GDC Diary: Super Saturday

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Saturday is always a special way for the European Tour as it is the day with the most fans inside the venue. This weekend at the German Darts Championship it was an even better one though: both the afternoon and evening were totally sold out which provided an incredible atmosphere.

In the afternoon I could only do a couple of interviews because of logistical issues, and the German tv being there to do interviews as well. I did get to sit all the way on the front of the crowd though which was great as I sat next to the family and friends of the players and it was quite interesting to see how they reacted to each other.

First up it was Rob Cross against Gian van Veen. Cross was accompanied by his manager as always, while Van Veen had his manager and girlfriend with him. The difference was interesting as ‘Voltage’s manager did not seem too bothered about the game, while Van Veen’s company was nervously following the game.

Van Veen had three darts for a 5-2 lead but failed to hit them, and eventually Cross came back to steal a 6-5 victory over the young Dutchman.

This was followed by Ryan Searle against Martin Lukeman, and while Lukeman had his wife with him I noticed Searle did not have anyone to support him, the same applied to many players this Saturday actually.

Lukeman punished Searle’s mistakes and therefore managed to win 6-4 and reach final day on the Eurotour for the first time this year! Jules van Dongen then produce a brilliant performance to reach his first Eurotour Sunday himself, as a 101 average saw him beat Danny Noppert 6-2 to the delight of a very exciting brother and best friend!

Funny to see the contrast between them and the very calm friend of Noppert, almost as if the player’s moods reflect onto their supporters.

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Damon Heta then had another terrific walk-on, doing his best Dan Dawson impression to give ‘Mr. Eurotour’ his own walk-on and Heta then had a win over Darryl Pilgrim, or as he called him in our interview ‘Mr. Modus’.

The Heat won the final Eurotour of the year last year, in Gibraltar, and told me he is determined to do the same this weekend.

George Killington then became the third player already to reach a first Eurotour Sunday as he averaged 103 in a shocking whitewash win over a below par Dirk van Duijvenbode!

Stephen Bunting then silenced some very annoying whistlers, with the help of the legendary caller that is Russ Bray, as Bunting knocked-out Josh Rock 6-3. Nico Kurz then came with the performance of the afternoon as he hit a bullseye finish for a 12-darter in the decider against Jonny Clayton to make the crowd go absolutely insane!

What an atmosphere it had been, and we were not finished yet.

The afternoon session was ended by a 102 average from Ross Smith to overcome Daryl Gurney. As Smudger told me it did not feel like a 102 average and despite a tough preparation in terms of logistics as a late replacement of Gerwyn Price, Smith was very happy to be able to play this weekend ‘Thank you Gerwyn Price, thank you so much!’.

Ross was also hoping to play his mate Dave Chisnall in the last 16, and not crowd favourite Gabriel Clemens.

After a long wait for a burger dinner, obviously a long row of dart fans, it was a brilliant atmosphere. Not often do you hear loads of people sing ‘hey baby’ and cheer on Nico Kurz in a fastfood restaurant!

For the final session we started with Joe Cullen who overcame Arron Monk 6-4, before Ross Smith did not get what he wanted: an inspired Gabriel Clemens knocked-out Dave Chisnall and as he told me the crowd was even better than on Friday.

Admittedly, he did say that it can be difficult as the German number one to feel the pressure from the German fans when your darts aren’t going this well.

A vintage James Wade overcame Dave Chisnall 6-4 before Ricardo Pietreczko had the performance of the night with a 107 average to beat fellow German Martin Schindler 6-2, despite Schindler taking the most friends with him of all players.

Pietreczko did not feel comfortable about his English and brought a translator with him but ‘Pikachu’ did manage to answer all questions himself and his English is a lot better than he thinks himself!

He was over the moon to get this win in probably his best game ever, and happy to secure his European Championship spot now after massive disappointments in just missing out on the Matchplay and Grand Prix.

Michael van Gerwen then had a 6-3 win over Steve Lennon, not the best performance but ‘a win is a win’.

MVG will be playing on the pro tour next week too to get some winning feeling he hopes, before going to the big majors. He also told me he’s happier about his PL title than his home crowd WS Finals victory.

Peter Wright then saw off Chris Dobey 6-2 before Luke Humphries averaged 106 to see off Boris Krcmar by the same scoreline.

‘Cool Hand Luke’ told me it was an amazing feeling to be called the Grand Prix champion on the walk-on now, and will be targetting a title to be the number one of this year’s Eurotour season. However, a L16 game against James Wade will be very tough as he admitted.

Finally, Michael Smith denied Alan Soutar a comeback as he edged out the Scotsman 6-5.

Onto the final day on Sunday, as we will crown the final Eurotour winner of 2023 and decide the last 2 European Championship spots!


Words and Images: Wim Blokpoel

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