There were emotional scenes at the World Matchplay in Blackpool as Jose de Sousa was reduced to tears by his dramatic second round win over Rob Cross.
The highest quality match of the tournament so far saw both players average more than 103 as a rejuvenated De Sousa fired in nine 180s, as well as hitting 11 of his 23 double attempts. A 120 checkout saw De Sousa break throw to go 8-4 up, but a missed single 14 in a 108 checkout attempt from the Portuguese, which would have put him 10-4 in front, proved the catalyst for a Cross fightback.
The 2019 champion hit a 106 finish after De Sousa's mistake to make it 5-9 before winning three of the next four legs to trail 8-10. With the pressure mounting, De Sousa quelled any fears of a Cross comeback with back-to-back 180s before sealing victory with a last-dart double four.
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De Sousa, who has endured a poor season so far, couldn’t contain his emotion after the match, breaking down in tears and sharing a long embrace with Cross, who sportingly held his rival’s arm aloft.
“It has been a difficult year for me, so this win means the world to me," said De Sousa, the Premier League runner-up in 2021. “Nobody can imagine how happy I am to be playing well again.
“I started [the year] well but then I just disappeared. Maybe I don’t feel strong enough in my arms but I am feeling stronger now and every time I play I feel better and better
“I just take it game by game, but right now I feel great. I'm hitting 180s and 140s again, and when I hit my doubles as well I am a danger for everybody. It’s a big victory for me.”
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The 48-year-old admitted his performance at the Matchplay this week has taken even him by surprise.
“I came here, first of all, to win the first round,” he said. “To win the second round is amazing because I didn’t expect that. I’m a little bit surprised by my performance but I work hard here.”
De Sousa will face Gerwyn Price, who overcame Dave Chisnall in the second round, in the quarter-finals on Friday night.
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