James Wade produced a breathtaking display to reach the last 16 of the Cazoo Grand Slam of Darts, as young prospects Nathan Rafferty and Bradley Brooks also progressed with wins on Monday in Wolverhampton.
World number four Wade put on a personal best performance to progress from Group C alongside his opponent Rob Cross.
The three-time Grand Slam finalist recorded his highest ever televised average, posting 111.71 in a 5-2 triumph that saw him and Cross qualify at the expense of the unfortunate Jim Williams.
The Welshman, who had beaten Wade on Saturday, enjoyed a 5-1 victory over Croatia’s Boris Krcmar – meaning he would qualify if Cross claimed four legs or won the final group game, or if Wade won 5-0.
Wade, though, reeled off winning legs in 11,12,13,14 and 15 darts to demolish Cross and end Williams’ hopes by virtue of legs difference after the trio finished with four points each.
“I’m happy with that win and proud of the performance,” said Wade, who won the UK Open earlier this year.
“I’ve had higher highs in this game but it was a good win and I did the job I needed to do.”
21-year-old pair Rafferty and Brooks both claimed impressive victories to reach the knock-out stages on their Grand Slam debuts.
Rafferty came through a dramatic battle with Polish ace Krzysztof Ratajski to secure his spot in the second round.
The promising Northern Irishman held his nerve after surviving six match darts across the last two legs before sealing a momentous success with a clinical 67 checkout.
“Words can’t describe how I am feeling right now,” said Rafferty, who qualified via the UK Development Tour Order of Merit.
“It’s unbelievable to beat a player like Krzysztof to qualify. I am so happy with that and I can’t wait to play again.
“I’m starting to make a name for myself in this sport and this feels amazing.”
World Youth Champion Brooks got the better of 20-year-old starlet Rusty-Jake Rodriguez, winning 5-3 to advance from the group stage.
Brooks produced a brace of ton-plus checkouts in defeating the Austrian to set up last 16 meeting with number one seed Gerwyn Price, who topped Group A despite defeat against Martin Schindler.
“This is massive for me,” said Brooks, who topped the UK Development Tour Order of Merit in 2021.
“I’m over the moon to get through. I enjoyed the match and I got over the line, which is the main thing. It was probably the hardest game I’ve had to play in my career so far and I’m buzzing to be going through to the longer format matches.”
There was better news for the Rodriguez family as Rusty-Jake’s older brother, Rowby-John Rodriguez produced a fabulous performance to thrash Stephen Bunting 5-1.
The former World Youth Championship finalist averaged almost 105 and landed five out of seven double attempts – including a pivotal 122 finish in leg five – to complete a memorable glory, which saw him progress from Group D to set up a clash with Wade in round two.
“I feel like I have played superb this week,” said Rowby-John, who also achieved his highest ever televised average.
“The 122 was an immense relief for me. That was big moment for me and I’m really happy to be through. Getting to the next round was my first target. I’m not here to make up the numbers and I can beat anybody if I can perform like that again.”
Schindler averaged over 101 in a brilliant fightback victory against world number one Price, though the fate of both players was sealed prior to their nine-leg thriller.
The defeat was only the Welshman’s second loss in 17 matches on the Aldersley Leisure Village stage, having lifted the Eric Bristow Trophy in Wolverhampton in 2018 and 2019.
Jonny Clayton finished top of Group B after a narrow victory over Mervyn King, setting up a last 16 meeting with Rafferty.
The 2021 Masters, Premier League, World Grand Prix and World Series champion defied a 101 average two match darts against the outgoing King to become the only player so far to achieve three wins from three matches.
Already-eliminated Chris Dobey signed off with a victory over Ryan Joyce, who had qualified from Group D after winning his first two round-robin matches.
Bedlington’s Dobey, who has won two Players Championship titles in 2021, completed two fabulous eleven-darters to break in legs six and eight as he sealed a 5-3 success over his North East neighbour.
Cazoo Grand Slam of Darts
Schedule of Play
Monday November 15
8x Group Matches
Chris Dobey 5-3 Ryan Joyce (D)
Martin Schindler 5-4 Gerwyn Price (A)
Jim Williams 5-1 Boris Krcmar (C)
James Wade 5-2 Rob Cross (C)
Bradley Brooks 5-3 Rusty-Jake Rodriguez (B)
Jonny Clayton 5-4 Mervyn King (B)
Nathan Rafferty 5-4 Krzysztof Ratajski (A)
Rowby-John Rodriguez 5-1 Stephen Bunting (D)
Tuesday November 16 (1900 GMT)
8x Group Matches
Michael Smith v Joe Davis (H)
Joe Cullen v Lisa Ashton (G)
Michael van Gerwen v John Henderson (G)
Mensur Suljovic v Matt Campbell (F)
Jose de Sousa v Luke Humphries (F)
Peter Wright v Mike De Decker (E)
Gabriel Clemens v Fallon Sherrock (E)
Gary Anderson v Raymond van Barneveld (H)
Wednesday November 17 (1900 GMT)
4x Second Round – Order of Play TBC
Gerwyn Price v Bradley Brooks
Jonny Clayton v Nathan Rafferty
James Wade v Rowby-John Rodriguez
Ryan Joyce v Rob Cross
Thursday November 18 (1900 GMT)
4x Second Round