UK Open - First Day

This year I once again travelled to the UK Open - when you use public transport as I do a really time consuming affair. But when you take an early flight from Germany you will make it on one day.

In Minehead not a lot changed during the Corona years though I heard the prices for housing went up quite a lot. In the supermarkets I did see the one or other cucumber or tomato and apples are no problem at the moment. It looks my breakfast tomato is safe as well - it is at least here in Minehead not as bad as German press will tell you.

In Butlin's on the other side some buildings are renovated at the moment. Which means the press room and the players' practice board now can be found in Reds where in former years the second stage was. We all have seen more beautiful press rooms and much brighter ones but as I commute during the UK Open a lot between the different boards it is acceptable. The second stage now is situated in Studio 36 which has the charm of a sports hall - really different to the intimate atmosphere in Reds. But a bigger crowd can fit in it - though it is farer away from the Skyline building for all the fans who commute like I do between the boards. And it is cold outside.

Everything else was as usual - on the first day most have no overview, I never am sure who plays when where. But I was lucky and did see Germans Lukas Wenig and Daniel Klose on the second stage and Pascal Rupprecht in the room with the boards 3 - 8. It is difficult to plan as the matches have a different length and there is no break between the first three rounds, fits seamlessly in. And there is another point which makes it difficult - play starts on the main stage an hour later then on the other stages.
Already in the evening-session of the first day everything relaxes as only one round is played.

Though the already mentioned German players didn't survive the afternoon they played solid matches. But there were better performances as well - to be sure those from Jelle Klaasen, from Luke Littler and from Richie Burnett who probably makes with his concentrated suffering expression his opponents weep or could hurt them with his footwork. Impressive when he starts to smile after a win. But what won him his first matches was his as well impressive accuracy on his doubles. Impressive and convincing were Dylan Slevin, Steve Beaton and Luke littler as well only to mention a few. Ricky Evans entertained the crowd with his acting talent - seldom was so much laughed during a darts match. And he even won it.

After the third round was over on all boards the draw for the fourth round followed and after that a break.

In the evening session it looked even more crowded every where especially in front of boards 3 - 8 there was almost no getting through any longer. So I am in privileged position as a photographer and are allowed behind the barrier as long as I don't obstruct the crowd's view it was not easy to even get there.
But my first aim was Studio 36 anyway where the two World Championship semi-finalists Gabriel Clemens and Dimitri van den Bergh clashed. This direct comparison turned out to Clemens' disadvantage as he always run after his opponent. Or - one could say - it justified the PDC decision to nominate the Belgian for the Premier League, it would really be too early for Clemens. Then I moved on to the Main Stage were 16 years old amateur qualifier had no chance against Gerwyn Price. I had a short view on Centerstage but it was still too early for Martin Schindler and Florian Hempel.

For some time I commuted between the main and the second stage, watched some time the match between Raymond van Barneveld and Rob Cross, in which the Dutch first seemed to take the control. But he couldn't get rid of Cross, who triumphed in the end while van Barneveld really looked frustrated with himself when he left the stage. I had a short look at the Ross Smith Jonny Clayton match which was quite similar to the Cross Barneveld match and which was won by Clayton. Centerstage already the last few matches took place and quite less people were around. The fans had probably moved over to the for them more interesting matches on the main and the second stage.

Only a few were interested in the match between reigning champion Danny Noppert against Jim William which was an as close affair as the matches between Kim Huybrechts and Mike de Decker or Vincent van der Voort and Brendan Dolan which the completely different rhythm of the two players made interesting Noppert, Huybrechts and Dylan were the winners and I returned to the press room for the fifth round draw.

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