Joe Cullen secured the first ranking title of 2021 at the PDC Super Series in Bolton with a narrow 8-7 victory over Jonny Clayton in the final.
Cullen, who claimed the final Players Championship title of last season, made it back-to-back triumphs as he sealed the £10,000 top prize at the Bolton Whites Hotel.
The world number 16 averaged 95.8 across the day and held his nerve to edge out his close friend Clayton in a hard-fought decider.
“Winning the first tournament is a perfect start to what I believe will be a big year for me,” said Cullen.
“It wasn’t the best final. It’s hard playing against Jonny because he’s a great friend and he’s got such a relaxed attitude about the game.
“Previously when I’ve felt uncomfortable in games I’ve been beaten, but lately I feel like I’ve got a chance of winning games even when I’m playing badly. It’s a brilliant feeling to have.
“I’ve been putting the work in. I gave myself a week-and-a-half off after Ally Pally and then got back on the practice board, so I’m pleased it’s paying off.”
Cullen began his run with a last-leg victory over Ryan Meikle before following up a 6-4 success over Ryan Murray with a 103 average in a 6-2 win over fellow Yorkshireman Scott Waites.
Another deciding-leg victory followed as ‘The Rockstar’ edged past Chris Dobey with a 100 average before overcoming German number one Gabriel Clemens 6-4 in the Quarter-Finals.
Two-time European Tour event winner Cullen then dispatched Premier League finalist Nathan Aspinall 7-4 to seal his spot in the final.
Fresh from his winning The Masters in January and his subsequent selection for the Premier League, Clayton was seeking back-to-back titles and made a solid start by taking the opening two legs.
Cullen responded by winning the next three, but a typically tight contest saw the pair stay within a leg of one another until leg 12 as Cullen found double ten to lead 7-5.
Clayton landed a 108 checkout to break straight back before making no mistake on double seven to send the contest to a decider.
Strong scoring on throw from Cullen saw him leave 90 after nine darts, but four missed doubles for the match gave Clayton an outside chance of stealing the win.
However, Cullen denied the Welshman a chance to take out 56, finding the match-winning double ten at the sixth attempt to seal victory despite an average of just 86.5.
Clayton had registered three ton-plus averages on his way to the final, including a blistering 109.6 in a 7-0 whitewash of fellow Welshman Jon Worsley in the Semi-Finals.
Worsley, who regained his Tour Card at Qualifying School last week, enjoyed a landmark run to his first PDC Semi-Final, notably defeating Damon Heta and Michael Smith en route.
Smith had begun the day by landing a nine-darter in his 6-3 win over Belgian newcomer Geert de Vos in Round One.
Elsewhere, 19-year-old newcomer Lewis Williams enjoyed a superb start to life as a PDC professional as he defeated Michael van Gerwen 6-5 en route to the Last 16.
Irish youngster Keane Barry also started the season brightly by defeating Danny Baggish, Glen Durrant and Ian White on his way to the Last 16 – where he was eventually halted by Clemens.
Raymond van Barneveld’s return to ProTour action ended in a 6-5 defeat to World Championship semi-finalist Stephen Bunting in Round One.
Van Barneveld had battled back from 5-1 down to force a decider, but only for Bunting to seal it in style with a 125 checkout.
Thursday February 25
Gerwyn Price 6-1 Lisa Ashton
Gary Anderson 6-1 Peter Jacques
Ryan Searle 6-3 John Michael
Steve Beaton 6-4 Kai Fan Leung
Rob Cross 6-3 Steve Brown
James Wilson 6-5 Jason Heaver
Daryl Gurney 6-4 Peter Hudson
Boris Koltsov 6-5 Jason Lowe
Nathan Aspinall 6-3 Darius Labanauskas
Martin Thomas 6-1 Harald Leitinger
Ricky Evans 6-3 Martijn Kleermaker
Nick Kenny 6-5 Ron Meulenkamp
Devon Petersen 6-4 Jake Jones
Mickey Mansell 6-4 Berry van Peer
Callan Rydz 6-3 Madars Razma
Jelle Klaasen 6-4 Andy Boulton
Joe Cullen 6-5 Ryan Meikle
Ryan Murray 6-2 Ciaran Teehan
Ross Smith 6-2 Rusty-Jake Rodriguez
Scott Waites 6-2 Bradley Brooks
Danny Noppert 6-4 Krzysztof Kciuk
Chris Dobey 6-2 Karel Sedlacek
Brendan Dolan 6-3 Keegan Brown
Steve Lennon 6-3 Mike De Decker
José de Sousa 6-1 Zoran Lerchbacher
Gordon Mathers 6-4 Josh Payne
Gabriel Clemens 6-3 Steffen Siepmann
Adam Hunt 6-5 Steve West
Ian White 6-0 Justin Pipe
Rowby-John Rodriguez 6-3 Martin Schindler
Glen Durrant 6-3 Luke Humphries
Keane Barry 6-4 Danny Baggish
Michael van Gerwen 6-4 Matthew Edgar
Mark McGeeney 6-4 Derk Telnekes
Kim Huybrechts 6-4 Luc Peters
Lewis Williams 6-4 Dimitri Van den Bergh
Dave Chisnall 6-3 Niels Zonneveld
Alan Soutar 6-5 Adrian Lewis
Jonny Clayton 6-3 Maik Kuivenhoven
Adam Gawlas 6-4 Darren Webster
James Wade 6-1 David Evans
Scott Mitchell 6-5 Gary Blades
Stephen Bunting 6-5 Raymond van Barneveld
Kirk Shepherd 6-2 Lorenzo Pronk
Krzysztof Ratajski 6-3 William Borland
Simon Whitlock 6-3 John Henderson
Dirk van Duijvenbode 6-1 Martin Atkins
Jesus Noguera 6-2 Luke Woodhouse
Peter Wright 6-4 Andrew Gilding
Michael Unterbuchner 6-3 Chas Barstow
Jon Worsley 6-1 Ryan Joyce
Geert Nentjes 6-5 Michael Rasztovits
Damon Heta 6-1 Martin Lukeman
Jeff Smith 6-1 Andy Hamilton
Boris Krcmar 6-3 Mervyn King
Eddie Lovely 6-4 Alan Tabern
Michael Smith 6-3 Geert De Vos – *Smith hits a nine-darter*
Max Hopp 6-1 Jack Main
Vincent van der Voort 6-3 Joe Murnan
William O’Connor 6-4 Ritchie Edhouse
Mensur Suljovic 6-5 Jeffrey De Zwaan
Ted Evetts 6-0 Daniel Larsson
John Brown 6-5 Jermaine Wattimena
Brett Claydon 6-2 Aaron Beeney
Gary Anderson 6-2 Gerwyn Price
Ryan Searle 6-4 Steve Beaton
Rob Cross 6-4 James Wilson
Daryl Gurney 6-2 Boris Koltsov
Nathan Aspinall 6-3 Martin Thomas
Ricky Evans 6-5 Nick Kenny
Devon Petersen 6-4 Mickey Mansell
Jelle Klaasen 6-5 Callan Rydz
Joe Cullen 6-4 Ryan Murray
Scott Waites 6-4 Ross Smith
Chris Dobey 6-4 Danny Noppert
Steve Lennon 6-5 Brendan Dolan
Gordon Mathers 6-4 José de Sousa
Gabriel Clemens 6-5 Adam Hunt
Ian White 6-5 Rowby-John Rodriguez
Keane Barry 6-3 Glen Durrant
Michael van Gerwen 6-2 Mark McGeeney
Lewis Williams 6-3 Kim Huybrechts
Alan Soutar 6-5 Dave Chisnall
Jonny Clayton 6-3 Adam Gawlas
James Wade 6-3 Scott Mitchell
Kirk Shepherd 6-3 Stephen Bunting
Krzysztof Ratajski 6-4 Simon Whitlock
Dirk van Duijvenbode 6-1 Jesus Noguera
Michael Unterbuchner 6-1 Peter Wright
Jon Worsley 6-5 Geert Nentjes
Damon Heta 6-2 Jeff Smith
Eddie Lovely 6-5 Boris Krcmar
Michael Smith 6-4 Max Hopp
Vincent van der Voort 6-3 William O’Connor
Ted Evetts 6-5 Mensur Suljovic
John Brown 6-3 Brett Claydon
Gary Anderson 6-4 Ryan Searle
Rob Cross 6-1 Daryl Gurney
Nathan Aspinall 6-3 Ricky Evans
Jelle Klaasen 6-3 Devon Petersen
Joe Cullen 6-2 Scott Waites
Chris Dobey 6-3 Steve Lennon
Gabriel Clemens 6-5 Gordon Mathers
Barry 6-4 Ian White
Lewis Williams 6-5 Michael van Gerwen
Jonny Clayton 6-5 Alan Soutar
James Wade 6-2 Kirk Shepherd
Krzysztof Ratajski 6-2 Dirk van Duijvenbode
Jon Worsley 6-2 Michael Unterbuchner
Damon Heta 6-3 Eddie Lovely
Michael Smith 6-3 Vincent van der Voort
Ted Evetts 6-4 John Brown
Rob Cross 6-2 Gary Anderson
Nathan Aspinall 6-2 Jelle Klaasen
Joe Cullen 6-5 Chris Dobey
Gabriel Clemens 6-3 Keane Barry
Jonny Clayton 6-3 Lewis Williams
James Wade 6-5 Krzysztof Ratajski
Jon Worsley 6-3 Damon Heta
Michael Smith 6-3 Ted Evetts
Nathan Aspinall 6-5 Rob Cross
Joe Cullen 6-4 Gabriel Clemens
Jonny Clayton 6-2 James Wade
Jon Worsley 6-5 Michael Smith
Joe Cullen 7-4 Nathan Aspinall
Jonny Clayton 7-0 Jonathan Worsley
Joe Cullen 8-7 Jonny Clayton
Joe Cullen claimed his second PDC ranking title of the season at Players Championship 23 in Coventry, defeating Krzysztof Ratajski 8-4 in the final.
Cullen had lost in two Semi-Finals earlier in the week, but went the distance on Day Five of the PDC Winter Series to scoop the £10,000 top prize at the Ricoh Arena.
International Open champion last month, Cullen continued his blistering run of form, averaging 105 in the final to deny Poland’s Ratajski his second ProTour title of the season.
Cullen, however, had to survive a major scare in the opening round as he pulled off a sensational comeback from 5-0 down to defeat Justin Pipe 6-5.
However, he did not look back from there on in, defeating Chris Dobey 6-3 and Niels Zonneveld 6-4 before whitewashing Croatia’s Boris Krcmar 6-0 in the Last 16.
Cullen then averaged 98 in a 6-5 win over Daryl Gurney, surviving two match darts in the deciding leg, before powering past Andy Boulton 7-3 in the Semi-Finals.
The first two legs of the final were shared before Ratajski took out 77 to move in front.
Two missed darts at doubles from the Pole in leg four allowed Cullen to level, and after the next two legs were shared, a key moment saw Cullen finish 87 for an 11-darter to break and lead 4-3.
Cullen then moved two clear at 5-3 and 6-4 before breaking throw again to go within a leg of victory – which he duly sealed with a 74 checkout in leg 12.
“I was 5-0 down in the First Round against Justin [Pipe] and I just thought, don’t give up,” said Cullen.
“You never expect to win from 5-0 down, never in a million years, but it wasn’t so much that Justin tailed off, I just played well.
“Luckily I got through that and I’ve only gone and won it!
“I get really nervous before the first game, on ProTours, not TV events, you feel vulnerable in the First Round.
“I’ve played brilliant there [in the final] but it’s the ones you battle through when you know you’re not playing well.
“I’ve felt like I’ve not played my best stuff this week but I’ve still got the results and that’s where I’ve been lacking.
“It’s the same with a lot of players, when you’re on top form you look a million dollars, but there was no in between game, and I feel like if I can get the in between game somewhere near, I can do some real damage.”
Ratajski’s run to the final saw him register three ton-plus averages, including a stunning 112.5 in a 6-2 Quarter-Final success over a resurgent Adrian Lewis.
Elsewhere, Kim Huybrechts and Boulton both reached a ProTour Semi-Finals for the first time in more than two years.
World number one Michael van Gerwen suffered a Second Round defeat at the hands of in-form youngster Callan Rydz – who averaged 100.7.
Having picked up titles in each the first two days, Michael Smith ends the PDC Winter Series Order of Merit on top, while Jermaine Wattimena qualifies for the BoyleSports Grand Slam of Darts as the highest ranked non-qualified player.
Saturday November 14
Callan Rydz 6-3 John Michael
Ricky Evans 6-1 Simon Stevenson
Toni Alcinas 6-3 Luke Humphries
Adrian Lewis 6-5 Ryan Searle
Conan Whitehead 6-2 Scott Taylor
Gabriel Clemens 6-3 Ted Evetts
Peter Jacques 6-4 Kai Fan Leung
Krzysztof Ratajski 6-2 Michael Barnard
Keegan Brown 6-1 Krzysztof Kciuk
Ron Meulenkamp 6-5 Ross Smith
Christian Bunse 6-5 Martin Atkins
Devon Petersen 6-4 Matt Clark
Jan Dekker 6-5 Darren Penhall
Vincent van der Voort 6-3 Jeffrey De Zwaan
Ritchie Edhouse 6-5 David Pallett
Nathan Aspinall 6-3 Jim Williams
Derk Telnekes 6-2 Maikel Verberk
Luke Woodhouse 6-2 Jeff Smith
Mickey Mansell 6-4 Aaron Beeney
Nick Kenny 6-5 Damon Heta
Ryan Meikle 6-5 Martin Schindler
Stephen Bunting 6-3 William Borland
Kim Huybrechts 6-2 Robert Thornton
Michael Smith 6-3 Steve Beaton
Keane Barry 6-5 Matthew Dennant
Ryan Joyce 6-1 Gavin Carlin
Ryan Murray 6-0 Adrian Gray
Daniel Larsson 6-5 Glen Durrant
Darius Labanauskas 6-2 Carl Wilkinson
Dimitri Van den Bergh 6-5 Jamie Hughes
Adam Hunt 6-0 Barrie Bates
Steve Brown 6-5 Max Hopp
William O’Connor 6-3 Benito van de Pas
Bradley Brooks 6-2 Richard North
Dave Chisnall 6-0 Marko Kantele
Steve Lennon 6-3 Mike De Decker
Jonny Clayton 6-1 Ciaran Teehan
David Evans 6-2 Richie Burnett
James Wade 6-4 Andy Hamilton
Andy Boulton 6-1 Alan Tabern
Jason Lowe 6-4 Madars Razma
Wayne Jones 6-4 Rowby-John Rodriguez
Ian White 6-5 Gary Blades
Lisa Ashton 6-3 John Henderson
Dirk van Duijvenbode 6-3 Scott Mitchell
Jelle Klaasen 6-4 Mark McGeeney
Karel Sedlacek 6-2 Scott Baker
Jesus Noguera 6-2 Maik Kuivenhoven
Josh Payne 6-5 Steve West
Brendan Dolan 6-2 Jitse Van der Wal
Kirk Shepherd 6-3 Kevin Doets
Daryl Gurney w/o Jonathan Worsley
Joe Murnan 6-5 Robert Collins
Joe Cullen 6-5 Justin Pipe
Chris Dobey 6-2 Reece Robinson
James Wilson 6-3 Martijn Kleermaker
Niels Zonneveld 6-4 Matthew Edgar
Danny Noppert 6-0 Yordi Meeuwisse
Boris Krcmar 6-3 Harald Leitinger
Jermaine Wattimena 6-2 Darren Webster
Scott Waites 6-2 Simon Whitlock
Callan Rydz 6-4 Michael van Gerwen
Toni Alcinas 6-1 Ricky Evans
Adrian Lewis 6-2 Conan Whitehead
Peter Jacques 6-3 Gabriel Clemens
Krzysztof Ratajski 6-3 Keegan Brown
Ron Meulenkamp 6-2 Christian Bunse
Devon Petersen 6-4 Jan Dekker
Ritchie Edhouse 6-5 Vincent van der Voort
Nathan Aspinall 6-2 Derk Telnekes
Luke Woodhouse 6-3 Mickey Mansell
Ryan Meikle 6-3 Nick Kenny
Kim Huybrechts 6-4 Stephen Bunting
Michael Smith 6-4 Keane Barry
Ryan Joyce 6-3 Ryan Murray
Darius Labanauskas 6-5 Daniel Larsson
Adam Hunt 6-0 Dimitri Van den Bergh
Peter Wright 6-1 Steve Brown
William O’Connor 6-4 Bradley Brooks
Dave Chisnall 6-3 Steve Lennon
David Evans 6-5 Jonny Clayton
Andy Boulton 6-5 James Wade
Jason Lowe 6-4 Wayne Jones
Ian White 6-5 Lisa Ashton
Dirk van Duijvenbode 6-5 Jelle Klaasen
Karel Sedlacek 6-5 Jose De Sousa
Jesus Noguera 6-1 Josh Payne
Brendan Dolan 6-1 Kirk Shepherd
Daryl Gurney 6-5 Joe Murnan
Joe Cullen 6-3 Chris Dobey
Niels Zonneveld 6-2 James Wilson
Boris Krcmar 6-5 Danny Noppert
Jermaine Wattimena 6-1 Scott Waites
Callan Rydz 6-3 Toni Alcinas
Adrian Lewis 6-2 Peter Jacques
Krzysztof Ratajski 6-5 Ron Meulenkamp
Ritchie Edhouse 6-4 Devon Petersen
Nathan Aspinall 6-5 Luke Woodhouse
Kim Huybrechts 6-5 Ryan Meikle
Ryan Joyce 6-3 Michael Smith
Adam Hunt 6-4 Darius Labanauskas
Peter Wright 6-1 William O’Connor
Dave Chisnall 6-2 David Evans
Andy Boulton 6-5 Jason Lowe
Dirk van Duijvenbode 6-3 Ian White
Karel Sedlacek 6-4 Jesus Noguera
Daryl Gurney 6-4 Brendan Dolan
Joe Cullen 6-4 Niels Zonneveld
Boris Krcmar 6-3 Jermaine Wattimena
Adrian Lewis 6-3 Callan Rydz
Krzysztof Ratajski 6-2 Ritchie Edhouse
Kim Huybrechts 6-4 Nathan Aspinall
Ryan Joyce 6-2 Adam Hunt
Peter Wright 6-4 Dave Chisnall
Andy Boulton 6-5 Dirk van Duijvenbode
Daryl Gurney 6-1 Karel Sedlacek
Joe Cullen 6-0 Boris Krcmar
Krzysztof Ratajski 6-2 Adrian Lewis
Kim Huybrechts 6-4 Ryan Joyce
Andy Boulton 6-5 Peter Wright
Joe Cullen 6-5 Daryl Gurney
Krzysztof Ratajski 7-2 Kim Huybrechts
Joe Cullen 7-3 Andy Boulton
Joe Cullen 8-4 Krzysztof Ratajski
Joe Cullen secured his second European Tour title at the 2020 International Darts Open in Riesa with an 8-5 victory over Michael van Gerwen in the final.
Cullen, who defeated Van Gerwen 8-5 in the final to claim European Matchplay glory last September, repeated the feat against the world number one to land the £25,000 top prize.
A memorable triumph for the Bradford ace saw him average 97 in the final with four 180s and 57 per cent on the doubles to resign MVG to the runner-up spot for the second successive weekend.
The victory sees Cullen claim a Grand Slam spot for the first time as well as regain a place in the world’s top 16 and head into next week’s European Championship as the number one seed.
“Luckily for me, Michael just didn’t get going,” said Cullen.
“I didn’t think I was too great either but I won and surely I must be in the Grand Slam now?!
“I don’t think I’ve come close to losing [this weekend] but I’ve done enough in every game and I’ve won the title – get in!”
Van Gerwen took the opening leg of the final with a 116 checkout before Cullen replied with a 14-darter to draw level.
The next two legs were shared before Cullen landed double eight for a break of throw and a 3-2 lead, consolidating it with a 13-darter on double 16 in leg six.
Van Gerwen remained in touch at 5-4 behind, but Cullen continued his efficient finishing to go two clear again.
A 62 checkout kept Van Gerwen in touch, but a crucial last dart at double seven moved Cullen to the cusp of victory – which he sealed in the following leg with a 14-darter on tops.
Cullen began the final day with a 6-1 rout of a below-par Dave Chisnall, before overcoming a resurgent Ross Smith 6-4 with a 99 average.
He then swept aside Michael Smith 7-3 in the Semi-Finals with a 96 average and seven from nine on the doubles.
Van Gerwen, who was beaten by Jose de Sousa in last weekend’s European Grand Prix final, had to settle for second prize once again, making it the first year he has not won a European Tour title since 2012.
The Dutchman produced a mixed bag of performances through the final day in Riesa, firstly averaging 88 and surviving one match dart to edge out Andy Hamilton 6-5 in the Last 16.
He then ended a run of 12 games without a ton-plus average by averaging 102.2 in a 6-3 win over James Wade, before falling over the line 7-6 against Mensur Suljovic in the Semi-Finals. with an average of just 89.
Cullen goes into next Thursday’s European Championship in Oberhausen as the number one seed, while four-time champion Van Gerwen is the number five seed.
Sunday October 25
Michael van Gerwen 6-5 Andy Hamilton
James Wade 6-2 Nathan Aspinall
Krzysztof Ratajski 6-5 Franz Rötzsch
Mensur Suljovic 6-2 Jamie Hughes
Ross Smith 6-4 Max Hopp
Dave Chisnall 1-6 Joe Cullen
Jesus Noguera 1-6 Michael Smith
Scott Baker 2-6 Danny Noppert
Michael van Gerwen 6-3 James Wade
Krzysztof Ratajski 5-6 Mensur Suljovic
Ross Smith 4-6 Joe Cullen
Michael Smith 6-1 Danny Noppert
Michael van Gerwen 7-6 Mensur Suljovic
Joe Cullen 7-3 Michael Smith
Joe Cullen 8-5 Michael van Gerwen