UK Open Qualifier 8

On Sunday morning my feet still felt tired but after a breakfast consisting of pancakes, bacon and maple syrup I felt refreshed enough to begin my walk to the venue. The weather was not as good as the day before; it rained a little bit and was very windy. The town center was empty and lifeless - probably because all the shops were still closed. Only the ASDA in the shopping mile near the venue was already open and I joined the weekend bulk buyers for some errands before I let myself blow by the wind into the Robin Park Centre.

The draw had just taken place and the players crowded around the screen. Beside the screen all the chalkers had assembled and were assigned to their boards. To be sure those UK Open Qualifiers are hard work for the chalkers - they stand longer at the boards then during other Pro Tour Events and have to stay focused for a very long time. But nevertheless faults are very rare. Beside the chalkers there are some people with lap tops who do the live scoreboards.

I decided on a few first round matches and tried to keep those in view - not easy with 24 boards around. But at least I manage to see who won and who lost. I had a look first at Max Hopp v Gino Vos. Max Hopp is still quite inexperienced on the Pro Tour and it's not easy for him - he's not even 17 yet - to establish himself. There are just no easy matches on the Pro Tour though not all players are as popular as the the PDC Top 10. Max played quite good but got another defeat. But even such a talent like Michael van Gerwen had to learn it some years the hard way before he managed to break through.

From Max Hopp I switched to Jyhan Artut, who had to play against Scott Rand - a rather difficult opponent. The game was evenly matched and it looked quite good for Artut in the last leg. But he missed with all his three matchdarts and Rand took his chance and won the match. To be sure that was one of those "unnecessary" defeats which annoy the players most. Bernd Roith had a bye in his first match and so I managed to be in time for his second match at his board. He played against Andrew Gilding - another one of those "unknown" players. He already got my attention last year as he's a very effective player. But Roith managed a close 6:5 win - really a good and solid game of both players. On the board beside Canadian Kenny MacNeil (really Kenny - he corrected the chalkers) eliminated in a thrilling match Kevin Painter from the tournament. Both threw a lot of high scores and none wanted to give in.

I walked on and just caught the final leg of Mark Dudbridge v Stuart Millar. It was a positive surprise to see Dudbridge play so well - he had a lot of problems with an injury on his throwing arm. But on this Sunday he had a good run. After this match I had a look at John Part who played on the same board. He played much better than the day before - this time he had less trouble finding his triples!
From there I returned to Bernd Roith who next had to play Mark Jones, a comparatively small older and very unobtrusive player who turned out to be a "nasty" opponent. Every time when Bernd thought he had overcome him Jones threw a high score and was back in the match. Already in the first leg he had a 126 checkout. But Bernd didn't give in and reacted accordingly - his last two legs were a 15- and a 13-darter. But it was a hard fought win and it's almost impossible to play with such a focus through such a long tournament day.
On the board beside Kenny MacNeil and Ronny Huybrechts fought a fierce battle. In the end the Canadian won 6:4 - but Jones/Roith was played on the same high level. I had a short view on the Matthew Edgar/Gino Vos match. Vos had defeated Max Hopp earlier but he lost to the really good playing Matthew Edgar who had himself won against the still ailing Denis Ovens. Ovens had thrown a 13- and an 11.darter in this match - but that had been not enough. Edgar played another good match and defeated Vos as convincingly.

John Part, Mark Dudbridge and Kevin McDine all won their matches while Phil Taylor lost to Ian White. So Taylor couldn't improve in the UK Open Order of Merit and this year has to begin his UK Open already in the second round on Day 1 of the tournament. While turning through the venue for the first time Jason Hogg caught my eye. Jason comes from Scotland and plays as John Henderson and Brian Woods for Aberdeen's dart bar Masada. He took part in qualifying school in 2013 but didn't mange to get a tour card. On that day he was in great form and won against Kim Huybrechts and Brendan Dolan before losing against Mervyn King in the semi-finals.

It was time to return to Bernd's board where the match between Michael van Gerwen and Bernd Roith already was in full swing. We all know Mighty Mike was once again unstoppable on the day and he was not really impressed by Bernd's 94 - 95 average. In those legs van Gerwen didn't manage the high scores he just threw a high finish.
Kenny McNeil on his board gave Andy Jenkins no chance at all only to find out his next opponent was Michael van Gerwen. Mark Dudbrige ended John Part's run and qualified for the UK Open. And I decided to take a short break and give mind and feet a rest. While I talked to Bernd and Max the numbers of players had dwindled fast. Van Gerwen had defeated MacNeil, Mark Dudbridge had lost to Adrian Lewis who played strong and focused all day. Matthew Edgar and Jason Hogg were still in the hunt. In the quarterfinals Mervyn King defeated Robert Thornton - a nail biter kind of match. Jason Hogg defeated Brendan Dolan. Adrian Lewis showed a lot of spirit but lost to Michael van Gerwen in the semifinals, Mervyn King had an easier match against Jason Hogg who had run out of steam by then.

In the break before the final the boards and other equipment already were taken down, fast effective and almost noiseless. The cleaning crew had started to work as well as most people already had left the venue. They piled the chairs and collected all the trash. I watched the final together with Max Hopp. As Jerry Hendriks already was on his way home Max now accompanied Michael van Gerwen. It seemed Mervyn King was totally worn out during the final, he didn't win a single leg and the final was soon over. I took a picture of the winner, talked a little bit with Dave Allen and then crawled back to the hotel. And - surprise - again my card didn't work and first had to be reloaded.

As I had a long day before me I decided next morning for a full English breakfast before I took a train to Manchester for Sightseeing and Shopping.

In the afternoon I travelled on to the airport and after a quiet flight in a half empty plane I finally landed late in the evening back again in Stuttgart

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