It was a perfect result for NATHAN ASPINALL who claimed his first televised title at the 2019 darts UK Open. He landed a 170 checkout to seal an 11-5 victory over Rob Cross in the final at Butlin’s Minehead Resort on Sunday.
Ranked 34th on the PDC Order of Merit before the tournament, Aspinall took the UK Open by storm with a series of sensational performances, capped off with success in his first televised final.
Record-breaker Aspinall became the first player ranked outside the top 32 to win a televised ranking event since 2012 and just the second player in PDC history to win a televised tournament with a 170 finish.
The 27-year-old had to win back his Tour Card at 2018 Qualifying School, but has enjoyed a life-changing six months which began with his first ProTour title in September.
Aspinall pocketed £100,000 for reaching the semi-finals of the World Championship in December and the Stockport man added to his tally by clinching the £100,000 top prize in Minehead.
After beginning the day with a 10-6 success over Ross Smith in the quarter-finals, Aspinall edged out in-form Gerwyn Price 11-9 before defeating Cross to become the fastest player to reach the top 16 after winning a Tour Card.
“I’ve worked so hard to get this far and to win this title is just a truly amazing feeling,” said an emotional Aspinall.
“[In 2014] my grandad and I were sat in the crowd and I told him I’m as good as the players up there, and now here I am lifting the trophy on this stage, it’s just unreal.
“I want to thank my family because I’m away a lot so this is for them and I’d like to thank everyone for their support.
“The standard is so tough now, it was a long day for us both and neither Rob nor I played like we can in the final but I’m just so happy to get the win.”
The final began with a strong start from Cross, who hit 180s in each of the opening two legs, but Aspinall held firm and struck the first blow with a 77 finish to break throw and go 3-2 up.
Growing in belief, Aspinall took out 66 for a second break to open up a three leg lead at 5-2, but after four darts at double went begging for the Stockport ace, Cross found double four to break straight back.
It was then Cross’ turn to rue missed chances as he fired wide six times, missing the chance to level in leg ten as Aspinall regained breathing space at 6-4.
Aspinall clinically took out 50 in two darts to break the Cross throw for a third time and make it 8-5, and after Cross hit a single 12 when going for double five to break straight back, he pinned double ten to go within two legs of the title.
Cross once again missed a dart at double, this time at double top, and Aspinall capitalised, hitting the same target to break throw once more and go within a leg of glory.
Aspinall’s 170 finish to seal a famous win sparked incredible scenes at the Skyline Arena, with the Stockport man heading straight over to celebrate with his family after the roof-raising checkout.
“Full credit to Nathan, he played well but I had nothing left which is a great shame,” said Cross, who was competing in his first televised ranking final since being crowned World Champion.
“This tournament was a massive start to my career in 2016 and it was great to play well here in front of this amazing crowd again.
“Unfortunately I came up just short in the final but take nothing away from Nathan, he was pure class all the way through.”
Michael Smith had to settle for a semi-final finish in Minehead after defying the pain of a leg injury throughout the weekend, powering through his quarter-final against Steve Beaton with a fine 10-1 triumph only to lose out 11-7 to Cross in the last four.
In-form Gerwyn Price had seen his 20-game unbeaten run ended by Aspinall in the semis, with the Welshman being a 10-5 victor against Plymouth’s Simon Stevenson in the afternoon session.
Josh Payne and Ross Smith also saw their impressive weekends in Minehead ended in the last eight after they won through to their first televised PDC ranking quarter-finals.
Aspinall will return to star as a Unibet Premier League Contender against Michael Smith in Nottingham on March 14, while Cross and the regular Premier League stars will return to action in Aberdeen on Thursday March 7.
The Premier League action in Aberdeen will be broadcast live on ITV4 for UK viewers, worldwide through the PDC’s international broadcast partners and through video.pdc.tv for Rest of the World subscribers.
Ladbrokes UK Open
Sunday March 3
Rob Cross 10-7 Josh Payne
Michael Smith 10-1 Steve Beaton
Gerwyn Price 10-5 Simon Stevenson
Nathan Aspinall 10-6 Ross Smith
Nathan Aspinall 11-9 Gerwyn Price
Rob Cross 11-7 Michael Smith
Nathan Aspinall 11-5 Rob Cross