The UK Open 2024 - Spring in Exmoor 3

The final day of the UK Open started with the nicest spring weather one could imagine, The final day always is a little bit pensive as the tournament is almostover. And the PDC already began to pack away everything which was not needed anymore -the stages 2 to 8 were dismantled and stuck it away in the lorries. One couldn't feel or see it in the Sky Pavilliopn with the mainstage though which was well filled and where the the tension grew. Most predicted Luke Humphries as the tournament winner as he besides Luke Littler had shown the best performances from all players still in the tournament.

And with Luke Humphries the quarterfinals began - he played against Stephen Bunting, who exited the tournament with a strangely uninspired performance. Probably his match against Peter Wright - the last match on the second day -had been very demanding. Of course Humphries showed once again a strong performance which didn't help and Bunting lost with 2:10 while Humphries was the first player to progress into the semi-finals.

Like Bunting Rob Cross seemed to have lost all energy and to have run out of steam. He couldn't keep up what he had shown the rounds before. So he and Ricky Evans were quite evenly matched and Cross was far from dominant. Both players had problems to hit their doubles but Evans was a little bit more clinical. He didn't suffer as much as many had predicted from Cross' slow throwing style either. And so a very emotional Ricky Evans caused the first big upset on Finals Day and progressed with a 10:7 win over Rob Cross in a quite poor though close match into his first ranking TV semi-final.

To be sure third third quarterfinal was by far the highlight of the afternoon session. After a highclass but very one-sided match and a weak but close match which the match between Damon Heta and Luke Littler followed a match which had both class and thrill. It was an outstanding match in which both players had for a long time an average of over 110. Heta's average at the start of the match even was over 120 - never before he had played like this. At the first break Littler was 2:3 in front but after it the lead changed to Heta and stayed there though nearer the end he played a few "weaker" legs. Littler was not able to use that chance. Heta missed with three matchdarts but Littler didn't manage to draw and with his fourth attempt Heta won the match with 10:8. As Evans Heta for the first time progressed to a TV ranking semi-final.

The last quarterfinal between Martin Lukeman and Dimitri van den Bergh was a more mediocre game - neither really good nor really thrilling - as the Belgian just was the crucial bit better than Lukeman and so most of the time was the first to throw for the double. Van den Bergh won with 10:5.

After the quarterfinals the last draw of the tournmant took place. First on in the evening session would be the semi-final between Damon Heta and Dimitri van den Bergh. After that Luke Humphries would play against Ricky Evans.

The result of the first semi-final was much more difficult to predict than that of the second and to be sure semi-final number 1 started as a very close match in which the lead changed several times. After the second break though it was Dimitri van den Bergh who slowly started to pull away and Heta couldn't keep up any longer. Might be he was a little bit tired and exhausted after thet outstanding quarterfinal against Luke Littler while van den Bergh had had a much easier win.
Van den Bergh won 11:6 but I rarely have seen a much unhappier winner. The Belgian and the Australian are really close friends who share a house and one could see before and after the match how close they are. It was adifficult match for both players but - as Dimitri said after the match - there could only be one winner.

One just couldn't await Ricky Evans would win the second semi-final. He had played a good tournament - to be sure. Mightbe he had been a little bit lucky in the quarter-finals as Cross had been far from his best. Evans had come a long way but Humphries was really too much for him. As both players are fast throwing players the match was over soon. Humphries progressed with a 11:2 win into the final.

The final between van den Bergh and Humphries developed not as many expected as the Belgian dominated it from the start while the number 1 of the world was not at his best. Probably even Humphries by now was a little bit tired. So van den Bergh at one stage of the match was 7:2 in the lead before Humphries really gave all and started to improve. He encouraged himself a lot - more than in the other matches he had played before - and he reduced his arrear.

But Humphries was not the only one who needed to encourage himself as the Begian strange enough not grew surer during the match but looked more and more unsettled and very tense. I almost feared he would break down .. Humphries really had to fight to draw 10:10 and the match needed an deciding leg. Though it was not a great leg from Humphries he had had two matchdarts but missed and somehow van den Bergh scraped the barrel and got the job done with double tops before he was overcome by his emotions.

All in all it was once again really thrilling tournament and van den Bergh's win was not undeserved. Martin Lukeman and Ricky Evans as the oursider added the necessary spice. We did see drama and emotions, the World champion and in this tournament finalist showed he is definitaly a serious contender and a player to bereckoned with. Damon Heta showed some great comebacks and the best match of the tournament.

We will not have to wait long for the next tournament - on Thursday the Premier League will continue and on Friday the first European Tour Event of the year will begin in Wieze in Belgium. And with the xeception of Lukeman and Evans who didn't manage to qualifiy the quarterfinalist will again stand at the oche in Wieze.

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