Mensur Suljović has enjoyed a breakthrough year on the PDC circuit and is now firmly established as a top-10 player.
With a quirky throwing style and laid-back manner, the Austrian has endeared himself to the fans and his victory in the Champions League was as popular as it was unexpected.
‘The Gentle’, as he is affectionately known, was placed in a group alongside Gary Anderson, Peter Wright and Dave Chisnall and the smart money would have been on ‘The Flying Scotsman’ and ‘Snakebite’ to progress.
However, he thrashed Anderson 10-3 before beating Wright 10-8 and completed the job with a 10-5 demolition of ‘Chizzy’ in the group stage to book a semi-final date with Raymond van Barneveld.
The sight of the giant Dutchman did not faze Suljović who took out 160 to win the match as Barney sat on 32 after nine darts, with Anderson waiting in the final.
It was always going to be tougher than his group-stage demolition but an 11-9 triumph was enough to give the Vienna resident his first televised major title.
With limited English, his post-match interview was more about the emotion involved, and the joy on his face at holding aloft the trophy spoke volumes for what it meant and was echoed by the thousands watching.
For the man born in the former Yugoslavia, it was the culmination of a lot of hard work and was by no means a flash in the pan as he has been a regular visitor to the latter stages of tournaments in recent years.
With quarter-final appearances in The Masters, World Matchplay, European Championship and Players Championship Finals in 2017 it is obvious that the 45-year-old has talent in abundance and is improving with age.
The World Grand Prix is one of the toughest events around due out its ‘double in – double out’ format and the fact that Suljović has reached the semis in two of the last three years proves that he can mix it with the best.
Now ranked at number five in the world, he will hope to have good run at Alexandra Palace this year in the greatest tournament of them all.
The veteran thrower has yet to make it past the last 16 in the World Championship but is among the favourites this time around and those who fancy a flutter should check out all the markets available on the Ally Pally showpiece at Guts Sports review.
There was a time when Suljović was known as a slow player who did no really get the crowd out of their seats but that is now all in the past as he has taken his game to a new level and is a genuine contender in most events.
With interviews as left-field as his style, including admitting that his wife wanted him home during his run to the last four at the World Grand Prix, the double 14 master has fast become a fans’ favourite and he will surely make his debut in the Premier League next year.
That will give him maximum exposure over a 16-week period and it would be no surprise to see him ruffle few feathers during the PDC roadshow.