SIXTH seed Luke Humphries will take on Michael van Gerwen in an intriguing quarter-final tussle, after the Newbury ace defied ten maximums from Ross Smith to clinch a hard-fought 10-8 victory.
Smith – who posted a record-breaking nine 180s in his recent Group Stage tie against Van Gerwen – produced another sublime display of power scoring, only to squander 26 darts at double.
Following a run of four straight holds to kick off the tie, Humphries hit the front with a superb 11-dart break in leg five, before punishing Smith’s profligacy to stretch his lead to 5-2.
Smith – who fired in seven perfect darts twice during the contest – threatened a late fightback with successive legs of 12 and 14 darts to move to within a leg of Humphries at 8-7.
However, the European Champion paid the price for his sluggish start, and Humphries produced 15 and 16-dart holds in the closing stages to book his place in a first Grand Slam quarter-final.
“It wasn’t the game I expected, I just felt so flat and tired and I think that showed in my performance,” admitted Humphries – a winner of four European Tour titles in 2022.
“My wins against Michael this year give me the belief that I can win. I’ve got good memories of playing him but I know that I’m going to have to be at my best.”
Elsewhere, Grand Slam debutant Alan Soutar resisted a late fightback from Jonny Clayton to complete an impressive 10-8 success and move through to his first televised quarter-final.
The opening four legs of the contest were shared, but Soutar seized control with a blistering four-leg burst, producing legs of 11, 14, 15 and 13 darts to establish a commanding 6-2 cushion.
Clayton stemmed the tide with back-to-back legs, and continued his charge by following up a spectacular 136 checkout with a 12-dart break to cut the deficit to 7-6.
However, with Clayton poised to restore parity at seven apiece, Soutar sank a nerveless 114 finish to regain the initiative, before overcoming multiple missed match darts in leg 16 to seal the deal with a 13-dart hold.
“I’m getting better, I’m finding my feet and I believe I can cause more upsets,” insisted Soutar, who is now on the cusp of breaking into the world’s top 32.
“I’m pretty happy with my life and I’ve always been happy with my life. I’ve played for Scotland, I absolutely love darts, but this is a different level.”
In the evening’s opener, Nathan Aspinall booked his spot in a second Grand Slam quarter-final after overcoming a mid-game slump to defeat a resurgent Jermaine Wattimena 10-6.
Aspinall made a flying start to the contest, kicking off proceedings with legs of 13 and 15 darts before completing a 90 kill to lead 4-1 with a 102 average.
Wattimena – aided by a brace of 64 finishes – reeled off three consecutive legs to reduce the arrears to 5-4, but a timely 13-darter from Aspinall in leg ten stopped the rot.
The Stockport star punished key missed doubles from the Dutchman to move 9-5 ahead with two-dart 66 and 96 combinations, and he sank a 16-dart hold via double 16 to move through to a third televised quarter-final of 2022.
“I started off really well, I felt like the Nathan of old,” claimed Aspinall, who averaged 97, posted five 180s and converted 48% of his attempts at double.
“That’s the story of my career. I always let people back in and it’s something I have to sort out, but I’m very happy to get through.”
The quarter-final action gets underway again on Friday night in Wolverhampton, as two-time semi-finalist Michael Smith meets Masters champion Joe Cullen, before reigning three-time champion Gerwyn Price plays 2012 winner Raymond van Barneveld.
Thursday November 17 (1900 GMT)
4x Second Round Matches
Nathan Aspinall 10-6 Jermaine Wattimena
Alan Soutar 10-8 Jonny Clayton
Michael van Gerwen 10-8 Josh Rock
Luke Humphries 10-8 Ross Smith
Friday November 18 (1900 GMT)
Michael Smith v Joe Cullen
Raymond van Barneveld v Gerwyn Price
Best of 31 legs
Saturday November 19 (1900 GMT)
Nathan Aspinall v Alan Soutar
Michael van Gerwen v Luke Humphries
Best of 31 legs
Images: Taylor Lanning/PDC
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