Women’s world champion Suzuki misses four darts to overcome Price as Grand Slam of Darts commences
Women’s world champion Mikuru Suzuki came agonisingly close to completing a seismic shock victory over defending champion Gerwyn Price as the Grand Slam of Darts commenced in Coventry.
Following the achievements of Fallon Sherrock and Lisa Ashton in recent times, another monumental moment in women’s darts almost transpired as Japan’s Suzuki was millimetres away from overcoming the world number three.
It was an extremely scrappy start to a fascinating encounter, with neither of the two managing a 15-darter or less as the opening four legs were shared equally.
A mesmerising 135 checkout on the bullseye was soon pinned by Suzuki as she gained the ascendancy, though, Price overturned the deficit to move on the brink of victory with legs of 13 and 15 darts.
Nevertheless, despite Price firing home his second maximum in the eighth leg, Suzuki’s hopes remained firmly intact as the Japanese sensation converted another ton-plus outshot to force an unexpected decider.
Suzuki was throwing first in the final leg and she was expertly using that in her advantage, only to squander four attempts at doubles tops and tens to gift a relieved reigning champion Price a narrow win.
It was another heartbreaking occasion for Suzuki following her slender loss to James Richardson at December’s World Championship, and the Takamatsu-based ace now faces Ryan Joyce.
Price and his World Cup of Darts-winning teammate Jonny Clayton go head-to-head on Tuesday evening following his fellow Welshman’s 116 checkout in a deciding leg win over Joyce.
Elsewhere, recent World Grand Prix finalist Dirk van Duijvenbode continued to impress as he landed a remarkable victory over a somewhat out-of-sorts world champion in Peter Wright.
Aside from the opening leg of the match, Van Duijvenbode held the lead throughout, but the Dutchman needed nine darts at double in a deciding leg to eventually close out a 5-4 victory.
Van Duijvenbode sits in second place in Group E, with South Africa’s Devon Petersen pinching top spot with a relatively comfortable 5-2 win over Ian White.
Michael van Gerwen showed glimpses of a return to form as the world number one recorded an impressive 105.85 average and five out of nine on the doubles in a whitewash win over debutant Adam Hunt.
Van Gerwen now locks horns with the rather competent Gabriel Clemens – who completed an imposing triumph over recent International Darts Open winner Joe Cullen, averaging marginally short of the 100 mark.
Clemens’ victory over Cullen was a battle littered with ton-plus checkouts, with the latter landing a 124 on the bullseye in the opening leg, before the German executed finishes of 122 and 112 later in the tie.
Meanwhile, in Group B, two-time world champion Gary Anderson was furious following his 5-3 win over Czech teenager Adam Gawlas, while Simon Whitlock defeated Ryan Searle by the same scoreline.
Dimitri Van den Bergh stole the show in the afternoon session as the reigning World Matchplay champion recorded a Grand Slam record average of 114.85 in his thrashing of Ricky Evans.
The Belgian wired double 12 for his second televised nine-darter, and completed all five of his winning legs in 15 darts or less during an accomplished performance.
Also in Van den Bergh’s Group H, BDO world champion Wayne Warren’s lack of match practice proved significant as world number six Nathan Aspinall obliterated the 57-year-old in straight legs.
Four-time women’s world champion Lisa Ashton was on the wrong end of stunning showing from recent Winter Series table-topper Michael Smith, while in the same group Portugal’s Jose de Sousa edged past Krzysztof Ratajski.
Reigning Gibraltar Darts Trophy champion Ratajski constructed leads of 2-0 and 3-1, but a seemingly unsettled De Sousa remained in contention, forcing a deciding leg with combination finishes of 64, 81, 90 and 102.
A flurry of maximums arrived in the culminating stages of a closely contested affair, with two treble-less scores from Poland’s Ratajski proving decisive as the European Darts Grand Prix winner completed a 13-darter to prevail.
In Group D, former world champion Rob Cross thrashed a below-par Justin Pipe, while missed doubles proved costly for world youth champion Luke Humphries in his 5-4 loss at the hands of Dave Chisnall.
It was an afternoon to forget for Glen Durrant as the newly-crowned Premier League champion averaged just 78.96 in a heavy 5-1 defeat against Dutchman Jermaine Wattimena.
Wattimena now leads Group F ahead of multiple-time major champion James Wade – who registered a ton-plus average in overcoming Australian Damon Heta.
The Grand Slam of Darts continues on Tuesday afternoon with the second round of group matches taking place at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry.
2020 GRAND SLAM OF DARTS
Monday November 16
Rob Cross 5-1 Justin Pipe (D)
Dave Chisnall 5-4 Luke Humphries (D)
James Wade 5-2 Damon Heta (F)
Simon Whitlock 5-3 Ryan Searle (B)
Jermaine Wattimena 5-1 Glen Durrant (F)
Nathan Aspinall 5-0 Wayne Warren (H)
Dimitri Van den Bergh 5-1 Ricky Evans (H)
Gary Anderson 5-3 Adam Gawlas (B)
Jonny Clayton 5-4 Ryan Joyce (G)
Gabriel Clemens 5-2 Joe Cullen (A)
Jose de Sousa 5-4 Krzysztof Ratajski (C)
Michael Smith 5-1 Lisa Ashton (C)
Michael van Gerwen 5-0 Adam Hunt (A)
Gerwyn Price 5-4 Mikuru Suzuki (G)
Dirk van Duijvenbode 5-4 Peter Wright (E)
Devon Petersen 5-2 Ian White (E)
Tuesday November 17
Afternoon Session (1pm GMT)
Ricky Evans v Wayne Warren (H)
Luke Humphries v Justin Pipe (D)
Ryan Searle v Adam Gawlas (B)
Glen Durrant v Damon Heta (F)
Gary Anderson v Simon Whitlock (B)
James Wade v Jermaine Wattimena (F)
Rob Cross v Dave Chisnall (D)
Nathan Aspinall v Dimitri Van den Bergh (H)
Evening Session (7pm GMT)
8x Group matches
Schedule of play TBC
(Featured Image: Lawrence Lustig/PDC)