Damon Heta warmed up for Australia’s World Cup of Darts title defence with victory in Tuesday’s Players Championship 14 final in Hildesheim.
Heta, who will aim to defend the World Cup crown alongside Simon Whitlock in Frankfurt, dispatched Luke Woodhouse 8-2 to claim his seventh PDC title at Halle 39 on Tuesday.
The Australian number one wasn’t at his blistering best in the sweltering Hildesheim heat, but he brushed aside Woodhouse in the afternoon’s showpiece to secure his first ranking title of 2023.
Heta came into Tuesday’s event fresh from making back-to-back Players Championship semi-finals, but he overcame that hurdle to return to the winner’s circle in emphatic style.
After defying a 101 average from Owen Roelofs to win a last-leg shoot-out, Heta eased past Denmark’s Vladimir Andersen and averaged 106 to whitewash Martijn Kleermaker in round three.
The 35-year-old edged out nine-dart star Bradley Brooks and then produced his third ton-topping average of the afternoon to whitewash Mickey Mansell in the last eight, before battling past Christian Kist in the semi-finals.
Heta punished a sluggish start from Woodhouse to race into a 3-0 lead in Tuesday’s decider, extending his cushion to 5-1 with consecutive legs of 14 and 16 darts.
Woodhouse followed up his second 180 with a two-dart 76 finish to double his tally in leg seven, only for the Australian to win the next three legs to wrap up a convincing victory.
“I feel like I just played the player all day,” reflected Heta, who topped last year’s Players Championship Order of Merit.
“I’ve made a lot of semi-finals this year, whether it’s on the ProTour or European Tour, and now I’ve finally got the win this year.
“To get over that line today is a weight off my shoulders. It might not have been spectacular, but the win is the most important thing at the end of the day.”
Heta will be hoping to claim further silverware in Germany at this week’s World Cup, and he’s in confident mood as he and Whitlock bid to repeat their history-making 2022 success.
“It probably gives Simon a bit of confidence that he can count on me,” added Heta, who rises to a career-high of 13th in the world after scooping the £12,000 top prize on Tuesday.
“I know that he’s been playing well this year too, and I can always count on him because he always steps up for the World Cup.
“I’m absolutely looking forward to it. Hopefully we can back it up, but we’ll have to do it the hard way!”
Woodhouse was unable to cap off his landmark afternoon with victory against Heta, but the 34-year-old came of age to progress to a maiden PDC ranking final in Germany.
The Worcestershire thrower opened his challenge with battling wins over Graham Hall, Rowby-John Rodriguez and Dom Taylor, before claiming the seeded scalps of Jose de Sousa and Danny Noppert.
Woodhouse averaged 101 in his win over former Grand Slam champion De Sousa, and a dominant 7-2 success against Mensur Suljovic in the semi-finals saw him pocket the £8,000 runner-up prize.
Austria’s World Cup talisman Suljovic was featuring in his first semi-final of 2023, seeing off fourth seed Rob Cross, European Champion Ross Smith and UK Open champion Andrew Gilding in the process.
Meanwhile, Challenge Tour star Kist – featuring in his first Pro Tour semi-final for seven years – overcame Mervyn King, Martin Schindler and Steve Beaton in his run to the last four.
Gilding produced his best performance of the day in his whitewash win over Brendan Dolan before succumbing in the last eight, departing at the same stage as 2022 UK Open winner Noppert.
Elsewhere, Northern Ireland’s Mickey Mansell stunned Gerwyn Price during his impressive run to the quarter-finals, where he was joined by Belgian veteran Mario Vandenbogaerde.
Price was one of several high-profile first round casualties in Hildesheim, with world number two Peter Wright, top seed Dave Chisnall and Dimitri Van den Bergh all losing their opening games.
Monday’s winner Michael Smith was beaten by Rusty-Jake Rodriguez in round two, exiting alongside Cross, Dirk van Duijvenbode and Josh Rock.
Rock was one of two players to land nine-darters on an unpredictable day of action at Halle 39, producing his second perfect leg of 2023 in his first round win over Jurjen van der Velde.
Former World Youth Champion Brooks also achieved perfection on Tuesday, firing in his nine-darter during his superb comeback victory against Daryl Gurney..