Luke Humphries retained the Interwetten European Darts Matchplay title in dramatic fashion on Sunday night, surviving four missed match darts from Dirk van Duijvenbode to claim his fifth European Tour title.
Humphries enjoyed four European Tour successes during a brilliant 2022 but had suffered a quartet of defeats in finals during the first half of this year.
That trend looked set to continue for Humphries – despite twice averaging 109 in his run to the final – after Dutch star Van Duijvenbode moved to the brink of his first stage title.
However, Van Duijvenbode missed two darts to close out an 8-6 victory, before seeing a further pair of championship darts agonisingly land on the wrong side of the wire in the deciding leg.
That allowed Humphries a reprieve from three misses of his own in a dramatic final leg, as double ten saw the world number six scoop the £30,000 top prize.
“To pick my fifth one up is a big feeling,” said Humphries. “Overall I think I played well, but I was very lucky
“I’m so delighted but I’m struggling to celebrate this one – I feel so sorry for Dirk and I know how much that hurts.
“He had the chances there and didn’t take them. It’s horrible for him to lose that – Dirk’s a fantastic player and there’s no doubt he’s going to win five, six, seven, eight in the next couple of years because he’s an incredible player.
“I know how Dirk feels because I’ve lost four this year – it’s very hurtful and if I’d lost a fifth it probably would have crushed me a little bit more.
“I’m over the moon – I don’t want to be too down on myself, that’s my fifth title in less than a year so I’m really happy.”
Humphries had opened his title defence with a comfortable win over Marko Kantele in the last 32 on Saturday night, but hit top form with 109 averages to see off both Stephen Bunting and Nathan Aspinall as he reached the semi-finals.
There, he averaged almost 106 to defy a 109 average from James Wade in a sensational last four tie, claiming a 7-5 win despite the left-hander firing in ten 180s and finishes of 150 and 130.
Humphries won the final’s opening leg, only to see Van Duijvenbode claim the next three – including a 12-dart break of throw with his third 127 finish of the weekend – to take command.
Humphries won four of the next five to regain the lead at 5-4, only for the Dutchman to respond again, following an earlier 100 checkout with a 13-darter and a 161 finish to lead 6-5, before tops moved him one leg away from the title.
Humphries hit back with a 12-darter on tops, before Van Duijvenbode missed double 16 for a 112 checkout and then agonisingly saw his dart at double eight when returning to the oche land in the single 16 to burst his score.
Humphries posted tops to take the final to a deciding leg, and was first to a finish as he wired three darts at double ten.
Van Duijvenbode’s second chance to grab glory, though, passed him by with two narrow misses at tops, allowing Humphries back in to end an epic contest.
Van Duijvenbode had seen off UK Open champion Andrew Gilding on Saturday, and whitewashed Dimitri Van den Bergh in Sunday afternoon’s third round with a 107 average.
He then defeated World Champion Michael Smith 6-4 in the quarter-finals, and held off Joe Cullen’s fightback from 5-2 down to edge to a 7-6 semi-final success.
Van Duijvenbode also lost in a deciding leg to Gerwyn Price in a European Tour final earlier this year without having match darts, and admitted:
“It’s not very positive because I choked again but at least I’m playing okay again,” he said.
“My confidence isn’t there, I’m not in my best form and I should have easily won – I missed so many doubles during the game as well.
“You miss so many match darts just because your head is such a storm – I couldn’t calm it down but it is what it is.”
Wade’s run to the semi-finals saw him reach that stage for the first time in 2023 and was also his best finish in a European Tour event for 12 months.
He was at his clinical best in ending Rob Cross’ hopes of back-to-back European Tour wins in the third round, before ending Gian van Veen’s chances of snatching Betfred World Matchplay qualification in the last eight.
Three-time European Tour event winner Cullen, meanwhile, defeated Ryan Joyce and Raymond van Barneveld on Sunday as he reached his second European Tour semi-final of 2023.
A high-quality final day of action in Trier saw eight ton-plus averages achieved in the afternoon session, headlined by Smith’s 111 average to see off Rock, while Van Barneveld also landed a 170 checkout in his win over Ryan Searle.
The PDC European Tour returns from September 8-10 with the Interwetten German Darts Open in Jena. For tickets, visit www.pdc-europe.tv/tickets.
2023 Interwetten European Darts Matchplay
Sunday July 2
Raymond van Barneveld 6-5 Ryan Searle
Joe Cullen 6-4 Ryan Joyce
Michael Smith 6-4 Josh Rock
Dirk van Duijvenbode 6-0 Dimitri Van den Bergh
James Wade 6-2 Rob Cross
Gian van Veen 6-2 Martin Schindler
Nathan Aspinall 6-3 Danny Noppert
Luke Humphries 6-3 Stephen Bunting
Joe Cullen 6-4 Raymond van Barneveld
Dirk van Duijvenbode 6-4 Michael Smith
James Wade 6-3 Gian van Veen
Luke Humphries 6-2 Nathan Aspinall
Dirk van Duijvenbode 7-6 Joe Cullen
Luke Humphries 7-5 James Wade
Luke Humphries 8-7 Dirk van Duijvenbode