came from a set down to claim 3-1 victories over Alan Norris and Raymond van Barneveld to set up a final four clash with the eventual winner.

The big man’s consistency on double top was a key factor in his successful week. In his own words, he was hitting when they (his opponents) were missing. The free flowing scoring power, which often lacks in his game, was present all week, particularly when he nailed seven perfect darts versus Gurney in the semi final.

The semi final appearance surpasses Henderson’s previous best tv major run to the quarter finals of the 2015 European Championship. He has also consolidated his place in the World top 32.

LOSERS

Michael van Gerwen – First Round

Image result for michael van gerwen

Picture (c) Lawrence Lustig/PDC

Van Gerwen continued to be unable to successfully defend his World Grand Prix crown as it proved to be third time unlucky as a result of one of the biggest upsets in the tournament’s history.

The World Number one and reigning World Champion was dumped out on the opening night at the hands of big John Henderson, despite being 1/20 to breeze through to round two.

The Green Machine struggled with his starting doubles, finding himself chasing his opponent right from the go. Although he did level proceedings at 1-1, the third set only brought more frustration as Henderson raced away without looking back. Hid early demise presented us with perhaps the most wide open World Grand Prix in history.

Despite the obvious disappoint, there is no doubt that van Gerwen will be back searching for blood in the year’s remaining tournaments.

James Wade – First Round

James Wade - Unibet World Grand Prix (Lawrence Lustig, PDC)

Picture (c) Lawrence Lustig/PDC

The Machine’s dismal 2017 continued with yet another first round exit at a major tv tournament.

In truth, Wade never looked like worrying Steve West in their encounter as ‘Simply’ marched to the finish line. The scoring power and his renowned clinical nature on tops and tens were missing on a night to forget.

With his spot in next year’s Premier League potentially in jeopardy, Wade is running out of events to lay down his mark. Being on the verge of dropping outside the World’s top ten won’t make matters any easier for the seven time major champion.

Raymond van Barneveld – Quarter Finals

Raymond van Barneveld - Unibet World Grand Prix (Lawrence Lustig, PDC)

Picture (c) Lawrence Lustig/PDC

One many will see as a debatable inclusion, but justifiable in my book. Following van Gerwen’s exit, Barney, along with Peter Wright, became a red hot favourite for the tournament.

Despite putting in a solid display against Kyle Anderson and easing past Steve Beaton, Barney tumbled at the exact same obstacle his Dutch counterpart did. The former five time World Champion lead John Henderson 1-0, playing an all round solid game, scoring and doubling, both in and out, well.

However, following the conclusion of the first commercial break, Barney lost his killer instinct, particularly on double 16, allowing Henderson back into the match. As aforementioned, the Scot went on to advance to the semi finals at Barney’s expense.

With time to win another major perhaps running out, this will go down as a sizeable opportunity missed for the legendary Dutchman.

 

Stats courtesy of Christopher Kempf – @ochepedia

Photos courtesy of Lawrence Lustig – PDC