Battling Ratajski hits back against Cullen to claim PC30 win

Krzysztof Ratajski (Kelly Deckers, PDC)

Krzysztof Ratajski ended the 2021 Players Championship series on a high with a superb comeback over Joe Cullen to claim his first title of the year with an 8-7 success in Barnsley.

The Polish number one last tasted victory on the PDC ProTour in February 2020, but saved his best display of the year for the 30th Players Championship to scoop the £10,000 title.

Cullen had looked on course to win his third Players Championship of 2021 as he took leads of 3-1 and 7-5 during a gripping final.

Ratajski, though, followed up earlier finishes of 139 and 108 by landing double eight to break throw in leg 13 and then taking out 87 to send the final into a deciding leg.

Against the throw, he was crucially first to a finish and checked out 112 in clinical fashion to complete his comeback.

"It was incredible for me, very emotional," admitted Ratajski afterwards. "I'm really happy with this win, it's very important for me.

"It's a long time since I won the last tournament and it's something incredible for me, really.

"At the start of the season I played good in the stage tournaments but in the floor tournament's I wasn't so good.

"In these last three days I've played really brilliant darts and felt really good. It's a big thing for me."

Ratajski had produced some outstanding darts earlier in the day, including a 107.77 average to defeat Simon Whitlock, a 12-darter in the deciding leg against form star Jonny Clayton and a 100 average in his 7-3 semi-final win over Darius Labanauskas.

Cullen, meanwhile, achieved three ton-plus averages during his run to a fourth Players Championship final of the year.

He came from 3-0 down to win his semi-final against Michael van Gerwen with a stunning average of 111.28, hitting seven doubles from as many attempts and six 180s in a remarkable comeback.

Van Gerwen had been bidding to claim back-to-back ProTour wins after picking up his first ranking title of 2021 on Wednesday.

The world number three had continued his fine form with three ton-plus averages and defeats of Daryl Gurney and Damon Heta in reaching the semi-finals, only to see Cullen's super-show end his hopes.

Lithuania's Labanauskas enjoyed his best run in a Players Championship since May 2019 as he saw off UK Open champion James Wade, Dirk van Duijvenbode and in-form Ryan Searle in five wins to end the ProTour season on a high.

Edgar won through to his first Players Championship quarter-final since February 2019 as he overcame top seed Michael Smith and UK Open finalist Luke Humphries on Thursday.

World Series of Darts Finals champion Jonny Clayton and in-form Dutch ace also reached the last eight alongside Wade and Edgar.

Simon Whitlock's run to the last 16 was enough to secure him a place in the Ladbrokes Players Championship Finals, which features the top 64 players from the final 2021 Players Championship Order of Merit.

See full results in the Match Centre at this link.

See match stats with DartConnect at this link.

Following Thursday's event, the top 64 players from the 2021 Players Championship Order of Merit will qualify for the Ladbrokes Players Championship Finals.

2021 Players Championship 30
Thursday November 4
Last 16

Matthew Edgar 6-5 Luke Humphries
Michael van Gerwen 6-4 Damon Heta
Joe Cullen 6-4 Callan Rydz
Danny Noppert 6-5 Martin Schindler
James Wade 6-5 Mensur Suljovic
Darius Labanauskas 6-5 Dirk van Duijvenbode
Krzysztof Ratajski 6-2 Simon Whitlock
Jonny Clayton 6-1 Stephen Bunting

Michael van Gerwen 6-3 Matthew Edgar
Joe Cullen 6-3 Danny Noppert
Darius Labanauskas 6-4 James Wade
Krzysztof Ratajski 6-5 Jonny Clayton

Joe Cullen 7-4 Michael van Gerwen
Krzysztof Ratajski 7-3 Darius Labanauskas

Krzysztof Ratajski 8-7 Joe Cullen