Michael van Gerwen powered to a third successive Dubai Duty Free Darts Masters title, after producing a fine comeback to defeat Phil Taylor 11-8 in a pulsating final. Van Gerwen trailed for long periods against Taylor, but as he did against Raymond van Barneveld and Adrian Lewis in the quarter-finals and semi-finals respectively, he showed great tenacity to fight back in adversity to continue his impeccable record in the United Arab Emirates.
Van Gerwen wasn’t at his majestic best in either the quarter or semi-final, however his timing and ability to produce quality darts under the most intense pressure is arguably his most impressive attribute. In his semi-final against Adrian Lewis, Jackpot was threatening to break the throw and take the game into a dramatic deciding leg, but van Gerwen posted a stunning shot of 174 to set up 52 for the match; which he subsequently hit with his final dart. This trend continued against Phil Taylor in an extremely high quality affair.
Phil Taylor recorded the highest ever average in the tournament’s three-year history, 107.7; nevertheless it still wasn’t enough to thwart the irrepressible Green Machine. Taylor controlled the majority of the contest, pinning 64 and 75 checkouts with his last dart in hand to lead 6-4 at the second interval. Van Gerwen was throwing consistently, but didn’t hit a 180 until the 12th leg, which is remarkable given the 25-year-old’s scoring prowess.
Taylor was throwing superbly well, but he did squander a few opportunities to extend his advantage further. He missed one dart at D7 for a fine 88 finish that would have handed the 54-year-old an 8-5 lead, whilst he also surrendered a chance at D5 to move 9-6 ahead.
The third and final commercial break completely changed the course of the contest. Taylor missed two darts at D16 to regain his two-leg advantage, which enabled the 25-year old Dutchman to pounce. MvG posted a tremendous 85 checkout, culminating on D14 to restore parity.
From this moment onwards, the momentum shifted completely and the world number one refused to relent. He left D8 after 9 darts to move 9-8 ahead, before posting D10 for a 10-8 advantage, after Taylor missed another opportunity, having failed to convert 72.
In the longer formats, it’s almost inevitable that MvG will enjoy a purple patch where he reels off five or six legs in quick succession; this was in evidence as he came back from 4-1 down to defeat Raymond van Barneveld 10-8 in yesterday’s quarter-final, and the same fate was suffered by the 16-time World Champion. MvG reeled off five successive legs to claim a brilliant 11-8 victory thanks to a 106 average.
Van Gerwen remains the sole winner of the Dubai Darts Masters and this continues his recent dominance over Phil Taylor. ‘The Power’ has failed to beat the Dutchman since the Perth Darts Masters last August. Taylor threw extremely well throughout the tournament; statistically he is throwing as well as ever, however in the critical moments of matches, he has thrown susceptibility on the doubles, which was evidenced this evening.
Earlier in the contest, Taylor had comprehensively dispatched Gary Anderson 11-3; Anderson, fresh off his Premier League triumph last Thursday endured a torrid evening on the doubles, but Taylor was in merciless mood and punished the Scot for every mistake. The defining moment occurred in the sixth leg, with Anderson trailing 4-1. The reigning World Champion missed two darts at D18, before Taylor nailed a stunning 121 checkout on the bull for a 5-1 advantage.
Anderson had chances sporadically, but 21% on the doubles is not sufficient to challenge the 16-time World Champion. Adrian Lewis performed excellently in both of his matches; he edged a thrilling battle with Stephen Bunting 10-9 yesterday; defying 11 180’s and a 101 average to claim victory; Jackpot himself averaged 105.
He monopolised the early stages of his battle with ‘Mighty Mike’, however at 8-7 up, he squandered two chances for a 9-7 lead which proved costly. Lewis narrowly missed D12 for a stunning 141 checkout to reclaim the lead in the following leg, but in a game of such fine margins, van Gerwen demonstrated tremendous ruthlessness to prevail 11-9 against the two-time World Champion.
This was unquestionably the most exciting staging of the Dubai Darts Masters. The quality throughout was tremendous; the outdoor elements have played a major role in the previous two tournaments; however its impact was minimal this time around. Despite losing in the final, Taylor demonstrated that his Premier League disappointment was simply a temporary glitch and in my view, he remains favourite to secure his eighth consecutive World Matchplay title in July.
However, Michael van Gerwen continues to prove discerning voices emphatically wrong, when his dominance threatens to be compromised. His Premier League final defeat to Gary Anderson was a bitter blow; particularly considering that he once again topped the league table, but his ruthless mentality and adeptness at coping with pressure is almost unparalleled in the modern game.
Taylor’s wait for a major title in 2015 wasn’t ended in the desert; nevertheless, the signs overwhelmingly indicate that the ‘drought’ will be over very soon. Will van Gerwen and Taylor be the main protagonists in Blackpool? You’d be brave to back against it!