The UK Open is one of the PDC’s most fascinating tournaments. ITV’s flagship event, often referred to as “The FA Cup of Darts’, has produced its fair share of upsets over the years.
Ahead of this year’s UK Open getting under way tomorrow, SAM CARTER picks out his top 10 biggest upsets in the UK Open from the last 10 years…
10. Nathan Aspinall 11-5 Rob Cross (2019, final)
Is it just me, or does it feel like Nathan Aspinall has been around longer than he has? The Asp had reached the 2019 World Championship semi-finals just a couple of months earlier than this tournament, seemingly out of nowhere.
Aspinall had a Players Championship victory to his name, but any decent performances on stage were few and far between and he was certainly not one of those being talked about to lift the trophy come the Sunday evening.
Aspinall had quite a tumultuous tournament, sometimes winning easily, sometimes making it hard for himself but before he knew it, he was in the last four. Cheered on by his grandad in the crowd, the man from Stockport beat Gerwyn Price 11-9 to reach his first televised PDC final.
For this final he’d face Rob Cross, a man who ironically defeated him 12 months previously in the third round of the 2018 edition, 10-8, and also a man with big final experience, making him the favourite.
However, Cross never really looked like winning as Aspinall romped to a 10-5 lead to go within one leg of the title. In the next leg Aspinall became part of a very select group of people to win a televised title with a maximum 170 checkout. The final wasn’t a classic but that 170 and subsequent celebrations is what I and so many others remember about it and on this night a new darting star was born.
9. Paul Hogan 10-6 Adrian Lewis (2017, fourth round)
Paul Hogan went through a period in the mid to late 2010s of regularly turning up to the UK Open and doing some damage. Regularly beating seasoned PDC professionals on a yearly basis, the former Lakeside quarter-finalist had his toughest test to date in 2017, facing former UK Open champion and two-time world champion, Adrian Lewis.
Lewis in 2017 was still right up in the higher reaches of the game and a mainstay in the latter rounds of ranking and invitational tournaments. This seemed every inch like the David vs Goliath clash the UK Open is made for.
Lewis had got through a tricky third-round clash with James Wade and Hogan had already beaten tour card holders Keegan Brown and Jamie Lewis, before coming up against another two time world champion in Gary Anderson and beating him narrowly in a deciding leg.
It is fair to say Lewis would have fancied his chances but Crocodile Dundee beat Lewis pretty convincingly, 10-6, hitting a 161 and a 160 checkout on the way to the shock of everyone, including himself.
Hogan’s magical run came to a halt in the next round, losing to eventual runner up Gerwyn Price but not many players will be able to boast beating two multi-time PDC world champions in back-to-back rounds of a tournament.
8. Andrew Gilding 9-6 Andy Hamilton (2011, third round)
This result wouldn’t be too much of a big shock these days, but back in 2011 this was a big deal. Back then the tournament was held in June, and at the Reebok Stadium, in Bolton.
Gilding was making his first appearance at the event, qualifying from Riley’s and beat Brendan Dolan and Matt Clark early in the event, but then came up against Andy Hamilton in Round three. Hamilton was right in the middle of his best few years in darts, regularly making the business end of televised events and was fancied to make quick work of Gilding.
That is not what happened though, as Goldfinger ran out a 9-6 winner. He was unable to progress any further in the tournament, losing 9-2 to Mark Hylton.
However, this win helped establish himself in the PDC ranks and a couple of years later he was a PDC tour card holder and reached the semi-finals of the UK Open in 2015. With both these things in mind, Gilding will have fond memories of this tournament and this victory in particular as he embarks on his first UK Open campaign in three years tomorrow.
7. Terry Jenkins 10-8 Michael van Gerwen (2014, semi-finals)
Throughout his 25-year darting career, Terry Jenkins was the perennial bridesmaid. He was constantly losing in big finals and by 2014 it looked as though it was just never going to be for him.
Final appearances were starting to dry up and more and more players were emerging to challenge for the game’s biggest prizes. With this in mind, not many people would have expected Jenkins to reach the final of the 2014 UK Open.
The Bull played well to get to the semi-finals, but then drew the then reigning world champion Michael van Gerwen. With all due respect to Jenkins, it was a man who was on his way up against a man who was on his way down, but to the delight of the Minehead crowd he upset the odds and defeated van Gerwen 10-8.
Jenkins was outstanding throughout the match, hitting 23 scores of 140 or more in the match and closing things out with a 13-dart leg. It seemed to be all a bit too much for Jenkins, who seemed to perhaps run out of adrenaline as he was flattened 11-1 by Adrian Lewis in the final.
6. John Part 10-8 Mervyn King (2018, fifth round)
The second 10-8 victory in a row in this list, but a completely different story here. A few years ago, John Part was still a PDC tour card holder and he did enough to make the UK Open in 2018 on countback, after being tied on the UK Open Qualifiers Order of Merit.
Little was expected of the PDC Hall of Famer, a full decade after his third World Championship triumph and five years after his last PDC title, one of the game’s true legends had a superb run.
It was a great encore to a glittering career, as of now we’re unsure as whether this is to be the last ever appearance of Darth Maple on a PDC stage but if it is, what a run it was.
Three convincing victories got him through to round four, where he came through a last-leg decider against Ron Meulenkamp and was drawn against old friend and adversary Mervyn King.
The formbook pointed to a routine King victory and that was the way it looked like going at the first break with King being 4-1 up, but Part dug in, took advantage of King’s mistakes and won the game.
Part lost his quarter-final to Robert Owen, but it was a shock in itself to see him progress as far as he did and if it is the last time we see him on the PDC stage it was certainly a fine send off.
5. Mervyn King 10-6 Michael van Gerwen (2019, fourth round)
We’re sticking with The King for number five in this list, only this time he is dishing out the upset rather than being on the receiving end of it.
Our second and final stop in the 2019 tournament saw Michael van Gerwen on one of his purple patches, winning the last two televised tournaments on offer including the World Championship and like in every tournament he entered at the time, he was a short price with the bookies.
Van Gerwen was favourite here to win his third UK Open in four years. King, however, was going through a rather indifferent period in his long career and whilst it wasn’t expected to be easy for MVG, he was still fancied by pretty much everyone to romp through to the fifth Round.
Van Gerwen came out of the traps hot with a 170 checkout, but would never lead in the game again. King dominated the middle part of the match by taking five legs in a row at one point, one of which he closed out with a superb 125 checkout to help develop a good lead which he never relinquished, running out a 10-6 winner.
As is so often the case with shock wins, there was a hangover going into the next round that King could not shake off, going down 10-5 to Rob Cross. King has been on one of his finest ever runs of form in the last year or so and, for me, it can all be traced back to this victory that seemed to come out of nowhere.
4. Robert Thornton 11-5 Phil Taylor (2012, final)
Robert Thornton and Phil Taylor contested the 2012 final with very different motivations. Thornton was trying to win his first ever PDC televised title and Taylor was trying to gain more dominance in a tournament that he had not quite had a stranglehold on, but was still very prolific in.
A win here for The Power would have seen him win 50 per cent of the UK Opens there had ever been up until this point, but the Scot had other ideas.
The Thorn had already had a sensational run to the final, beating former world champions Mark Webster, Dennis Priestley and Gary Anderson to set up his battle with Taylor.
The head-to-heads made for grim reading, with Taylor being 10-1 up. In this match however you would have been forgiven for thinking it was the other way round as Thornton already had a hand on the trophy after a dozen legs, leading Taylor 9-3.
Thornton did not falter late on, taking the trophy and the £40,000 first prize with a 121 checkout on the bullseye. This win opened all sorts of doors for him and he became a regular in the top eight for the next five years.
3. Jeffrey de Zwaan 10-8 Michael van Gerwen (2018, third round)
Jeffrey de Zwaan will have only been too aware of the task that lay ahead of him as he drew his fellow Dutchman Michael van Gerwen in the third round of the UK Open back in 2018.
MVG had missed the previous UK Open through back problems, but had won the last two he had played in and more incredibly had not lost a live game on ITV three-and-a-half years.
De Zwaan was well thought of among his peers but in most peoples’ minds was not the man to stop MVG from extending his live ITV run to 78 games unbeaten.
The game, which was played behind closed doors due to Storm Emma, saw the two men share the opening dozen legs. People were just waiting for that traditional van Gerwen burst for the line, but it did not come as de Zwaan became ruthless on his doubles and beat van Gerwen 10-8. As is so often the way with these types of upsets, de Zwaan’s tournament was soon over as he was defeated in round four by the previously mentioned Paul Hogan, but this was a breakout year for de Zwaan and one he has not looked back on.
2. Barry Lynn 9-3 Gary Anderson (2016, fourth round)
When Barry Lynn walked out as the winner of the South Benfleet Riley’s qualifier in early 2016, a potential tie against the man who at the time was the current back-to-back world champion would have probably been at the back of his mind.
One of the best draws he could have hoped for became a reality when he came through the opening three rounds in some style, beating former World Grand Prix finalist Brendan Dolan on the way.
Anderson had just beaten Dave Chisnall in a close game, and it was easy to see why any Anderson fans were already looking forward to seeing their man in round five when he was drawn to play the man playing in his first major.
Lynn raced into a 4-0 lead and Anderson just could not get back on level terms, as the Riley’s qualifier ran out a comfortable 9-3 winner to the disbelief of everybody.
Lynn won his next game, beating Stuart Kellett 9-5, before bowing out to eventual winner Michael van Gerwen 10-6 in the quarter-finals.
1. Aden Kirk 9-7 Phil Taylor (2014, third round)
The king of all UK Open shocks is not only the biggest shock in UK Open history, but one of the biggest shocks ever in darts.
Aden Kirk was only 22 when he took to the Minehead stage for his first appearance on television, and what a task he was given. It was the equivalent of a National League side being drawn away at Manchester United, as Kirk faced Phil Taylor, the greatest player of all time and the defending UK Open champion.
Kirk set the tone very early on, hitting a bullseye finish in the opening leg. In an incredible moment with the score at 4-3 to Kirk, Taylor had left 130 and hit the two treble 20s required to leave double five with his last dart, but dragged it low and ended up in double 12 to bust his score.
Kirk could not convert the chance and Taylor was back on 130. Two treble 20s, double 5 left and double 12 was hit again. Kirk was only too happy to take his chance and go 5-3 up and it was a lead he never relinquished and he incredibly won 9-7 to stun the darting world.
Incredibly, Kirk also went on to defeat the man who was World Championship runner up at the time, Peter Wright, before bowing out to Brendan Dolan in round five.
Kirk has since appeared sparingly on the PDC circuit, but no one can ever take away what, in my opinion, is the biggest UK Open upset over the last decade, if not ever.