Rob Cross’ incredible debut season in the PDC continued as he defeated world number five Adrian Lewis to clinch his fourth Players Championship title of the year at the Barnsley Metrodome on Tuesday afternoon.
Fresh from qualifying for next month’s World Series of Darts Finals last month, ‘Voltage’ continued his magnificent Pro Tour form to extend his lead at the top of the Players Championship Order of Merit, which staggeringly could see him enter next month’s Players Championship Finals at Minehead as top seed.
The 27-year-old performed superbly throughout the day, but had to fend off an impressive display from Adrian Lewis- who was appearing in his first PDC final since April. ‘Jackpot’ averaged 106.99 and crashed in five maximums, but Cross held his nerve to prevail 6-3 with a 98.52 average and an impressive 60% checkout success rate.
Cross drew first blood in the final by following up a maximum with tops to hold throw, but Lewis delivered an instant riposte; dispatching a 101 checkout to level. Cross then kicked off the third leg with back-to-back maximums to regain the lead via tops, before capitalising on three missed darts from Lewis to break throw on D10.
The former electrician extended his cushion on D8 moments later, but Lewis reduced the arrears to 4-2 after posting his third maximum and landing D10 to complete a 14-darter. Nevertheless, the two-time world champion was unable to conjure up a crucial break, and Cross pegged a clinical 90 kill on the bullseye to move to the brink of victory.
‘Jackpot’ responded by registering a fourth maximum to round-off a 15-dart hold and stay alive, before crashing in a fifth 180 to pressure Cross’ throw. However, it was to no avail. The former Challenge Tour star posted his fourth maximum and nervelessly dispatched a 64 outshot to seal the £10,000 winner’s prize once more.
It’s been a staggering rise for the Kent ace, who has now climbed into the world’s top 32 by virtue of his fourth Pro Tour title of 2017. He admitted: “I don’t want to lose a game, the hunger is there to win everything. I’ve overachieved my own expectations.”
‘Voltage’ kicked off Tuesday’s proceedings with a stunning whitewash victory over Dutchman Ron Meulenkamp, before surviving a last-leg shootout against Craig Gilchrist to reach round-three. He then saw off Steve West 6-3; averaging 94.64 and piling in three maximums to complete a convincing win.
This set up a last 16 showdown against recent World Grand Prix semi-finalist John Henderson, who continued his resurgence by dropping just five legs in his opening three matches. ‘The Highlander’ defeated Cross in the most recent Players Championship event in Dublin, but the Englishman gained revenge; prevailing in another deciding-leg clash.
Cross then took on former World-Youth champion Keegan Brown in the last eight, after Brown had defeated John Part, Barrie Bates, Jamie Bain and James Wade earlier in the day. However, the Isle of Wight star was unable to add Cross to his list of scalps, succumbing to a 6-0 defeat against the imperious Target ace.
In the last four, ‘Voltage’ faced Irish ace William O’Connor, fresh from his triumph in Saturday’s Tom Kirby Memorial Trophy, which sealed him a place at this year’s World Championship.
O’Connor defeated Jan Dekker, Vincent van der Voort, Jamie Caven, Joe Cullen and top seed Peter Wright to reach his first ever PDC semi-final, but he was helpless to tackle an irrepressible Cross, who averaged 106.76 and converted 67% of his attempts at double to breeze through to the final.
On the other side of the draw, Adrian Lewis returned to form in style- reaching his first Pro Tour final since April. The two-time world champion began his campaign with successive 6-3 wins over Brendan Dolan and Joe Murnan, before thrashing Belgian youngster Mike De Decker to reach the last 16.
Lewis then faced Dutch starlet Jeffrey de Zwaan, who is mentored by five-time world champion Raymond van Barneveld. De Zwaan recorded wins over Alan Tabern, Dave Chisnall and Terry Jenkins to reach round-four, but ‘Jackpot’ ran out a convincing 6-2 winner to reach the quarter-finals.
In the last eight, Lewis faced UK Open finalist Gerwyn Price, who dumped out World Grand Prix champion Daryl Gurney in the preceding round. Price led ‘Jackpot’ 4-1 but spurned three match darts in the tenth leg. The Welshman had the throw in the decider, but Lewis fired in a magical 11-darter to steal victory.
This set up a semi-final clash against quick-fire Dutchman Jermaine Wattimena, who was appearing in his third Pro Tour semi-final of the year. ‘The Machine-Gun’ overcame Ross Twell, Ian White, Kevin Painter, Peter Jacques and Michael Smith to reach the last-four, before succumbing 6-2 to an inspired Lewis, who missed D12 for a 9-darter in leg four.
However, whilst the Target duo of Cross and Lewis flourished in Barnsley, a host of other big names suffered surprise early exits. World Grand Prix finalist Simon Whitlock was beaten in the opening round, losing out 6-3 to Scottish star Jamie Bain.
Dutch star Benito van de Pas was beaten by Belgian youngster Mike De Decker in round-one, whilst Robert Thornton and Mervyn King were edged out at the same stage by Stuart Kellett and Rowby-John Rodriguez respectively. Meanwhile, Kyle Anderson, Cristo Reyes and Alan Norris all fell by the wayside at the first hurdle.
Elsewhere, Dave Chisnall fired in a magnificent nine-darter during his first-round victory over Ryan Searle. The contest was broadcast on the PDC Live Stream and Chisnall landed the perfect-leg in the sixth leg of his 6-4 win, but the St Helen’s star was dumped out in the next round by resurgent Dutchman Jeffrey de Zwaan.
De Zwaan then dumped out a returning Terry Jenkins in round-three. Jenkins was appearing in his first PDC event since March as he attempts to seal qualification for the World Championship, but after beating Ryan Meikle and Stuart Kellett, the nine-time major finalist was thrashed 6-1 by ‘The Black Cobra’.
Michael van Gerwen, Gary Anderson, Phil Taylor, Raymond van Barneveld and Mensur Suljovic did not feature today and they will also be absent from the final Players Championship event of the year tomorrow afternoon.
Photo Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC