April was the busiest month of the year so far on the WDF circuit, with 16 ranking events held across nine different countries. Headlined by Andy Baetens and Noa-Lynn van Leuven’s victories at the Denmark Open, the month also saw us visit Croatia for the first time as well as action in Iceland, Australia, New Zealand, the USA, the Faroe Islands, Estonia and Gibraltar. Andrew Sinclair recaps the action.
Andy Baetens catapulted himself to top spot in the WDF rankings at the end of April by claiming his fourth successive ranking title in the Silver-graded Denmark Masters.
‘The Beast’ dropped just three legs before he faced Gary Stone in the semi-finals, throwing two 100+ averages in the process.
He beat Stone 5-1 in the last four to set up a final with England’s Martyn Turner, who was bidding to convert his recent good form into a first WDF title.
A slow start proved costly for Turner though, with Baetens opening the match with a 164 finish and producing a four-leg burst to go 5-1 up and within one of the title.
Turner was able to halve the deficit by capitalising on missed match darts from the Belgian but Baetens made sure of victory in the ninth leg, kicking off with his third 180 of the match and ending with a two-dart finish for a match-best 11-darter.
In the Women’s Masters, Rhian O’Sullivan won her first title of the year after losing three finals earlier in the year in Scotland and the Isle of Man.
Facing the Wales captain in the final was the rapidly-improving Dutchwoman Aletta Wajer, who was hoping to add to her title tally after doing the double in Croatia earlier in the month.
Wajer won the opening leg of the final but that was as good as it got for her, with O’Sullivan producing finishes of 101 and 98 as she won the next five legs on the spin to run out a 5-1 victor with an 83.31 average.
Nikolaj Jørgensen successfully retained his Masters Youth title and completed an impressive weekend double with a 4-0 win over compatriot Lukas Jensen.
Baetens and Wajer at the double in Croatia debut
A hat-trick of title doubles were the order of the weekend in mid-April as the WDF made its first trip to Zagreb for the Croatian Open and Masters.
Andy Baetens started his remarkable run of 27 matches unbeaten on the WDF circuit in the Bronze-graded Open, eventually claiming the title with a dramatic 5-4 victory over Jelle Klaasen.
Baetens produced his highest-ever recorded average, a 106.29, in the Last 16 and his good form was evident when he threw two (of an eventual five) 180s in the first leg of the final.
He didn’t win that leg but after the first four went with throw, he broke Klaasen’s throw in 12 and then held in 15 to open a well-deserved 4-2 lead.
Klaasen capitalised on some missed doubles from Baetens to level it up at 4-4 and in the decider would miss match darts of his own before Baetens rediscovered his clinical edge to seal victory with a 17-darter.
It was almost an exact carbon copy in the Silver-graded Masters the following day for Baetens, with ‘The Beast’ kicking off the day with a win against the same opponent (Dario Nuzda) before once again facing Klaasen in the final.
He only got two 180s in that title decider but it didn’t matter as the mercurial Belgian was a far more comfortable winner, beating ‘The Cobra’ 5-2.
Aletta Wajer joined Baetens in the winners’ circle as a double champion and she too beat the same opponent in both finals.
In her case it was the Czech Republic’s Jitka Cisarova. In a topsy-turvy Open final, Wajer led 2-0 and trailed 3-2 before eventually running out a 5-3 winner.
She, like Baetens, was also more comfortable in the Masters, converting an early break to win 5-2, although she had had to dig deep in her opening game against Eva Nemeth. The Hungarian raced into a 3-0 lead, only for Wajer to fight back and seal a 4-3 win with a 114 finish.
Completing the trio of double title winners was András Borbély, who cemented himself as the No.1 in the WDF Boys rankings with a brace of event wins. He was a 5-2 victor in both finals, beating Marcel Schöls of Austria in the Open and Germany’s Noah Hanfland in the Masters.
Two trips to Australia yield four different winners
April featured a further two ranking events in Australia, with four different winners helping to really heat up the race for Australian Darts Open qualification.
The first of the tournaments was the Victorian Easter Classic, a competition that saw Brody Klinge and Christine Sheerin reign supreme.
For Klinge, it was a first official WDF title. He had previously won a WDF competition in 2021 but as it was during the COVID shutdown, it wasn’t a ranked tournament.
Having beaten the likes of Adam Rowe and Mal Cuming in the earlier point-scoring rounds, Klinge battled Michael Cassar in a dramatic final.
Klinge came flying out of the traps with a 104 finish and surged into a 5-1 lead. He also led 6-2 before Cassar reeled off four legs on the spin to force a decider. With the finishing line in sight, both men missed match darts before Klinge finally sealed victory on double 10.
For the experienced Australian international Sheerin, it was a first WDF title in 18 years. She sealed victory with a 6-4 final win over Joanne Hadley, having beaten Tina Osborne and Melina van den Kieboom in the quarters and semis respectively.
Both Youth finals ended 2-0, with Jacob Turvey and Gemma Spence coming out on top against Dillon Stewart and Caitlyn Ainsworth respectively.
The second tournament of the month was the Bronze-graded Murray Bridge Grand Prix.
Brandon Weening won the Men’s Grand Prix, sealing his second WDF title in the same venue that he claimed his first in eight months prior.
In the final, he defeated Australian No.1 Peter Machin in a high-quality game. Weening led 4-3 thanks to finishes of 76 and 87, only for Machin, who threw five 180s in the final, to force a deciding leg with a 13-darter. Machin missed match darts in that decider and ‘The Python’ punished him, pinning tops with his first dart in hand to win 5-4.
It was a similar story for Melina van den Kieboom, who triumphed alongside Weening here just as she did last August.
For the second successive event it was Joanne Hadley that lost out in the final, this time on the end of a 4-3 reverse against the improving van den Kieboom.
Harper master on both islands as New Zealand hosts two events
April also saw two further ranking events in New Zealand, the North Island Masters and South Island Masters. Both ended the same way, with Wendy Harper cementing her status as the top female talent in New Zealand with a pair of title triumphs.
She beat Vani Bakani 4-3 in the South Island final before seeing off the challenge of Shar-Maru Habib 4-2 in the North Island title decider.
Ben Robb won the Men’s South Island Masters for the fourth time, successfully retaining his 2022 crown with a 5-3 final victory over Darren Dummigan.
He went out at the quarter-final stage of the North Island Masters, with that tournament producing a first-time event winner in the shape of James Fergusson. Having beaten Haupai Puha 4-3 in the semis, Fergusson pipped Robb’s conqueror Craig Brown 5-4 in the final.
The North Island Masters Boys title was won by Conquest Waerea, with the Girls crown going to Cainea Waerea.
Eager Edgar claims first WDF title in Iceland
Icelandic darts continues to grow and in April they placed host to a double-header, the Iceland Open and Masters. The final darts of an excellent weekend saw Matthew Edgar win his first WDF title.
Finding himself 3-1 down to Björn Lejon in the final, ‘Prime Time’ produced an impressive four-leg burst to run out an eventual 5-3 winner.
The previous day’s Open was won by Sweden’s Edwin Torbjörnsson, who produced three ton-plus finishes on route to beating top seed Mark Barilli 5-3 in a good-quality final.
It was a third career ranking title, and second of 2023 for Torbjörnsson, who finished the final with a 93.17 average.
The women’s titles in Iceland were shared by two former German internationals. The first, the Open, was claimed by the vastly experienced Annegret Willkomm.
A former Europe Cup Pairs winner, Willkomm beat Maud Jansson of Sweden to seal her first WDF ranking title.
The Masters was won by Irina Armstrong. She beat Jansson in the semi-finals before overcoming the challenge of visiting American talent Tracy Feiertag 5-2 in the title decider.
Swedes star in second trip to Faroe Islands
The WDF’s second ever trip to the Faroe Islands kick off April’s slate of action and it proved a happy hunting ground for the Swedish contingent, who swept up all four singles titles on offer.
Björn Lejon started what was an impressive month for him with a maiden title triumph in the Torshavn Open. Having been 4-1 up against Ivan Madsen, Lejon had to dig deep to eventually put the Dane away in a last-leg decider.
The Women’s Torshavn Open was won by Maud Jansson. The veteran won the Slovak Masters back in February and entered this tournament as the defending champion.
She dominated the competition, dropping just one leg in the knockout rounds as she breezed to an 11th career title. In the final, she beat Norway’s Elin Eikesdal 4-1.
The aforementioned Edwin Torbjörnsson won the other Men’s title, the Faroe Islands Open. Facing England’s John Scott in the final, he opened proceedings with a 128 checkout and ended with an 86.38 average as he ran out a 5-0 winner.
Jansson was unable to a title double in the Women’s Faroe Islands Open, falling short in the final against friend and international teammate Anna Forsmark. Forsmark, a 2023 Lakeside qualifier, was the defending champion and she successfully retained her crown with a 4-1 winner.
Estonia welcomes WDF darts back for the first time in four years
John Scott entered the first WDF ranking events in Estonia for four years as a defending double champion. When all was said and done in 2023. ‘Gnasher’ left Tallinn with one of those titles still in his possession.
The one he did keep was the renamed Tallinn Open. Facing Finland’s Petri Rasmus in the final, Scott rallied from 2-0 and 3-2 down to eventually win 5-4, sealing victory with a 96 out.
The Estonian Open men’s title was claimed by Latvia’s Valters Melderis. He too overcame Finnish opposition in the final, this time in the form of Jonas Masalin.
Masalin raced out into a 4-0 lead, a 134 finish putting him within a leg of the title. He couldn’t get over the line though, squandering multiple match darts as Melderis staged a dramatic fightback to win 5-4.
There was some joy for the Finns in the Women’s tournaments though as their leading player, Kirsi Viinikainen, dominated the competition to win her 12th and 13th career ranking titles.
Across 10 games during the weekend, Viinikainen dropped just nine legs in total. In the Estonian Open final she beat compatriot Kaisu Rekinen 4-2, while in the Tallinn Open she sealed victory with a 4-2 win over Maud Jansson.
Sophie McKinlay joined Viinikainen as a double title winner as she triumphed in both of the weekend’s Girls tournaments. The Boys competitions were split, though, with Latvia’s Karlis Zeidaks winning the Estonian Open and Lukas Jensen claiming the Tallinn Open spoils.
Keith leads the way at White Mountain Shootout
April only featured one tournament in the USA and, ironically enough, the Men’s White Mountain Shootout was actually won by a Canadian.
Having beaten the likes of Bruce Robbins in the earlier rounds, Keith Way successfully dispatched Kevin Luke 6-3 in the final.
Paula Murphy had won four titles from four events on the American circuit prior to this tournament. She didn’t travel to New Hampshire though and that opened the door for a new winner.
That new winner transpired to be America’s Cali West, who pipped Marlise Kiel in a close final to win the event for the seventh time in her long career.
Both of the weekend’s Youth tournament were won in last-leg deciders, with Seth Patenaude and Taylor Farrell emerging victorious.
Catalans capitalise at Gibraltar Classic
On the same weekend as the double-header in Estonia, the WDF made its first of two trips of the year to Gibraltar for the Gibraltar Classic and all three tournaments held as part of the event yielded first-time winners.
The Men’s Classic was won by Catalonia’s Daniel Zapata. A semi-finalist in last year’s World Open and this year’s Romanian Open, Zapata finally claimed his first title with a 5-2 win over the Dutchman Davy Monsees.
Catalan compatriot Kilian Perales triumphed in the Youth, beating Nico Bado 5-3 in the final, while the Women’s tournament saw Christine Redhead win her maiden title thanks to a 5-1 victory over Tarika Ward.
Wales and Mongolia events highlight a busy May
With four months of the season gone, Jordan Brooks, Aaron Turner and Berry van Peer continue to occupy the three open spaces in the field for the 2023 Men’s WDF Lakeside World Championship. John Scott, fresh off his title win in Estonia, leads up the chasing park.
Although not quite as busy as April, May is still a stacked month on the WDF calendar with 10 senior events and one youth competition taking place across six countries.
The headline event is a pair of Silver-ranked events in Wales, while the month also features a maiden trip to Cyprus, a first trip to Mongolia in four years, and important events in Australia and New Zealand for determining the qualification places for the 2023 Australian Darts Open.
Sat, May 6th: Lithuania Open, Lithuania (Bronze)
Sun, May 7th: Kaunas Open, Lithuania (Bronze)
Sun, May 7th: Welsh Classic, Wales (Silver)
Sun, May 7th: Welsh Open, Wales (Silver)
Sat, May 13th: Cyprus Classic, Cyprus (Bronze)
Sun, May 14th: Cyprus Masters, Cyprus (Bronze)
Sat, May 20th: John Wilkie Memorial, New Zealand (Bronze)
Sun, May 21st: Kyle Anderson Memorial (Youth), Australia (Silver)
Thurs, May 25th: Mongolian Open, Mongolia (Bronze)
Fri, May 26th: Ulaanbataar Open, Mongolia (Bronze)
Sun, May 28th: Sunshine State Classic, Australia (Silver)