Column #CM122 UK Open – Second Day
Wednesday, March 16, 2023
UK Open – Second Day
Has it happened to you? Have you ever been unable, at first, to recognize a well-known darts player when you saw them in their street wear or in jump suit? That is what happened to me when in my accommodation on the morning of the second day a no longer young, tall and slender man appeared in the breakfast room wearing a dark blue jumpsuit. I was sure I did knew him… but only after some pondering did I realize it was Mario Vandenbogaerde whom I had watched on the day before in several matches.
I think a little bit of acting is involved in the stage matches and that the players sometimes “create“ a sort of stage personality. Some are actually completely different from their stage character but the stage character is what you will remember (as you probably will not meet them personally). Of course, counter examples also exist – James Wade and Gary Anderson come to mind – they very bad actors, their stage characters are very similar to their real personalities.
The second day of the UK Open was more relaxed as the matches were longer than in the first three rounds and it matches were only played at four boards, though still in three different venues. I first went over to Studio 36 where in the first match Kim Huybrechts went to the dogs against Gary Anderson – he had no chance at all while Anderson played another convincing match.
The second match brought a big upset as William O’Connor eliminated reigning champion Danny Noppert from the tournament – but who in this tournament was a little bit under the radar and only got this single stage match. On boards 3 and 4 Richie Burnett and Adam Gawlas celebrated wins.
On to the main stage, the first match ended with a big upset – Luke Humphries defeated World Champion Michael Smith. The next upset followed soon – Jeffrey de Zwaan sensationally defeated Gerwyn Price.
Rob Cross ended Steve Beaton’s run on the second stage while Martin Schindler was in great form and won against Adrian Lewis on Board 3.
When I returned to the second stage the venue was jam-packed. It was clear Nathan Aspinall was responsible – he is one of the crowd favourites here (along with Richie Burnett who is cheered as frenetically). On Boards 3 and 4 Jose de Sousa and Luke Woodhouse were eliminated and almost unnoticed as most of the crowd had already moved on to watch Peter Wright on the main stage – and who had some problems against Callan Rydz. I returned once more to the second stage where it was quiet and half full again where Dimitri van den Bergh sent Mervyn King packing – a close match in which the Belgian was more convincing then the solid playing King.
After that, Boards 3 and 4 were removed and on the main stage the draw for the sixth round took place and which would be played on only two stages and foe which only 16 players remained. For me, it was great that one German player was still in it.
On the start of the evening-session the match between Aspinall and Cullen lured me to the Main Stage. It was more than crowded – Aspinall was on stage. But that was not all – the crowd was in a merry mood ignited by three dinosaurs cruising about which made everybody laugh and cheer. It was difficult to get the crowd’s attention back to the stage – no one looked at the players or the officials – even when Russ Bray tried a fake 180. The players looked very amused as well. But finally the match went on and Aspinall had no problem winning against an under par Cullen. It might be the be the dinosaurs played their part.
Dolan and Gilding were still playing on the second stage – both are quite slow players and not so popular with the crowd and so it was not really full over there.
On the main stage the match between Peter Wright and Richie Burnett followed – they had met years ago on the Lakeside stage. And Peter Wright had a lot of hair!! Black hair! Burnett’s walk-on caused goose bumps and the greeting of the two players on stage was the most touching and emotional moment of the tournament. The match that followed was not a high-class affair but once again Burnett excelled in finishing. Peter Wright couldn’t keep up and Burnett progressed into the quarterfinal.
After that, it became somewhat hectic for me as I wanted to watch both the Anderson vs. van Gerwen match on the Main Stage and the Schindler vs. Clayton match on the second stage. I didn’t manage 100 percent – I missed the end of the Schindler match. But as we all now know, Schindler won – great!
Now, I was really fed up and tired from all the walking and the cold and watched the rather one-sided van Gerwen/Humphries match from the warmth of the press room where I could sit down. Unluckily, in the press room only the match on the main stage was shown so I can’t say anything about the de Zwaan vs. Cross match – you at home surely saw more of it.
After all matches had finished the next draw followed. Only eight players are still in the tournament. Who would have thought Martin Schindler, Richie Burnett and Adam Gawlas would be among them!
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