Jeff Smith battled back from 5-1 down to edge out Fallon Sherrock in Round One of the World Series Finals in Salzburg on Friday, while Krzysztof Ratajski defeated home hero Mensur Suljovic.
The tournament signalled the return of a live crowd to a PDC event for the first time in six months and the opening day produced a number of shocks and impressive comebacks.
Canada’s Smith survived four match darts to avert an early exit at the hands of debutant Sherrock as he set up a Second Round show-down with James Wade.
History-maker Sherrock raced into a 5-1 lead, but only to miss four match darts across two legs as Smith reeled off five in a row, including a 109 checkout to win the deciding leg.
“I feel like I should have lost that game, but I’m still here,” said Smith. “To be honest I was the second best player in the match.
“I got in the way of myself a little bit. I had a bad Autumn Series and my confidence was low, but I’ll take the win. Hopefully tomorrow I’ll be better again.
“Fallon came at me hard and I was looking to respond. She was the one that let me off in that match and she’s a credit to the game.”
Meanwhile, Ratajski ended home hopes in the tournament with a 6-3 comeback win over Suljovic, reeling off five straight legs to move through to play Michael Smith.
Suljovic produced some sensational darts to open up a 3-1 lead, kicking off with a 121 finish and adding legs of 14 and 11 darts.
Ratajski had landed a 144 checkout just to get off the mark and finished 141 in leg five to respond before punishing missed doubles from Suljovic in three of the next four to silence the Austrian crowd.
“I’m very happy,” said Ratajski, who averaged almost 100. “I never give up and I always fight, so I feel great, like always when I win a match.
“Here it was very important because it’s a major tournament and I took small revenge because I lost to him in this tournament last year.
“Of course, the crowd was with Mensur but after such a big break it’s something special to have a crowd.”
Elsewhere, 2019 Brisbane Masters winner Damon Heta survived two missed match darts from Ian White before claiming a dramatic 6-5 comeback win from their tight tussle to set up a meeting with World Champion Peter Wright.
The Australian hit back from 3-1 and 4-2 down to level after eight legs, but four missed doubles to move ahead in the ninth allowed White to step in on tops for a 5-4 lead.
Two missed match darts from White, at double eight, were punished by a 108 checkout from Heta as he forced a deciding leg, in which he landed a 180 and finished tops for a 14-darter to complete the fightback.
Heta had won a Players Championship in Germany earlier this week, and admitted: “I have had a good week. I really enjoy the stage but tonight was a different feeling and maybe I did put pressure on myself.
“I know Ian and he’s a much better player than that, but I’m happy to take the win. I needed the 108 finish and it put me in good stead going into the last leg.
“Hopefully I’ll relax against Peter Wright and I can go in with a different frame of mind. He’s smacked me before in New Zealand but I’m going to bring my A-game and we’ll see what will happen.
“I’ve just got to take every game as it comes but I’m buzzing and I want to keep doing better.”
Glen Durrant set up a box office clash with Michael van Gerwen by seeing off Dimitri Van den Bergh 6-3 to go some way towards avenging his World Matchplay Semi-Final loss to the Belgian.
Although Durrant took the opener, Van den Bergh landed an 11-darter to level and moved into a 3-2 lead, but the Premier League table-topper dominated the second half of the game with four straight legs, all of 15 darts or less, to progress.
“That’s a good win,” said Durrant. “It’s no consolation for the World Matchplay, that game broke my heart, but I’m pleased with that win.
“I knew what the carrot was tomorrow, MvG, and it’s a huge game. He’s the best player in the world and it’s the biggest challenge as a darts player.
“He’s got to play well to beat me tomorrow night. I’m up for this. I feel good, I feel strong and I’ve love to win this tournament.”
New Zealand’s Cody Harris made his return to action with a 6-2 win over Dave Chisnall, punishing eight missed doubles to set up a second round tie with Daryl Gurney.
Chisnall hit back from two legs down to level after four, landing a 119 bull checkout in the process, but paid heavily for five missed doubles in the next as Harris regained the edge before reeling off the next four for victory.
“Taking that win is a big step,” admitted Harris, who was playing his first competitive game since March’s UK Open.
“We all know what Chizzy’s capable of and on his day it could have gone the other way.
“I’ve beaten him twice now but I wouldn’t say that I’ve played his A-game yet. I just want to keep playing – I’ve been really hungry to play darts all year and I just wanted to get back up there.”
Vincent van der Voort whitewashed fellow qualifier Joe Cullen 6-0 to set up a second round meeting with Gerwyn Price on Saturday in ruthless fashion.
The Dutchman opened with a 13-darter and punished missed doubles from his opponent in the next three legs to move 4-0 up, before legs of 13 and 14 darts completed a dominant display.
“Joe was really struggling and you have to take advantage,” said Van der Voort. “The game is brutal and I’ve done that.
“As long as I’m playing well I know that I can do damage to any player in the world. It’s all about me. I’m playing better than I have for a long time but I have to prepare myself.”
“To play in front of a crowd makes you feel really good. People love coming to darts and I think people are blessed to be here.”
Darius Labanauskas won the tournament’s opening fixture with a 6-2 defeat of Harry Ward, who took the game’s opening leg before four in a row moved the Lithuanian – who landed a 120 finish in the process – into the ascendancy.
Ward hit back in leg six, but Labanauskas responded with an 11-darter before closing out victory with a 91 average to progress to a tie with Nathan Aspinall.
Labanauskas was a World Championship quarter-finalist in December, and admitted: “After Ally Pally I haven’t had a lot of tournaments on the stage but I’m feeling good. I was comfortable tonight.”
Veteran star Steve Beaton, one of last weekend’s four qualifiers, ended the hopes of Australian ace Simon Whitlock in a thriller to end the opening night.
Whitlock’s early 120 finish to lead 2-0 was cancelled out by a 104 checkout from Beaton as the 56-year-old moved into a 4-3 lead, and he repeated that combination to move to the brink of victory at 5-4.
Whitlock then took out 108 to save the match in leg ten, but missed the bull for victory in the deciding leg as Beaton returned on double 12 to move through to a tie against Rob Cross.
“I’m looking forward to playing Rob because the biggest hurdle was the first round,” said Beaton.
“I can relax now and play my game. “It’s funny to be back in front of a crowd and it will be great tomorrow.”
Friday September 18
Darius Labanauskas 6-2 Harry Ward
Damon Heta 6-5 Ian White
Cody Harris 6-2 Dave Chisnall
Vincent van der Voort 6-0 Joe Cullen
Jeff Smith 6-5 Fallon Sherrock
Krzysztof Ratajski 6-3 Mensur Suljovic
Glen Durrant 6-3 Dimitri Van den Bergh
Steve Beaton 6-5 Simon Whitlock
Jeff Smith, Karel Sedlacek and Aaron Beeney secured Tour Cards on Day Three of 2020 PDC Qualifying School on Saturday.
Canada’s Smith will return to the PDC ProTour for the first time since 2013 after landing a 110 checkout in the deciding leg of his 5-4 win over Seigo Asada in their Tour Card play-off in Wigan.
Former BDO Championship runner-up Smith began the day with a 5-0 whitewash of Alan Norris before averaging 103.6 in his penultimate victory over William Borland.
Smith will now join his Canadian compatriot Dawson Murschell on the circuit next season and admitted: “It’s so nice to be back finally, it’s life-changing.
“It’s not the first time I’ve won a Card but this time I intend to use my Card better than I did last time.
“I suffered a blitzing from Damon Heta yesterday which set me back a bit, but that pushed me on to come back stronger today knowing I had to get points on the board.
“The possibilities are endless now, I can’t wait to get back over and play, I’m excited to show what I can do.”
Smith was joined by surprise package Beeney in the winners’ enclosure in Wigan, as the London-based player won his Tour Card for the first time.
Beeney, a 36-year-old prison officer who won just £150 in prize money on the 2019 PDC Challenge Tour, edged out 19-year-old Jarred Cole 5-4 in their Tour Card decider to book his place on the ProTour.
“I’ve lit just competed the greatest thing that I ever expected to happen in my life,” said an emotional Beeney.
“I’ve had the worst time ever here, I was nervous on Thursday and went out in the first round in the worst game I’ve ever played.
“I played even worse on Friday and now I’ve played really well all day today.
“I have no words, I have no idea how I’ve done this at all. To hit a bullseye to earn a Tour Card is the stuff dreams are made of.
“I’m still a pub player, I’ve only played for my county three times so this is unreal.”
Meanwhile, at European Qualifying School in Hildesheim, Sedlacek made history as he became the first Czech player to win a PDC Tour Card.
Sedlacek, who has represented his nation three times at the World Cup, claimed a 5-1 victory over Berry van Peer in the Day Three final at Halle 39.
“I am so happy, I don’t have the words to describe what this means to me,” said Sedlacek, who reached the quarter-finals of his second European Tour event last April.
“It’s a fantastic moment for me and for Czech darts.
“I said to myself ‘you are playing well and you must wait for your chance,’ and I took it.”
A further three players will secure automatic PDC Tour Cards on the final day of action on Sunday, with the last two players in the UK Qualifying School joining the European Qualifying School winner in winning a place on the PDC circuit.
The top 12 players on the UK Qualifying School Order of Merit and the top seven players on the European Qualifying School Order of Merit at the end of play will win Tour Cards.
Jason Cullen 5-4 Stuart Dutton
Terry Temple 5-3 Peter Mitchell
William Borland 5-0 Derek Lumley
Darren Beveridge 5-2 Cameron Menzies
Steve Hine 5-2 Darren Armstrong
Ryan Murray 5-2 Leonard Gates
Wayne Jones 5-2 Matt Padgett
Ryan Harrington 5-0 Stephen Harradine
Luke Yates 5-2 Christopher Paul Jones
Darren Davies 5-1 Peter Hudson
Jeff Smith 5-2 Ricky King
James Hurrell 5-2 Mark Layton
Lee Evans 5-1 Steve Haggerty
Tony Clark 5-3 Stuart Davies
Darryl Pilgrim 5-2 Ian Lever
Damon Heta 5-2 Dom Taylor
A.J. Urmston-Toft 5-1 Hywel Manuel
John Bowles 5-4 Ben Cheeseman
Mark Barilli 5-2 Andrew Foster
Daniel Faulkner 5-4 Tony O’Shea
Geoffrey Murray 5-3 Gary Court
Ryan Hogarth 5-1 Josh Habgood
Craig Baxter 5-3 Kevin Dowling
Robert Modra 5-3 Kyle McKinstry
Scott Mitchell 5-1 Adam Hunt
Tony Richardson 5-4 Richard Baillie
Seigo Asada 5-1 Lewis Williams
Jamie Atkins 5-4 Kevin Garcia
Shaun Rutter 5-3 Sandy Morrison
Greg Ritchie 5-3 Nicky Denoon
Paul Nicholson 5-0 Rachel Brooks
Jonathan Wynn 5-1 Chris Craven
Alan Tabern 5-1 Brian Woods
Colin Osborne 5-2 Paul Rowley
Chris Aubrey 5-3 Rees Hall
Lewis Pride 5-2 Adam Jenkinson
Liam Meek 5-3 Prakash Jiwa
William O’Toole 5-3 Carl Hamilton
Mark Grimes 5-2 Jamie Kelling
Darryl Fitton 5-3 Brett Claydon
Kevin Thomas 5-4 Shane Byrne
Peter Jacques 5-4 Dean Forde
Christopher Bent 5-1 Jamie Caven
Frankie Ansell 5-2 Diogo Portela
Keane Barry 5-4 Darren Johnson
Jarred Cole 5-2 Terry Roach
Jim Williams 5-1 Evander Stevenson
Gary Robson 5-3 David Neads
Mark Lawrence 5-3 Robert Collins
Paul Phillips 5-2 John Costigan
Andy Hamilton 5-4 Tommy Lishman
Andy Jenkins 5-3 Jason Askew
Martin Atkins (Wigan) 5-0 Richard Langlois
Niall Culleton 5-0 Brandon Jones
Ritchie Edhouse 5-4 Wes Newton
Gary Mawson 5-2 Steven Beasley
Lee Smith 5-2 Scott Ridler
Gary Eastwood 5-2 Matthew J Smith
Kevin Lane 5-2 Patrick Quinn
David Ladley 5-2 Kieran Evans
Aaron Beeney 5-4 Scott Williams
Adam Mould 5-3 John Part
Michael Meaney 5-2 Adam Wood
Matthew Finch 5-3 Ryan Hope
Terry Temple 5-1 Jason Cullen
William Borland 5-3 Darren Beveridge
Ryan Murray 5-3 Steve Hine
Ryan Harrington 5-2 Wayne Jones
Darren Davies 5-3 Luke Yates
Jeff Smith 5-2 James Hurrell
Lee Evans 5-0 Tony Clark
Darryl Pilgrim 5-4 Damon Heta
John Bowles 5-4 A.J. Urmston-Toft
Mark Barilli 5-4 Daniel Faulkner
Ryan Hogarth 5-1 Geoffrey Murray
Robert Modra 5-4 Craig Baxter
Tony Richardson 5-2 Scott Mitchell
Seigo Asada 5-1 Jamie Atkins
Shaun Rutter 5-3 Greg Ritchie
Paul Nicholson 5-3 Jonathan Wynn
Colin Osborne 5-3 Alan Tabern
Lewis Pride 5-3 Chris Aubrey
Liam Meek 5-0 William O’Toole
Darryl Fitton 5-4 Mark Grimes
Kevin Thomas 5-2 Peter Jacques
Frankie Ansell 5-0 Christopher Bent
Jarred Cole 5-4 Keane Barry
Jim Williams 5-0 Gary Robson
Paul Phillips 5-3 Mark Lawrence
Andy Hamilton 5-3 Andy Jenkins
Martin Atkins (Wigan) 5-3 Niall Culleton
Gary Mawson 5-3 Ritchie Edhouse
Gary Eastwood 5-1 Lee Smith
David Ladley 5-0 Kevin Lane
Aaron Beeney 5-2 Adam Mould
Matthew Finch 5-2 Michael Meaney
William Borland 5-0 Terry Temple
Ryan Murray 5-4 Ryan Harrington
Jeff Smith 5-1 Darren Davies
Lee Evans 5-1 Darryl Pilgrim
John Bowles 5-3 Mark Barilli
Ryan Hogarth 5-2 Robert Modra
Seigo Asada 5-0 Tony Richardson
Paul Nicholson 5-2 Shaun Rutter
Colin Osborne 5-2 Lewis Pride
Darryl Fitton 5-1 Liam Meek
Frankie Ansell 5-2 Kevin Thomas
Jarred Cole 5-4 Jim Williams
Andy Hamilton 5-3 Paul Phillips
Martin Atkins (Wigan) 5-3 Gary Mawson
David Ladley 5-4 Gary Eastwood
Aaron Beeney 5-4 Matthew Finch
William Borland 5-4 Ryan Murray
Jeff Smith 5-3 Lee Evans
Ryan Hogarth 5-3 John Bowles
Seigo Asada 5-1 Paul Nicholson
Darryl Fitton 5-2 Colin Osborne
Jarred Cole 5-2 Frankie Ansell
Martin Atkins (Wigan) 5-2 Andy Hamilton
Aaron Beeney 5-3 David Ladley
Jeff Smith 5-1 William Borland
Seigo Asada 5-0 Ryan Hogarth
Jarred Cole 5-1 Darryl Fitton
Aaron Beeney 5-3 Martin Atkins (Wigan)
Jeff Smith 5-4 Seigo Asada
Aaron Beeney 5-4 Jarred Cole
Patrick Tringler 5-4 Martin Sevcov
Zoran Lerchbacher 5-1 Anoop Ramdajal
Thomas Kohnlein 5-1 Stefan Bellmont
Paulo Ferreira 5-4 Sven Vogelsberg
Wesley Harms 5-2 Michael Stoeten
Richard Veenstra 5-1 Fabian Roosenbrand
Mindaugas Barauskas 5-4 James Bailey
David Pisek 5-0 Timo Koenig
Richard van Zijtveld 5-0 Marcel Gerdon
Arjan Konterman 5-1 Kenny Neyens
Kay Smeets 5-2 David Haberberger
Mario Vandenbogaerde 5-2 Martijn Kleermaker
Mareno Michels 5-0 Fabian Herz
Michael Hurtz 5-3 Zdravko Antunovic
Thibault Tricole 5-1 Wouter Vaes
Jens Kniest 5-4 Leo Hendriks
Boris Krcmar 5-2 Willem Mandigers
Steffen Siepmann 5-0 Andreas Dirk Sauer
Owen Roelofs 5-1 Franz Roetzsch
Marek Polyak 5-4 Lukas Wenig
Cody Harris 5-4 Wessel Nijman
Danny van Trijp 5-2 Johan Engstrom
Kevin Munch 5-3 Ricardo Perez
Wesley van Trijp 5-1 Pavel Jirkal
Michael Plooy 5-0 Fons Hardeman
Dragutin Pecnjak 5-4 Raphael Leufgen
Andreas Harrysson 5-2 Andreas Schnellhardt
Karel Sedlacek 5-4 Levy Frauenfelder
Daniel Larsson 5-3 Dennis van der Ende
Jimmy Hendriks 5-4 Yoeri Duijster
Niels-Joergen Hansen 5-1 Veniamin Symeonidis
Michele Turetta 5-4 Michal Smejda
Michal Ondo 5-3 Marcel Althaus
Sebastian Steyer 5-1 Armando Slotboom
Mario Robbe 5-0 Matthias Orn Fridriksson
Lukasz Sawicki 5-1 Wilco Vermeulen
Derk Telnekes 5-3 Gabriel Pascaru
Ryan De Vreede 5-1 Janos Vegso
Ronny Huybrechts 5-3 Simeon Heinz
Dennie Olde Kalter 5-0 Radek Szaganski
Sead Nicevic 5-1 Alexander Merkx
Jeffrey Van Egdom 5-1 Nico Wagner
Tytus Kanik 5-2 Patrick Heitmueller
Berry van Peer 5-4 Julio Barbero Gonzalez
Patrick Plotz 5-0 Patrik Kovacs
Romeo Grbavac 5-3 Manfred Bilderl
Philipp Spindler 5-4 Jarno Braamskamp
Daniel Barborak 5-1 Peter Hubinger
Dirk van Duijvenbode 5-3 Patrick Peters
Kai Gotthardt 5-2 Kevin Doets
Dragutin Horvat 5-3 Nico Blum
Marco Apollonio 5-2 Paul Pohl
Rusty-Jake Rodriguez 5-2 Paolo Trutalli
Szabolcs Nemeth 5-0 Nico Riehle
Jitse Van der wal 5-2 Dennis Nilsson
Gergely Lakatos 5-2 Adam Gawlas
Andy Baetens 5-1 Marina Letica
Pavel Drtil 5-3 Zereso Zeverboom
Krzysztof Kciuk 5-2 Martin Dufek
Tom Veje Kristensen 5-1 Joshua Hermann
Hannes Schnier 5-2 Glenn Leysen
Jeremy van der Winkel 5-1 Patrick van den Boogaard
Sebastian Pohl 5-2 Aaron Hardy
Maikel Verberk 5-3 Erik Hol
Zoran Lerchbacher 5-2 Patrick Tringler
Paulo Ferreira 5-1 Thomas Kohnlein
Wesley Harms 5-2 Richard Veenstra
Mindaugas Barauskas 5-1 David Pisek
Arjan Konterman 5-1 Richard van Zijtveld
Mario Vandenbogaerde 5-0 Kay Smeets
Michael Hurtz 5-4 Mareno Michels
Thibault Tricole 5-2 Jens Kniest
Steffen Siepmann 5-3 Boris Krcmar
Marek Polyak 5-3 Owen Roelofs
Cody Harris 5-0 Danny van Trijp
Kevin Munch 5-0 Wesley van Trijp
Dragutin Pecnjak 5-1 Michael Plooy
Karel Sedlacek 5-4 Andreas Harrysson
Daniel Larsson 5-4 Jimmy Hendriks
Michele Turetta 5-2 Niels-Joergen Hansen
Michal Ondo 5-2 Sebastian Steyer
Lukasz Sawicki 5-4 Mario Robbe
Derk Telnekes 5-4 Ryan De Vreede
Ronny Huybrechts 5-0 Dennie Olde Kalter
Sead Nicevic 5-2 Jeffrey Van Egdom
Berry van Peer 5-2 Tytus Kanik
Romeo Grbavac 5-4 Patrick Plotz
Daniel Barborak 5-1 Philipp Spindler
Dirk van Duijvenbode 5-2 Kai Gotthardt
Dragutin Horvat 5-0 Marco Apollonio
Rusty-Jake Rodriguez 5-4 Szabolcs Nemeth
Jitse Van der wal 5-3 Gergely Lakatos
Andy Baetens 5-4 Pavel Drtil
Krzysztof Kciuk 5-2 Tom Veje Kristensen
Jeremy van der Winkel 5-2 Hannes Schnier
Sebastian Pohl 5-4 Maikel Verberk
Zoran Lerchbacher 5-2 Paulo Ferreira
Wesley Harms 5-3 Mindaugas Barauskas
Mario Vandenbogaerde 5-2 Arjan Konterman
Michael Hurtz 5-1 Thibault Tricole
Steffen Siepmann 5-1 Marek Polyak
Cody Harris 5-2 Kevin Munch
Karel Sedlacek 5-2 Dragutin Pecnjak
Daniel Larsson 5-0 Michele Turetta
Lukasz Sawicki 5-1 Michal Ondo
Derk Telnekes 5-3 Ronny Huybrechts
Berry van Peer 5-0 Sead Nicevic
Romeo Grbavac 5-4 Daniel Barborak
Dirk van Duijvenbode 5-0 Dragutin Horvat
Rusty-Jake Rodriguez 5-2 Jitse Van der wal
Krzysztof Kciuk 5-0 Andy Baetens
Jeremy van der Winkel 5-2 Sebastian Pohl
Zoran Lerchbacher 5-3 Wesley Harms
Michael Hurtz 5-3 Mario Vandenbogaerde
Steffen Siepmann 5-2 Cody Harris
Karel Sedlacek 5-0 Daniel Larsson
Derk Telnekes 5-4 Lukasz Sawicki
Berry van Peer 5-1 Romeo Grbavac
Dirk van Duijvenbode 5-1 Rusty-Jake Rodriguez
Krzysztof Kciuk 5-1 Jeremy van der Winkel
Michael Hurtz 5-3 Zoran Lerchbacher
Karel Sedlacek 5-2 Steffen Siepmann
Berry van Peer 5-3 Derk Telnekes
Dirk van Duijvenbode 5-3 Krzysztof Kciuk
Karel Sedlacek 5-3 Michael Hurtz
Berry van Peer 5-4 Dirk van Duijvenbode
Karel Sedlacek 5-1 Berry van Peer