He may be a former major winner, and a recent back-to-back winner on the Pro Tour, but was last night the night that Krzysztof Ratjaksi announced himself as a serious player on the world stage?
The Polish number one produced one of the comebacks of the season from 5-1 down to beat the newly-crowned Grand Slam of Darts champion Gerwyn Price 6-5 in Minehead yesterday.
The opening round tie in the Ladbrokes Players Championship Finals looked to be heading only one way, as Price took out checkouts of 121 and 113 to race into a 4-0 lead, and without missing a dart at a double.
Trailing 5-1 in a race to six, the chances of a comeback were unlikely, but to do it and deny Price a match dart in the process was even more improbable.
But that is exactly what Ratajski did, running off legs of 13, 11, 14, 12 and 13 darts. A total of 63 darts to win five legs, and averaging an eye-watering 119.3 in the process.
“It was brilliant for me, one of my biggest wins,” Ratajski said. “It’s not the first time I have been 5-1 down and won 6-5, and I never thought it was finished.
“At the start I didn’t play badly but Gerwyn played perfect darts at the start of the match. In the last few legs I was perfect – it’s incredible.”
The Pole was making his debut in the tournament, which is open to the top 64 on the final Players Championship Order of Merit, with Ratajski securing his place in the field after winning the last two Players Championship events only five weeks ago.
It was a fine performance from Ratajski. A 105.38 average, his highest on the big stage, and while there were bigger averages hit on the opening day in Minehead from the likes of Gary Anderson and Ian White, Ratajski’s display would have caught the eye the most.
Up next for him is a second-round clash with two-time world champion Adrian Lewis, who was a comfortable 6-2 winner against Adam Hunt yesterday afternoon.
Lewis was on course for a ton-plus average of his own before he had to stumble over the line to get to a match-winning sixth leg, and will be keen to put a deep run together this weekend ahead of the World Championship next month.
Lewis goes in as a narrow favourite with the bookmakers, but if Ratajski can produce the same level as he did last night against Price then he will fancy his chances of knocking out another higher-ranked player.
The Pole held his nerve in the decider last night, under the most intense scrutiny, as Price boisterously celebrated a 144 to leave tops. Ratajski stepped up and landed tops with his first dart to complete the comeback.
At 41, Ratajski is a latecomer to the big stage, but in darts there is no exact age which guarantees success. One for thing is for sure, he is certainly making up for lost time.