After the long-awaited return of ranking events last month (see June review HERE), the World Darts Federation tour continued in July with four more opens in four different countries, including a nation running an event for the very first time. Andrew Sinclair recaps all the action.
New Zealand continued to lead the way for ranking events at the beginning of the month, with the Silver-graded John Wilkie Memorial taking place in the Hutt Valley region of Wellington.
Ben Robb has been the form man this year down in New Zealand and he finally got the WDF title to match, winning the men’s singles thanks to a 6-1 win in the final over Jimmy Samuels. ‘Big Rig’ had had to survive a scare in the semis, edging out a close one with 2019 WDF World Cup singles champion Darren Herewini 5-4, while ‘Supafly’ Samuels impressed as he made his first career WDF final, recording wins against internationally experienced players like AJ Te Kira, Haupai Puha and Warren Parry.
In the women’s event, Wendy Harper made up for the disappointment of losing in June’s New Zealand Masters final by dominating the field, securing her first WDF title of 2021 with a 5-0 whitewash over Tina Osborne.
Two ranking events played, two title wins. That’s how Jules van Dongen’s record looks after the Dutch-born ace’s impressive set of performances at the Charlotte Open.
‘The Dutch Dragon’ raced into an early 3-0 lead in the final against Jason Brandon, and while the Tennessee man pushed for the break that’d level things up, he couldn’t find it and the next six legs went with throw. Van Dongen, who is now second behind Chris Lim in the USA regional rankings, sealed the deal with a 15-darter.
Both men had already enjoyed success earlier in the weekend in North Carolina, successfully coming through the ADO’s World Masters qualifier. The other two men’s qualifiers from that event were Stephen Phillips, brother of American international Robbie Phillips, and the highly experienced Joseph Chaney. The two women’s qualifiers were Cali West and Carolyn Mars, while the Boys and Girls places went to PJ Stewart and Aaja Jalbert respectively.
Paula Murphy had already secured her World Masters place with victory in last year’s Las Vegas Open but she made doubly sure by winning the Charlotte Open title. It was the fifth time she’s come out on top at the event and the 37th time overall in WDF ranking competitions during her lengthy career. Now 14th in the world, Murphy also boasts a very healthy lead atop the USA women’s regional rankings.
The weekend also saw two youth singles events, which were won by Ryan Avellino and the aforementioned Aaja Jalbert.
Slovenia, who became a WDF member nation in 2020, played host for their first ever world ranked event in mid-July, with the Slovenian Open taking place in the nation’s capital, Ljubljana.
Players from Italy, Romania, Hungary, Poland and Serbia all travelled to the event but both titles remained firmly within Slovenia, thanks to some impressive performances from Benjamin Pratnemer and Mojca Muzic.
Pratnemer, who also served as tournament director, had a busy week in the build-up to the competition but he put that aside to secure victory in the men’s singles with a 7-2 final triumph against compatriot Silvo Javornik.
Muzic, meanwhile, secured her maiden career ranking title with a nail-biting last-leg victory over fellow Slovene Branka Krcek.
Nicknamed ‘The Teacher’, László Kádár taught the rest of the field a thing or two in the final event of the month in Serbia.
The Romanian, who was seeded second for the Apatin Open, proved the class of the 76-strong field, defeating home favourite Oliver Ferenc 6-5 in an enthralling final.
Kádár, whose only previous ranking final experience had come in the 2020 Romanian Open, had to come back from 2-0 and 5-3 down but a big 124 finish and more consistent scoring than his opponent helped power him to success and the top spot in the WDF’s East Europe ranking table.
There must be something about Apatin, a town in the north-west of Serbia, that Hungary’s Veronika Ihász really likes. She’d won the past five editions of the Apatin Open going into this past weekend and coming out of it she had made it six successive triumphs in the event thanks to a 6-1 final win over Adrienn Végső.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the proximity of Apatin to the Hungarian border, Hungary sent a large contingent of players to compete in all the weekend’s events and they came away with another title in the youth event thanks to András Borbély.
As is traditional, August is a quiet month on the WDF calendar with just two events scheduled.
The tour heads back down to the Southern Hemisphere on August 4th for the Silver-graded Puma New Zealand Open, an event that has the chance to shake up both the regional and main ranking tables.
Just over two weeks later, Russia will host their first event of 2021 with the Bronze-graded Salavaev Cup.