Wonderfully, the world of darts is indeed full of interesting characters. In the nicest possible sense, Mensur Suljovic is charmingly considered one of them.
Serbian-born, German-speaking Suljovic has adopted the picturesque city of Vienna as his permanent residence. Hence the reason he proudly represents Austria at international darting events.
It’s his unorthodox throw that immediately drew attention. Many found Suljovic frustrating to watch due to his slow, methodical, and unique action.
Despite being quite hypnotic, even perhaps mesmerizing, his style is also extremely deliberate. For this reason alone, few instantly took to the friendly Austrian.
Even to this very day, despite winning legions of fans over, he still isn’t a favourite for the impatient amongst darts fans!
Suljovic explains: “My action is the result of dartitis. Holding the dart the way I do evolved from that.
“It took months of trying to find a way through it. I discovered it was the only way I could hold the dart, release it and still hit the board.”
Nowadays, the mild-mannered Suljovic has delightfully endeared darts lovers around the world with thousands taking to the gentle giant. But perhaps surprisingly, he’s actually been around a little longer than you think.
Mensur first appeared on the big stage at the 1999 Winmau World Masters, losing to eventual winner, the late great Andy Fordham.
We would then have to wait a while until the lesser spotted Suljovic reappeared on our screens, although he claimed many a title in between including a soft tip world crown, popping up at the 2008 PDC World Championships.
Victory is his opening match before defeat against the man who went on to claim the title. On that occasion, John Part.
The forty-nine-year-old didn’t really dig any particularly deep holes in major television tournaments until 2015 when he really got to work with his shovel.
Suljovic truly announced his arrival in the PDC with impressive quarter-final runs in the UK Open and World Matchplay. It then got even better, progressing to the semi-final stage in both the World Grand Prix and Players Championships.
In 2016, The Gentle finally reached a maiden PDC television major final. Unfortunately, he ran headfirst into a rampant Michael van Gerwen who quite brilliantly, steam-rollered Suljovic to pick up the European Championship trophy.
However, all in all, chalk it down as a highly successful year culminating in a European Tour event crown and a place in the top 16 on the PDC order of merit.
Spurred on, Suljovic then continued to clock up decent runs in television events, reaching five semi-finals, winning the Champions League of Darts and finishing runner-up in a superb World Matchplay.
Suljovic then began to stumble at hurdles he’d previously cleared with ease. After a poor 2020 by his high standards, he began to disappear off the radar a little.
When he withdrew from the World Matchplay in the summer, Mensur fans were becoming increasingly concerned. Speculation arose this could be the start of the end. At the time, nobody seemed to know exactly why. But he did.
Suljovic replied: “I pulled out of the tournament based upon medical advice from my doctor. I’d been suffering from various injuries over the last couple of years. Then just ahead of the Matchplay, a few of them became worse.
“Family is really important for me. But it’s always been a balancing act between managing the PDC calendar and my injuries.
“It’s something that, together with my manager Mick, we work closely on. He is well aware of my problems and helps me juggle everything in the best possible way. As long as I’m physically able, I always want to play.
“Within darts, very few people know me as well as Mick does. His understanding is of huge benefit and comfort.”
Soon, a bespectacled version of the Gentle suddenly reappeared, looking invigorated and proceeding to remind the darting world of just what he can do.
He said: “Glasses were a must. My eyesight has deteriorated a little over the last few years. I never tried contacts – very happy with what I have.”
Together with Rowby-John Rodriquez, Suljovic captained Austria all the way to a maiden World Cup of Darts final. Unfortunately, their hearts were broken by Scotland. But for a relative minnow nation in darting terms, it was still a magnificent achievement.
Reminiscing over that magical weekend in Austria, Suljovic said: “The World Cup was amazing. Both of us had problems going into the tournament. I’d had a long lay off and Rowby’s daughter was having a heart operation the following week.
“I’ve known Rowby for many years, we practice together regularly. Everything just clicked for us after the Philippines game.
“Mick also manages Rowby, so it was kind of a three-man team. He was always on hand to encourage and support us both between games, offering advice. It worked really well.
“It obviously hurt to get to the final and fall at the last hurdle. But considering the circumstances, we did great. The World Cup of Darts is an amazing competition. It feels different, a team game and you’re doing it for your country.”
Many fans were both mystified and amused by Suljovic’s bizarre celebration after defeating Northern Ireland so we looked for a little clarification on it.
“The dog walk?” Oh, I don’t remember why that happened really. All I recall was going to the edge of the stage to celebrate with Mick then dropping to my knees! Maybe that’s why”, explained Mensur.
Plausible I guess! With darts rapidly evolving globally, a run to the World Cup final for a nation not exactly steeped in the tradition of the sport has certainly given many aspiring young Austrian’s the impetus to give it a go.
Suljovic said: “Darts is really on the up there. There are various things happening in Austria helping players develop.
“Over the last few years, the country has seen an increase in youth leagues. And now darts is being played in schools which encourages more youngsters to try and learn the game.
“You only have to look at the talent that Rowby and Rusty have. And there are more coming through. The Rodriguez brothers have enormous ability.
“Hopefully the World Cup is a stepping stone for Rowby towards greater things. And this brother Rusty is just an incredible talent.”
As for Mensur, he is still eagerly hunting for more PDC titles. Now fully rejuvenated and with his much-improved vision, he is certainly one to focus on.
Words: Paul Woodage, Image: PDC
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