At the Beach
On the fourth day of the tournament the sun was shining from a blue sky and it was very warm. As a lot of tourists I walked to the beach which is to be sure one of Blackpool's main attractions from the beginning. As one hears it is the second most beautiful beach of the world - seven miles of golden sand. Most of it will be under water at high tide. The quietest part you'll find around the South Pier or north of the North Pier while across the Blackpool Tower and around the Central Pier you'll find the most people.
At the quiet parts of the beach in the South of Blackpool children and youth still can experience an amusement from Victorian times - Donkey Rides. Traditionally you can find the name of the donkey on the headgear and traditional as well till today the most popular name is daisy. Probably donkey rides first were offered in 1885 in Bridlington and the donkey at this time probably were work animals from the cockles industry. For some time donkey rides in Blackpool were discredited as not all donkey owners treated the animals well. So now you'll need a licence for donkey rides to improve the situation for the donkeys. Only donkeys with a health certificate - which has to be renewed every year by a vet - are allowed to work. Each word day has to start with breakfast in the stable before the animals get to work at the beach. Riders don't have to weigh more than 50 kg. Their work time is up to 48 hours a week and always on Fridays they have a day off...
In the first match of the second round Max Hopp played against Michael Smith. From the start Hopp played well while Smith from the start couldn't find his doubles. So Hopp was 4:1 up before the first break. With the same result Smith went into his first break against Jamie Hughes and to be sure as in the match against Hughes he was much more in the match after the break and got the lead. It was well deserved as he was scoring much better than Hopp. But Smith still hadn't found his range on the doubles and Hopp got a lot of chances . Often enough he was able to use them and Smith never really was able to pull clear. But Hopp couldn't get a match winning advantage either and at 10:10 the match went into the tie break. In the first leg of the tie break Hopp had an chance to win the leg but couldn't hit double tops and Smith won the leg. In the second leg Smith threw some high scores and hit the winning double. Hopp again showed a good performance but in contrast to his first opponent Dave Chisnall Michael Smith just was the better player till the end of the match. Without his double trouble he would not have needed a tie break to win the match.
James Wade versus Mensur Suljovic was the next match. Wade usually is one of the players who have a problem with Suljovic slow through but this match was very even from the beginning. Wade went with a 3:2 lead into the first break. In the second break it was five all. The averages were similar, the hitting rate on the doubles was very similar as well, Wade was a little bit better. Suddenly Suljovic managed to win three legs in a row and he was 8:5 in the lead. But Wade started a race to catch up while Suljovic had run out of steam and it was 8:8. To be sure this match went into the tie break as well. But unlike to Wade's first match this time no Sudden Death leg was needed to decide the match - Wade won with 13:11. He had been more clinical on his doubles - simple as that.
Gary Anderson started in his match against Mervyn King as if he was afraid to miss his train. He scored really well but the rush was not good for his doubles and Mervyn King was 4:1 up before the first break. And he was 6:4 up before the second break as well. Anderson improved and to the delight of the crowd drew 6:6. Then he even managed to get in front - but not for long. King didn't intend to give in and found another gear. He overtook the reigning champion and won in the end 11:8. During the last three Legs Anderson had been no longer in the match and he left the stage in express-train speed. As is had been warm outside it now was very warm inside as well and probably on stage it was unbearable hot. It looked to me King had far less problems with it than Anderson.
The last match of the night was three-times world champion against three-times world champion. Durrant looked tenser than at the start of his first match and he started a little bit wobbly as well. Might be the hype over the match was one of the reasons for it. Van Gerwen was more clinical on his doubles while Durrant scored better and was 3:2 in front before the first break. It was a deserved lead as van Gerwen's average was just over 90. Van Gerwen improved but Durrant was still in the lead before the second break. But van Gerwen improved all the time and the match got closer and closer. Both players felt the pressure and to be sure the heat on stage as well. For a second it looked to me Durrant was about to give in but he recovered and the merciless head-to-head race went into the tie break. Rather astonishing the to be sure which such situations far less experienced Durrant kept his nerve while van Gerwen was running on empty. Durrant won the two legs he needed for the win and progressed at his debut with strong performances, strength of nerve and full of emotions cheered by the crowd into the quarterfinals. And Michael van Gerwen for the second time in a row in this tournament travels home early. The World Matchplay doesn't seem to be his tournament.
What a night of darts! Besides being tired I felt rather pumped on my way home as well. It was still hot outside and from afar one could hear rolling thunder.