June was another busy month on the WDF circuit, headlined by the Dutch Open and the top players in Australia and New Zealand securing their places at August’s Australian Open. There was also further title success for Luke Littler and Beau Greaves as the tour made stops in Romania, Hungary, Canada and the USA. Andrew Sinclair recaps the action.
Mal Cuming and Tori Kewish both survived match darts to win the singles titles at the Victorian Classic and secure their Australian Open places in the process.
Cuming banked his fourth career WDF title, and first in three years, with a come-from-behind 8-7 victory over the in-form Peter Machin.
Machin, who’d shown his quality in an even opening four legs by recording a 104 out and a 13-darter, took the upper hand in the fifth leg with a 19-dart break.
He doubled his advantage by holding in the next but his lead proved short-lived, Cuming restoring parity with a 130 finish and a 15-darter in the next two legs.
That 15-darter sparked a run of seven successive legs that went against the darts, Machin repeatedly edging in front in their race to eight, only for Cuming to draw level.
Machin wired a dart at the bull for the match at 7-6 up and then did the same in the decider, Cuming capitalising in both instances with two-dart finishes of 80 and 32 to win 8-7.
The final wasn’t the first time that Cuming had had to survive match darts on his run to the title; Sam Ballinger missed darts at tops and double 10 at 5-3 up against Cuming in the last eight, with ‘The Bull’ then winning the last three legs in 21, 14, and 15 darts to edge it 6-5.
Cuming was otherwise relatively untroubled, whitewashing Aaron Matthews 4-0, defeating James Reid 5-1 and throwing finishes of 94 and 111 in a 7-3 semi-final win over Jeremy Fagg.
Raymond Smith, Machin and Fagg finished the event top of the regional rankings and secured their places in the Australian Open as a result. Cuming and Ballinger were subsequently added to the field for the Platinum-graded event in lieu of qualifiers in Northern Territory and New South Wales.
World Championship quarter-finalist Tori Kewish picked up a second title in as many events in the Women’s Classic but she also had to ride her luck against the resurgent Kym Mitchell.
Mitchell, who won her first WDF title in 29 years back in April, posted her highest-recorded career average (84.68) in the quarter-finals and, after beating Amanda Loch in the semis, kicked off the final against Kewish with a 15-darter.
Kewish immediately responded with a 13-darter but after that some double trouble crept in for both players. Mitchell edged the majority of the scrappier legs to take a 5-3 lead and move within one of the title.
Unfortunately for Mitchell, she would go on to miss darts for the title in the ninth and tenth legs. For Kewish it was fortuitous and she punished those misses, winning the last three legs to win 6-5.
Kewish’s victory books her a place at the Australian Open as one of the ranking table qualifiers. Joining her in Moama will be Amanda Loch, whose semi-final run was enough to see her finish ahead of Mitchell in second place.
The Victorian Classic wasn’t the only WDF event to take place in June, with the Kyle Anderson Memorial, a Youth-specific event, taking place in Western Australia.
It was an emotional day for the Anderson family 10 months on from the tragic early passing of ‘The Original’. Wearing Kyle shirts, his brother Beau presented the prizes to the event winners and his nephew competed in the Boys tournament.
Terence Morton won the Boys’ event, defeating Charlie Dinison 4-2 in the final. Ruby Clarke, meanwhile, beat Brianna Pickett in a last-leg decider to win the Girls tournament. For emerging victorious, Terence and Ruby have both won trips to Moama to compete in the Youth events attached to August's Australian Open.
New Zealand’s ranking season got up to speed in June with three events held.
In the second event of the year, the Silver-graded New Zealand Masters in Wellington, Haupai Puha and Wendy Harper took home the top titles and sealed Australian Open qualification.
Puha breezed through the 85-man field without much resistance, dropping just four legs in the knockout rounds to set up a final with experienced New Zealand international Mark Cleaver.
Cleaver, who'd beaten Landon Gardiner and AJ Te Kira before the final, missed two match darts in the decider before Puha stepped in to take out 74 and win 5-4.
Wendy Harper won her ninth career ranking event in the Women’s Masters, gaining a measure of revenge on Nicole Regnaud in the process.
Regnaud had beaten Harper 4-2 in the final of the season-opening Canterbury Open but in Wellington it was experience that won out as Harper claimed a 5-1 victory.
Joining Harper and Puha at the Australian Open will be Ben Robb and the aforementioned Regnaud after they won the following weekend’s South Island Masters in Invercargill.
Defending champion in the Men’s Masters, Robb breezed through the round-robin phase of the tournament, recording 4 180s and a group-high 156 out as he won all five of his games.
He was similarly dominant in the knockout rounds, dropping just two legs in total in his wins over Brad Hamill, Steve Padget and Mike Thomas to set up another final meeting with Puha.
Puha had been similarly dominant on his route to the final as he looked to win his fourth WDF title in New Zealand on the spin dating back to 2022. He fell short though, with Robb running out a 5-3 victor to win the sixth WDF title of his career.
The race for the second Women’s Australian Open place came down to Nicole Regnaud and Desi Mercer. After Regnaud survived a scare against Tina Osborne in the semis, the pair met in a winner-take-all Masters final showdown. In the end it wasn’t that close, with Regnaud continued her impressive upward trajectory by racing away to a 4-0 win.
WDF World Champion Beau Greaves picked up her sixth ranking title of the year as the WDF made one of its most popular stops of the year in Romania.
Greaves’ victory came in the Silver-graded Romanian Open and she achieved the feat without dropping so much a leg. She averaged 88.41 in a 4-0 semi-final win over Italy’s Talita Biagetti and she posted the exact same average in a 5-0 final whitewash over Jo Clements.
Greaves actually only dropped legs in one game all weekend but in that game she went on to lose, going down 4-2 to Roz Bulmer in the semi-finals of the Bronze-graded Romanian Classic.
Bulmer was hoping to follow up that win, her first over the Doncaster teenager in six years, by claiming her first WDF title in the final the following day. She couldn’t manage it though, losing out 4-1 in a close final to the Czech Republic’s Jitka Císařová. Císařová now boasts a 69-point lead over Lakeside history-maker Veronika Ihász in the race for a 2023 WDF World Championship place.
The Men’s Open saw Patrik Kovács pick up his second ranking title of the year and go top of the Eastern Europe regional rankings.
Nicknamed ‘The Planer’, the Hungarian came through a pair of last-leg deciders on his way to the final, first against home favourite Laszlo Kadar and then against Scotland’s Shaun McDonald in the last eight.
After defeating Jordan Brooks in the semi-finals, Kovács met the reigning British Open champion Scott Marsh in the final. In the end, Marsh was below-par and could do nothing to prevent Kovács from winning 5-0.
Prior to the final, Marsh had shown good form to reach his first ranking final in four months. Among his scalps were three in-form Dutchmen, namely Alexander Merkx, Dutch Open champion Jelle Klaasen and talented 20-year-old Moreno Blom. Marsh’s win over Klaasen was particularly impressive as he produced finishes of 130, 91 and 64 from 3-0 down to win 4-3.
Playing in his first WDF events outside of the UK & Ireland, Luke Littler found top gear to add the Men’s Classic title to the Welsh Open crown he won in May.
The prodigiously talented 15-year-old reached the semi-finals without dropping a leg, throwing 14 140s and four maximums in 20 legs played with a running average of 93.55. His perfect record ended in the semis against Aaron Monk but he still ended up beating his England teammate 4-1 before producing some brilliant darts against Klaasen in the final.
‘The Nuke’ won that game 5-1, sealing victory with a 140 out and finishing with three maximums and a 95.3 average.
For further results and a linked to the streamed matches, click here.
Prior to her trip to Hungary in June, Jitka Císařová had never won a WDF title. By the end of the weekend, the Czech thrower had won two.
In the Balaton Classic final she beat Veronika Ihász 4-2 in the final, with Adrienne Vegso going down 4-0 in the Balaton Masters title decider.
The story of the Men’s tournaments was the meetings between Laszlo Kadar and Benjamin Pratnemer.
The pair faced off in the semi-finals of the Classic, with Kadar capitalising on a slew of missed doubles from his Slovenian opponent to win 4-2. Kadar, known as ‘The Teacher’, then came from 4-2 down in the final to defeat talented teenager Andras Borbely 5-4.
Pratnemer had no such double issues in the Masters, beating Patrik Kovács and Nandor Bezzeg prior to a rematch with Kadar in the final. A blistering display of power scoring carried the Slovenian right-hander to a dominant 5-2 win and a stunning 104 average.
Despite the disappointment of losing the Classic final, Borbely didn’t end the weekend empty-handed as he won both Boys tournaments thanks to wins over Almos Kovacs and Balazs Szotak. Dorina Sipos also did a double in the Girls competitions with a brace of wins over Vivien Fritz-Lovasi.
The Balaton weekend was not the only action in Hungary during June, with the Silver-graded International Youth Challenge taking place earlier in the month. Borbely enjoyed success in that too, beating David Balogh 4-1 in the Boys’ final. Tamara Kovács, the 2019 WDF Europe Cup Youth winner, won the Girls final with a victory over Krisztina Turai.
June saw Toronto play host to the Canadian Open, Canada’s third WDF ranking event of the season.
Nova Scotia’s Nick Smith won the Open title for the first time in four years, dropping just two legs in the knockout rounds before whitewashing the veteran Jim Long 5-0 in the final.
As the event was Silver-graded, Smith now tops the Canada regional rankings with two events to go. Long is second, with Kiley Edmunds and Keith Way, the winners of the year’s first two tournaments, tied for third.
It had also been four years since Maria Carli last won the Canadian Open when she pinned the winning double against Stefanie Smith in the 2022 final.
Carli, who was known as Maria Mason when she competed at the World Championship back in 2015, came through last-leg deciders against Sandra Squires and Snoflake Open champion Brenda Moreau before her meeting with Smith.
Danny Lauby continued his dominance of the WDF American circuit in June, picking up his third title in as many months at the Cherry Bomb International in Florida.
Lauby came through last-leg deciders against John Finnegan and Joe Slivan before breezing past WDF World Championship participant Kevin Luke 5-1 in the semis.
The Indiana native was even more dominant in the final, averaging 96.2 in a 6-2 victory over the veteran Gary Mawson.
A week before she won big on home soil, Maria Carli made the trip down to Florida for her first WDF event of the year and blitzed her way to the winners’ circle
She beat Cris Cwalinski 5-2 in the semis to set up a title decider with first-time finalist Ashley Richey. Carli had far too much for her American opponent, breaking her throw three times in a 6-0 win.
PJ Stewart defeated David Kramer to win his fourth Boys title of the year during the weekend and move up to fourth in the WDF Boys rankings. The Girls’ Cherry Bomb title went to Madison Crank, who edged out Kaylee Zerby 3-2 in the final.
Two more players will book automatic spots at the 2023 WDF World Championships next month as the Gold-ranked New Zealand Open takes place in Motueka.
July’s slate of action also includes three double-headers, two all-Silver and one all-Bronze. The first all-Silver is the England Open and England National Singles weekend in Somerset, with the other being the Japan Open and Bud Brick Memorial in Tokyo.
The Bronze weekend is in Serbia, where in addition to the 14th running of the Apatin Open, the Serbian Open will take place for the first time. Benjamin Pratnemer, Gábor Takács and Jitka Císařová are among those set to be in action in Apatin.
The month’s other big event is not ranked but is still one of the most important on the calendar - the WDF Europe Youth Cup. Played for the first time in three years, this year’s edition will see the continent’s top young talents descend on Hungary for five days of darting drama.