Match Report: Gurney comes from behind to seal place in the UK Open semi-finals

Daryl Gurney continued his impressive form at the UK Open, coming back from 7-4 down to beat Simon Whitlock 10-9 to seal a place in the semi-finals.  

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The players were evenly matched in the early stages before Whitlock asserted his dominance, moving into a 7-4 lead.

An 11-dart leg seemed to spark Gurney into life and he moved into a 9-8 lead before being pegged back to set up the third last leg shootout of the afternoon. Superchin seized control of the final leg with a crucial 180 and found double 16 to seal a 10-9 victory.

Both players went into the encounter feeling confident. Whitlock had voiced his belief that he was going to win the title after beating Cristo Reyes in the last 16, whilst Gurney had largely done his talking on the board, beating former UK Open runner-up Vincent van der Voort in the previous round.

Whitlock started the match with a 180 and went onto to break Gurney with a 15-darter. He doubled his advantage in a sloppy second leg, Gurney missing three darts to break back and the Wizard eventually holding in a 21 dart leg. Superchin seemed to find his form in the third leg and took out 100 on double 16 to get his first leg on the board.

The Wizard, who specialises in combination finishes, missed the bull for a 170 in the fourth leg but couldn’t clean it up and Gurney found tops to level the occasion and put the game back on throw. A third consecutive leg from Superchin gave him the lead going into the first break and gave the Wizard plenty to think about.

The match was levelled immediately after the interval, as Whitlock held throw before taking out a 161 checkout to break Gurney’s throw and regain the lead. He stretched his advantage with another hold, as Superchin couldn’t capitalise on a poor first attempt from the Australian to clear up 63.

The man from Northern Ireland stopped Whitlock’s run of three straight legs with a hold but couldn’t find the break he needed. The Australian remained dominant on throw, and the made the most of a poor leave from Gurney to leave 32, which he cleared up on double 12 to lead 6-4 at the second break.

Whitlock continued where he had left off when the players returned from the break, hitting a two-dart clean kill on 97 to break throw and move into a three leg lead. This seemed to spark Gurney into life and he broke straight back with an 11-dart leg, before an unconvincing hold of throw, which saw him miss five at a double before finding double 10.

Regardless, Gurney was starting to make a move, his scoring power really starting to tell and Whitlock’s lead was soon relinquished, a three-dart kill of 69 from Superchin locking the players level at 7-7. Now in the driving seat, Gurney just had to hold three times to reach the semi-finals and he achieved the first under heavy pressure from Whitlock. An 81 checkout saw four straight legs from Gurney turn into five, putting him one leg away from victory.

Superchin almost won the match with a maximum 170 finish but missed the bull, allowing Whitlock to return and find double 16 to keep the match alive. The Australian didn’t let his head drop and held throw to force the third last leg decider of the afternoon.

His scoring power left him in the shootout though and Gurney seized control with a 180 that left gave him six darts from 81. He only needed three, finding double 16 to secure his place in the semi-finals.

For Whitlock, the loss is a huge disappointment but his form this weekend shows that he is certainly moving back to somewhere near his best. Gurney meanwhile carries on maturing as a darts player and will see his stock continue to rise. Deemed unlucky by some not to be included in the Premier League, taking the title this evening would certainly give the PDC something to think about.

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