The big topic of the first day of the UK Open was as on the day before the weather. The PDC had cancelled the Premier League evening in Exeter because of the red alert but in the end decided to go on with the UK Open as planned. Most players had arrived in Minehead - only eleven had withdrawn - the ITV Crew was already here and everything was prepared for the event - one couldn't cancel a complete tournament. The Butlins Resort made another decision and announced that the resort would stay closed due to the weather and all who had booked should better stay at home due to the weather and the road conditions.
So the UK Open are this time more or less a tournament without spectators with the exception with a few day visitors and a few people who had already arrived in the resort before the announcement. But when I look at the roads through Minehead I feel it really was a good decision. There were around 20 cm snow over night, it's still snowing, we still have a rather strong wind and the roads are far from snow free.
The PDC decided not to use the big stage in the Sky Pavilion - it was bitter cold in there and it would have been stupid to heat the big room only because of the players. The matches scheduled on the main stage were moved to the second stage and the matches scheduled on the second stage were moved to the boards 3 - 8. Around the second stage the temperatures were quite agreeable while it was freezing cold in the venue with the boards 3 - 8. The players had problems to keep warm and to hinder the darts to freeze to their hands. Perhaps the PDC should offer the players instead of cold water hot drinks like tea or coffee.
The press room this year was heated!!! But it is very disagreeable to walk over to the venues as you have to go outside in the very cold wind and the snowfall.
Among the players who didn't travel to Minehead were with Zoran Lerchbacher, Rene Berndt and Maik Langendorf three German speaking players though Berndt had to withdraw due to an injury. Martin Schindler on the other side tried everything to get to Minehead and managed to arrive there on Friday afternoon - but of course for him the tournament only started with the evening session.
In the afternoon session already some big names played and I got hooked to the match between Paul Nicholson and Terry Jenkins. Nicholson was far in the lead but Jenkins fought himself back to 5:5 only to experience his only double trouble in the deciding leg - though Nicholson won the match. Nicholson went on to win his second round match as well 6:5 and will turn up again in the evening session. As well in round three is John Part who had no problems at all with his first two opponents. No luck at all this year till now has youth world champion Diametric van den Bergh who is out after the first round. Benito van de Pas lost second round as did Andy Hamilton, Danny Noppert and Wayne Jones. And Raymond van Barneveld was lucky he managed to win 6:5 - it was a rather close match.
From the German speaking players who arrived in Minehead Rene Eidams was eliminated in round two by Dave Chisnall who was just too much for him. Michael Rasztovits won his first round match and had a bye in round two as Maik Langendorf is not here. Gabriel Clemens in his second round match had no problem at all with an out of form Andrew Gilding and will play against Kim Huybrechts in round three. Rasztovits had no luck with the draw --- his opponent will be Corey Cadby.
From the Riley's amateur qualifiers only Alex Roy, Paul Hogan, Harry Ward, David Airey and Darryl Pilgrim survived the afternoon session. All others were eliminated.
While the afternoon session had been rather unspectacular the evening session brought several big upsets. First Mervyn King eliminated Raymond van Barneveld - might be not a real surprise after van Barneveld's first match against Mike Norton which he had only just survived. Than almost at the same time Adrian Lewis and reigning champion Peter Wright went out of the tournament And Peter Wright even lost to the only 18 years old Nathan Rafferty from Northern Ireland. Rafferty for some time now plays on the Development Tour but till now never had been a talking point. Lewis found now foot hold at all against a strong playing Dutchman Dirk Van Duijvenbode. But Lewis is already for some time far from his best.
One had almost no time to recover from Peter Wright's elimination when he favourite to win the tournament - Michael van Gerwen - lost to his fellow country man Jeffrey de Zwaan - to be sure the upset of the tournament. Most people had been sure van Gerwen would win. Now we all had to regroup and look for other might be winners. For Simon Whitlock and Dave Chisnall the event ended in the third round as well.
Looking at the German speaking participants: Gabriel Clemens caused Kim Huybrechts some problems and Huybrechts had a hard time to get rid of him but won the match in the end. I felt sorry for Clemens but at least we for once did see a happy looking Huybrechts. Martin Schindler didn't look like his rather complicated journey to Minehead had tired him and won 10:7 against Ryan Harrington.
He was "rewarded" in the fourth round draw with a match against Australian Cody Harris who threw Austrian Michael Rasztovits in round three out of the tournament.
After the third round with the exception of the resilient Paul Hogan all amateur qualifier were already out of the tournament - rather unusual.
I didn't wait for the draw but slightly frozen went back to my cosy and warm bed and breakfast. It sill snowed a little bit and the wind still was strong. As the pavements were all 10 cm at least with snow I walked on the street were the sow at least was bogged down. There was more or less no traffic at all I only met a few small groups on their way back to Butlins. Probably they had decided against the darts and instead sought refuge in a warm pub.