World Grand Prix: Whitlock Rockets Past Baxter

SIMON WHITLOCK 3 – 0 Ronnie Baxter

Simon ‘The Wizard’ Whitlock won through to the quarter-finals of the World Grand Prix by dispatching of Ronnie ‘The Rocket’ Baxter in straight sets on Wednesday evening in Dublin.

The former European Champion produced a much improved performance, following his narrow first round victory over Michael Mansell at the Citywest Hotel, to set up a last eight clash against James Wade.“The key thing for me tonight was starting well,” said Whitlock. “I was all over the place with my starting in the first round, but I had a plan this time and stuck with it.

“I felt as though I had to settle down on a starting double and I finished off the game against Michael Mansell quite well using double 16 to start so I stuck with that and it went very well.

“Ronnie missed a lot of doubles to finish legs there and I took out some crucial finishes. The 94 and 102 to win the last two sets were killer shots, especially the 94 to go 2-0 up.”

Whitlock hit a 180 in the opening leg, in which he held his throw before Baxter did the same. ‘The Wizard’ pegged double top to edge back ahead and he clinched the first set by cleaning up 54.

Baxter moved in front with a hold of throw in the first leg of set two. Whitlock responded with a neat 96 finish before ‘The Rocket’ regained the advantage.

But the Australian star levelled with the aid of a maximum and then broke his opponent’s throw by taking out 94 to win the second set.

Whitlock then completed the job in style, rattling off another three legs in quick succession, as he capped of a comfortable victory with a 102 finish.

The world number four will meet Wade on Friday with a place in the semi-finals at stake.

He added: “I know it will be hard against James in the quarter-finals and we’ve had some great games. He had a tough match against Connie Finnan, who played a fantastic game, but James is one of the best players in the world and he shows that every time he plays.”

By Chris Murphy