Rob Cross celebrated his maiden European Tour success on a thrilling final day at the Interwetten European Darts Grand Prix in Sindelfingen, which culminated in a dramatic 8-6 win over Luke Humphries in Sunday’s showpiece.
Two-time European Champion Cross had remarkably lost in each of his previous seven European Tour finals, but he broke his duck at the Glaspalast to scoop the £30,000 top prize.
Humphries defeated Cross in three European Tour finals in 2022 – including last year’s European Darts Grand Prix – and the pair locked horns again to determine who would represent England alongside Michael Smith at this year’s World Cup of Darts.
Cross arrived in Sindelfingen with a £17,500 lead over Humphries on the PDC Order of Merit, meaning Humphries had to retain the title if he was to secure a debut in the Pairs event.
However, Cross produced a clinical display to claim the spoils in Sindelfingen, defying a 104 average from Humphries to secure a second title in the space of eight days.
“I’m just so glad that I’ve won a European Tour title. I’ve been striving to win one of these for six years,” said Cross – a winner at Players Championship 11 last Saturday.
“I have got that monkey off my back now. I’ve been playing well for a little while, so I can move forward now.
“I’m playing some of the best darts I’ve ever played. I’m also probably the happiest I’ve been in life for quite a while, and that’s really important for me. I’m in a really good place.
“I’m happy to be at the World Cup. I wanted to be there, but so did Luke, so commiserations to him. What a player he is. He’s quality.”
Cross kicked off Finals Day with a 6-3 victory over Scottish veteran Ross Montgomery, before converting two ton-plus finishes to account for Krzysztof Ratajski in the last eight.
In the semi-finals, Cross then overcame Ross Smith in a battle of the European Champions, averaging 101 to celebrate a 7-4 success and set up a mouth-watering showdown against Humphries.
The opening four legs of Sunday’s final went with throw, before Cross struck the first blow courtesy of a magnificent ten-dart break in leg five.
Humphries converted a two-dart 86 combination for an instant riposte in leg six, only for Cross to regain the initiative in leg nine, courtesy of a clinical 100 kill.
The former World Champion extended his lead to 6-4 in a crucial tenth leg which saw Humphries squander three darts at double to level at five apiece, and this proved decisive.
Humphries preserved his hopes with 11 and 13-dart holds to reduce the arrears to 6-7, but Cross sealed the deal with a nerveless 72 finish on double 18, after Humphries had missed the bull for a 167-skin saver.
“It hurts. I’m devastated, but I will bounce back,” insisted Humphries, who has lost in four European Tour finals in 2023.
“This is probably one of the toughest defeats of my career. There is no other player who wants to put on that England shirt more than me.
“I’m trying my best to win these tournaments. There was a lot on the line there and I showed a lot of bottle to give it a good go, but fair play to Rob, it was a fantastic performance from him.”
Humphries opened Sunday’s action with a 6-2 success against five-time World Champion Raymond van Barneveld, before averaging 109 to defeat Gian van Veen in an epic quarter-final contest.
The 28-year-old continued his charge with a hard-fought win over Australia’s number one Damon Heta in the semi-finals, closing out a 7-5 victory to reach yet another big stage final.
Australia’s World Cup winner Heta – a European Tour winner in Gibraltar last year – claimed deciding-leg wins over Joe Cullen and Martin Schindler to reach a second straight European Tour semi-final.
Meanwhile, European Champion Smith saw off Daryl Gurney and then won through an extraordinary quarter-final tie against Nathan Aspinall, which saw the Stockport star miss double 12 for a nine-darter in the decider.
Aspinall bowed out at the last eight stage alongside home favourite Schindler, who followed up a second round win over his compatriot Gabriel Clemens with last 16 success against Gerwyn Price.
Dutch youngster Van Veen continued his emergence to reach a maiden European Tour quarter-final, while Ratajski was put to the sword by Cross in their quarter-final clash.
The PDC European Tour returns from June 30 – July 2 with the Interwetten European Darts Matchplay in Trier, where 48 players will compete across three days in the £175,000 event.
2023 Interwetten European Darts Grand Prix
Sunday May 28
Luke Humphries 6-2 Raymond van Barneveld
Gian van Veen 6-3 Josh Rock
Damon Heta 6-5 Joe Cullen
Martin Schindler 6-5 Gerwyn Price
Ross Smith 6-4 Daryl Gurney
Nathan Aspinall 6-4 Madars Razma
Krzysztof Ratajski 6-1 Dave Chisnall
Rob Cross 6-3 Ross Montgomery
Luke Humphries 6-4 Gian van Veen
Damon Heta 6-5 Martin Schindler
Ross Smith 6-5 Nathan Aspinall
Rob Cross 6-4 Krzysztof Ratajski
Luke Humphries 7-5 Damon Heta
Rob Cross 7-4 Ross Smith
Rob Cross 8-6 Luke Humphries