After 70 games and 16 sessions of sensational tungsten drama, we’ve arrived at the Finals Day of the 2022 WDF World Championships at Lakeside where we’re guaranteed to see four new winners crowned.
In the past, the final Sunday of the tournament was reserved for just the Men’s title decider but the WDF made the decision to change the format and have all four finals – Men’s, Women’s, Boys, Girls - played on the same day during what should be a great session.
The Men’s title will be contested over the best of 11 sets by two Lakeside debutants and two players who are the first from their respective countries to reach a World Championship final, Northern Ireland’s Neil Duff and France’s Thibault Tricole.
Statistically speaking, it’s the reigning England National Singles and Slovak Masters champion Duff that’s been the more impressive.
He’s had the higher tournament average, 92.04 compared to 88.15 for ‘The French Touch’, six more 180s and a 6% better conversion rate on the outer ring.
Those data points have been evident in his performances with ‘The Duffman’ dropping just one set in his opening two wins over Justin Thompson and Nick Fullwell and then comfortably seeing off Richard Veenstra, who had wired a nine-darter and broken Raymond van Barneveld’s tournament-record average earlier in the week, 5-2 in the semi-finals.
Stats don’t capturing everything though, particularly the battling spirit both have had to show to make it this far.
Duff was 3-0 down and seemingly dead and buried against close friend and pairs partner Jim McEwan in the quarter-finals before rising to survive two match darts and win four sets on the spin to emerge a 4-3 victor.
Tricole, meanwhile, faced six match darts in his first game against Canadian qualifier Shawn Burt and, after edging past Steve Hine in a competitive Last 16 clash, had to survive two more against Andy Baetens in the last eight.
Cameron Menzies pushed Tricole all the way in the semi-finals too, twice eroding two set deficits to force a decider. In that game it was ‘The French Touch’ who missed match darts, 11 in fact, before finally going out on double one to seal an emotional victory.
In the Women’s competition we’ll see the first all-English final in six years, Beau Greaves becoming the youngest person to ever play in a World Championship final when she meets Kirsty Hutchinson over the best of seven sets.
Doncaster’s Greaves was actually pushed hardest in her opening game by Hungary’s Veronika Ihasz before winning 2-1. Ihasz took out a sensational 164 checkout to break the previous tournament record and had darts to break the 18-year-old’s throw in the third and deciding set.
Since that win, ‘Beau N’ Arrow’ has found another gear, dropping just three legs in total and posting successive 80+ averages in stellar wins over former World Masters Aileen de Graaf and Lorraine Winstanley.
By contrast, Hutchinson’s path has been a little trickier. After beating Jo Clements 2-0 in her Lakeside debut, she had to come from a set behind to defeat a plucky Priscilla Steenbergen in the quarter-finals.
The semis saw Hutchinson go up against Wales captain Rhian O’Sullivan, who’d looked the pick of the field in her first return to Lakeside in a decade. She saw off that challenge though, winning it in a sudden death leg after O’Sullivan had dug deep to fight back from 2-0 down and take it all the way.
Hutchinson has openly admitted that her darting hero is the 10-time World Champion Trina Gulliver and you’ve got to know that she’ll be wanting to join ‘The Golden Girl’ on that Lakeside roll of honour come Sunday night.
The Boys competition was played down to the semi-final stage back in December, with both last four ties kicking off Saturday’s afternoon session. Portsmouth’s Charlie Large caused one of the shocks of the week when he produced two ton-plus checkouts en route to dumping out former champion Leighton Bennett.
Opposite Large in the best of five set final will be another Lakeside debutant, Bradly Roes. Roes wasn’t at his best in his semi-final win over Luis Liptow but will be hoping to improve and become the third Dutch winner of this event after the previous successes of Colin Roelofs and Justin van Tergouw.
Finals Day will begin with a slice of history as the first-ever Girls World Champion is crowned. Like the Boys' event, the initial rounds of the tournament, sponsored by L-style, were played in December with one player coming through each of the qualifiers in Lakeside and Assen.
The Lakeside event saw England’s Eleanor Cairns, who won the British Classic and Welsh Open Girls titles last year, progress. It wasn’t without a few nervy moments though, the Lancashire teen having to battle back from 3-1 down and survive multiple match darts against Lauren Stokoe to win her semi-final.
It was comparatively much more of a breeze for her opponent, Wibke Riemann. A winner of multiple regional events in her native Germany, Riemann dropped just one leg in three games to seal her spot at ‘The Home of World Darts’. Her best performance came in the semi-final, beating compatriot Marlene Klupsch 4-0 with a 67.55 average.
You can watch all of the action on QuestTV, Eurosport and Discovery Plus from 5pm. You can also follow every dart and get live stats through DartConnect,
5pm: Eleanor Cairns vs Wibke Riemann
6pm: Bradly Roes vs Charlie Large
7pm: Beau Greaves vs Kirsty Hutchinson
8pm: Neil Duff vs Thibault Tricole
Photo Credit: Chris Sargeant / Tip Top Pics