Aspinall only top player to exit early at Poland Darts Masters


Aspinall only top player to exit early at Poland Darts Masters

Nathan Aspinall lost out to Boris Krcmar in Poland
Nathan Aspinall lost out to Boris Krcmar in PolandPDC Darts
Tonight saw another fine batch of darts on the programme: the fifth event of the World Series of Darts, the third in as many weeks.

The Poland Darts Masters was played today at the sold out PreZero Arena in Gliwice in front of 17,000 attendees.

Eight of the top-ranked players in the world took on eight "local" challengers. Gerwyn Price was not present tonight. Stephen Bunting played in his place.

Rob Cross (#6) 6-1 Sebastian Bialecki (#139)

The first match on the programme was between English world number six Rob Cross, who had finished sixth in the Premier League, won the third event of the Masters in the United States and finished runner-up in Denmark, and home-playing 20-year-old Sebastian Bialecki, world number 139, who had reached the quarter-finals of the UK Open in 2022, but so far has not secured his tour card.

Bialecki was allowed to start and was the first to get on a finish, but he did not get below 100. Cross was also on a finish and he immediately set the tone by throwing out 156 with his 15th dart of the leg to secure the first break. In the following leg, the Pole threw the first 180 of the match, plus two 140s to get an excellent chance at the rebreak. Unfortunately, two darts on the double did not go in, whereupon Cross threw another ton-plus finish with 116.

Rob Cross has little trouble in his first-round match
Rob Cross has little trouble in his first-round matchProfimedia

In leg 3, Cross got on 50 before Bialecki got on a finish and with that, the second break was also soon a fact: 3-0. He then also came out sovereign at 4-0, still 100% on the double. In leg 5, he missed a double for the first time, which could have given him a third break. Bialecki then did hit the double 16 with his 16th dart, finally getting on the scoreboard.

Cross got on 80, but missed the double completely, then failed to hit another handful on tops. Again, the Pole failed to capitalise on his chance, making it 5-1. In leg 7, he had another chance to make it 5-2, but 160 proved too much of a challenge, after which the Englishman threw in his third barrel-plus finish of the match with 100, concluding it evenly. So we see the finalist of the two previous editions back in the quarterfinals after a convincing victory over the young Polish challenger, who threw 91.66 not bad, but could not compete with the 95.64 of the world number 6, and his 6/10 score on the checkouts, with all four misses in the same leg.

Nathan Aspinall (#5) 4-6 Boris Krcmar (#57)

Then it was the turn of England's Nathan Aspinall, the world number five who had finished fifth in the Premier League and had not made it past the quarter-finals in Bahrain, Denmark and the USA, with a first-round exit in Den Bosch against Danny Noppert, against 44-year-old Boris Krcmar from Croatia, world number 57 who has had a tour card since 2020 and has won several smaller tournaments in the past decade.

Krcmar had an immediate chance to break, but he missed the double 8, but then Aspinall also failed from 76, after which the Croatian secured the break. He cashed it in with an excellent 127 finish to take firm control. There was then a chance for a second break from 156, but he was denied, after which Aspinall finally put himself on the scoreboard. He then also levelled the score, with a good 11-darter for the break, after the Croat had also just failed to manage a 12-darter.

Nathan Aspinall is again eliminated in the first round
Nathan Aspinall is again eliminated in the first roundProfimedia

The Asp took the lead for the first time in the match as Krcmar missed three darts on tops for equal rebreak, but the men were clearly more evenly matched than Aspinall had hoped. It was 3-3 again after a nice leg with two 180s. Krcmar threw 140 in leg 7 to get on 78 and put the pressure on Aspinall, who did not survive that and missed two darts on the double to throw out 54. The Croatian did just that with 78, breaking and regaining the lead. He then cashed in on the break, despite failing earlier on 55, taking his third leg in a row and coming very close to eliminating the world number five at 5-3.

There was a chance for a fourth leg in a row and an early victory, which failed to materialise despite the Englishman putting it in his lap with six missed darts on the double. Aspinall had a chance to break from 96, but failed to find a triple. Krcmar had to throw out 70 and got one arrow to do so, which he planted in the double 16 to loud cheers from the crowd. With the 3-dart average, the men barely budged, with 97.79 for the Croatian versus 96.17 for the Englishman, who lost out on the checkouts.

Michael Smith (#3) 6-4 Radek Szaganski (#113)

Then it was the turn of world number 3 Michael Smith, finished third in the Premier League and at the Masters yet to progress beyond the semi-finals in Denmark and Bahrain, facing 44-year-old Radek Szaganski from Poland, number 113 in the world, who has had his tour card since 2022 but has never progressed beyond the round of 32 at a major tournament, which he did at the PC Finals in 2023.

The match started as you would expect, with Smith winning his first leg with 12 arrows, while Szaganski had reached 256. From there, Smith grabbed the break right away, after Szaganski failed to throw out with 18 arrows. However, that was the moment the momentum shifted to everyone's surprise.

Michael Smith does not throw well but continues
Michael Smith does not throw well but continuesProfimedia

Szaganski broke back as Smith failed to hit tops and then kept his leg at home, unexpectedly levelling the score. Both men then kept their next leg at home, before the Pole even posted another break as the world number 3 again had huge problems with the double, taking the lead for the first time in the match. However, he failed to cash in on this break, as Smith broke right back thanks to, among other things, his fourth 180 of the match.

Smith then kept his leg in, before Szaganski had to do the same at 5-4, but unfortunately for him and the home crowd failed to do so. The Englishman had a matchdart on 64, but missed it, whereupon the Pole failed to throw out 175 for a deciding leg. The second matchdart was a hit for Smith, who produced a 3-dart average of 95.18 versus 85.07, but threw a staggering 18.18% on checkouts, where it was 57.14% for Szaganski, who can look back proudly on his match against the world number 3.

Peter Wright (#10) 6-0 Jacek Krupka

Next up was Peter Wright, who has not been in the best form of his life for months. In the Premier League he had finished dead last and twice at the Masters he had failed to beat the challenger, with defeats against Kevin Doets in the Netherlands and Johan Engstrom in Denmark, without having had a chance in the quarter-finals in the other two rounds. His opponent was Poland's 46-year-old Jacek Krupka, who without a tour card has ever appeared at a major tournament and is not ranked.

The first leg did not bode well for the match, with Wright eventually breaking Krupka with his 23rd dart. He then managed to cash in on the break with another 23-darter. He was then on 81 after 15 darts to make it 3-0, but this failed. Krupka failed to throw out 149, after which the second 19-dart break became a reality.

Peter Wright wins 6-0
Peter Wright wins 6-0Profimedia

Snakebite threw the first 180 in the fourth leg, allowing the crowd to hear for a moment that they were still awake, before allowing them to do so again when he threw out a Shanghai for 4-0 with 15 arrows, the lowest number of the match. Meanwhile, Krupka never managed to create any real danger, with far too few triples and unsuccessful on the doubles.

So it was 5-0 with another break for Wright and the match rippled towards its end. He was allowed to throw out on 104 and hit the double 16 with his first matchdart for the 6-0 victory over the Polish challenger, who hopefully enjoyed the experience. With a 3-dart average of 64.91, he came close to the lowest ever at the Masters (Hassan Hadji with 60.18 in Bahrain this year), so Wright, with an eventual 81.98, definitely did not have to show his best side to book victory.

Michael van Gerwen (#2) 6-1 Karel Sedlacek (#73)

Then it was the turn of "Mighty" Michael van Gerwen, number two in the world, finished third in the Premier League, winner of the Masters in his home country and finalist in Bahrain. He faced Czech Karel Sedlacek, 45, the world number 73. He lost his tour card in 2021 after one year, but earned it back in 2023 and at the PC Finals he reached the eighth final in 2020.

Van Gerwen held his first leg without much difficulty, throwing out 118 beautifully via single bull, triple 18, double 18. In the second leg, Sedlacek failed to throw out 48, after which Van Gerwen had no problem with 25 (after missing a big fish by throwing a single bull) and the first break was a fact.

Michael van Gerwen beats challenger 6-1
Michael van Gerwen beats challenger 6-1Profimedia

He also threw out the third leg without a problem, with Sedlacek, not successful enough on the triples, still on 216. He then needed to throw out 144 to get on the scoreboard, but came to just 84. However, Van Gerwen was also unsuccessful on 82, after which he was given two darts to make it 3-1, but he could not handle the nerves, after which the second break made it 4-0.

In the fifth leg, the Dutchman threw, among other things, his first 180 of the match. The Czech kept up with him reasonably well and after nine arrows it was 160-161. Van Gerwen was not out after 15 arrows, after which there was a chance, but 102 was too hard and it became 5-0. Leg 6 started with Sedlacek's only 180, after which he also had two 140+ throws and finally got on the scoreboard with a nice 11-darter. The seventh leg saw little more of that good leg and Van Gerwen threw it out with 17 darts. If Sedlacek had been a bit better on the doubles it could have been more of a match, but 14.29 was not enough. He had a 3-dart average of 88.69 compared to 95.07 for Van Gerwen.

Luke Littler (#25) 6-4 Adam Gawlas (#66)

Luke Littler is still on his rise up the rankings that will surely take him into the top five, but currently he is still 25th. In the Premier League he finished top and at the previous Masters he was successful with a win in Bahrain and a final in the Maaspoort. He entered tonight's match against Czech Adam Gawlas, 22 years old and world number 66. He was in the semi-finals of the UK Open in 2023 and made good strides in his career in the years before, although things have not been going quite as desired since then, having recently dropped out of the top 64.

Littler started right away with a 180 and got to 1-0 with 10 darts without any trouble. He then had a chance to post the first break with 12 darts, but missed the double 6. He did so three more times with his next hand,allowing Gawlas to throw 51 to keep his first leg at home. However, he missed the double 4, after which Littler still posted the break with his 17th dart. He then had a chance to break on 129, but did not know better than to put himself well away on 40, whereupon Littler threw out 56 with two darts to make it 3-0 without any problems. The Czech had the chance to throw out 49 to win a leg for the first time and with the first dart on the double he also scored: 3-1.

No problems for Luke Littler in Gliwice either
No problems for Luke Littler in Gliwice eitherProfimedia

Littler was pitching better than his opponent despite that leg and made it 4-1. He then also managed the double break after Gawlas could not get on a finish. The 17-year-old went pitching to end the match 6-1, but he missed the bull, allowing Gawlas to grab a break back with a pleasant 13-darter when you might not have expected it. He then threw his first 180 of the match and kept his leg at home with Littler still on 124. In the ninth leg, Gawlas suddenly found himself with 140 on a 139 finish, while Littler put himself away on 170. He failed to throw it out and Littler managed to hit two triple 20s, but then had the single bull to catch.

With his 15th dart, the Czech grabbed his second break and suddenly he was allowed to throw to make it 5-5. That was the moment The Nuke seemed to wake up, as he was on 126 after nine darts, which he just missed with a single six after two triple 19s. Gawlas was far too far behind, so the fact that Littler then missed three darts on double 3 did not matter. With his fifth matchdart, he hit the double 2 to deservedly win the match which, due to the Czech's pace, was somewhat soporific at times. Littler's 3-dart average was a fine 96.97 versus 90.41 and there is a feeling that if he had tried a little harder he could have thrown out the match a bit earlier.

Stephen Bunting (#16) 6-1 Krzysztof Ratajski (#26)

Then it was the turn of Gerwyn Price's replacement. Stephen Bunting had been called up to replace the winner in Denmark and also faced the by far strongest challenger in Poland straight away. 47-year-old world number 26 Krzysztof Ratajski, former number 12 in 2021 when he was in the quarter-finals of the World Championship and World Grand Prix and in the semi-finals of the World Matchplay, was the big man at the PreZero Arena and the crowd was squarely behind him.

Ratajski started to the ecstasy of the crowd with seven perfect darts, but could not make it a 9-darter. Indeed, he failed to post the break with five missed darts on the double, which still put Bunting up 1-0. Ratajski started his leg again with huge scores, he was on 41 after nine arrows. The doubles still did not seem to be going well as he missed five in a row, allowing Bunting to throw out 46. He did so with his first dart on the double 16 to set the break.

Bunting had a lower scoring average, but managed to hit the doubles, making it 3-0. In the fourth leg, Ratajski's scoring average also started to go down and Bunting threw out a fine 116 for the second break and 4-0 interval. He then had six darts to throw out 127 and needed four, making it 5-0. So the previously well-heeled Poles looked like they were going to come home from a cold start and their compatriot laid on to at least get on the scoreboard.

He did so to loud cheers from the crowd by throwing out a fine 118, but Bunting replied right away with 177 in the leg to end the match. He had put himself away on 142 after nine arrows, Ratajski on 89. Both men failed to get it done with the next hand, after which Bunting still did it on 52 with his first matchdart. So a match with a rather bizarre final stage ended in a 6-1 victory for the Englishman, with a 3-dart average of 99.62 versus 97.24, but Ratajski put down a checkou percentage of 8.33, which killed him in those first two legs.

Luke Humphries (#1) 6-1 Gyorgy Jehirszki

In the final match of the evening, world champion and world number one Luke Humphries had the opportunity to come into action. He had finished second in the Premier League, but so far at the Masters has not advanced beyond two quarter-finals and two semi-finals. He faced Hungary's Gyorgy Jehirszki, 40 years old and unranked. The largely unknown chef by profession had arrived on this stage by winning the qualifying tournament and got to go head-to-head against the world's best dart player.

Humphries failed to throw out 130, giving Jehirszki a chance at 156. That failed, but he had another chance when the Englishman failed on 5. He unfortunately missed the double three times, giving Humphries "just" 1-0. He was then allowed to throw out 78 to break for 2-0, which succeeded. In leg 3, both men were on 170 after nine arrows, but neither came close to a big fish. Jehirszki then had a chance from 70, but he missed another arrow on the double. However, Humphries did the same three times, giving the Hungarian another hand. The nerves were undoubtedly too much for him, as it again failed and Humphries kept his leg at home.

He then broke again after hitting a first 180 on 47 and Jehirszki failed to get it done on 138. The world champion then made it 5-0 without letting his opponent get close and without playing his best game. Jehirszki started the sixth leg with suddenly his first 180 of the match and also put his next hand into the triple 20 to everyone's surprise, after which everyone in the crowd took to their couches. It unfortunately did not turn into a nine-darter, but he finally managed to throw a double to take a leg against the world's best darter.

It could not be a fitting follow-up and Humphries kept his leg at home to lock in the 6-1 victory. He hit the double 16 with his first matchdart. Despite that, the Hungarian challenger could still look back with pride at a match in which he threw a 3-dart average of 87.11 with seven 140+ throws. Humphries was visibly unhappy with his game, throwing a 3-dart average of 91.77 and going 40% on checkouts.

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