NO fewer than 160 of the world’s elite darts players converged on the Butlin’s Minehead Resort over the weekend to participate in the 2020 Ladbrokes UK Open and not only was Plymouth’s Simon Stevenson in the mix, but he had a great run to the last 32 before bowing out to the two-time World champion and former UK Open champion Gary Anderson.
The unique multi-board tournament carried a total prize-fund of £450,000, and Stevenson gave his PDC Order of Merit a boost to the tune of 4,000 points.
By virtue of Stevenson having an Order of Merit placing of 64, he was exempt from the competition until round three but came up a very useful Dutchman in Kevin Doets.
Doets had earlier defeated the 2018 UK Open semi-finalist Dave Pallett but found Plymouth's The Mirror Man a tougher nut to crack.
Simon went 2-0 up in 13 and 18 and had a dart at the bull for a win in 12, only for the Dutchman to pull one back in 15.
Stevenson then restored his two-leg advantage when taking the fourth leg in 14 before a pulsating fifth leg.
The Mirror Man left himself 130 after just nine darts only for Doets to check out in 12, aided by his first maximum.
Both players traded 180s in leg six, but it went to Simon in 17 to lead 4-2 only to be pegged back to 4-3 when the Dutchman hit his third maximum in as many legs before winning in 18.
But a 15-darter put The Mirror Man 5-3 up and only one leg away from victory.
Two 18-darters against him brought the players level at 5-5 but the darts were with Doets. After 12 darts the 23-year-old left himself 50 and after 12 darts Stevenson required 40.
Doets went up to throw for the match but missed, while Stevenson stepped up and hit double 20 with his first dart for a win in 13 and a place in round four, finishing with a 99.00 average.
Simon was next drawn against Darren Webster who he had met on only two previous occasions, losing both, but the question was could Stevenson make it third time lucky.
The Mirror Man won the opener in 14, only for Webster to go 3-1 up in 18, 16 and 10.
Stevenson then took three on the bounce himself in 16, 16 and 18 to lead 4-3 only for the World ranked 26th player to take another three in succession to lead 6-4 in this best of 19 tie.
The Plymouth thrower then put together his best games of the match to go just one away from victory after taking five straight legs in 18, 15, 16, 17 and 17.
Trailing 9-6, Webster pulled one back in 14, finished a 15-darter with a kill of 104 before winning the next in 17 to tie the match at 9-9.
The final leg was certainly not a show-piece but despite Webster having darts in hand to win it, Stevenson grabbed his chance to the delight of his Westcountry supporters and he was into the last 32.
The draw was not kind when he was pulled out of the hat with Gary Anderson, but he began well and went 2-0 up in 15 and 17.
Stevenson just missed the bull when shooting for a checkout of 130 and Anderson took advantage to reduce the arrears to 2-1.
Stevenon’s two-leg advantage was restored in the next and although Anderson bounced back with a leg in 13, Stevenson checked out from 111 in the next to win it in 15 and lead 4-2.
The Scotsman rallied well and won three on the bounce in 16, 14 and 17 but Stevenson won the 10th as the players went into the break at 5-5.
The mid-interval cessation favoured Anderson and he ran away with the match taking the next five in 18, 14, 17, 18 and 13 to end Stevenson’s hopes by a 10-5 margin.
But his was a good performance by the Mirrorman evident in the fact that his average for the tournament was a confidence boosting 89.52.