Michael van Gerwen secured his maiden WorldMatchplay title, after beating former winner James Wade at the Winter Gardens tonight.
van Gerwen began tentatively, but grew in confidence as the contest progressed, to secure an emphatic 18-12 victory against a below-par Wade.
The 25-year-old Dutchman suffered a hugely disappointing defeat to Phil Taylor in last year’s curtain raiser; a defeat that reduced him to tears. Nevertheless, there was no repeat of this anguish, as he outplayed the Machine in virtually all departments.
On Saturday night, Wade ended Phil Taylor’s remarkable Matchplay streak of 38 successive victories on the Winter Garden’s stage, with an inspired display of finishing to seal a 17-14 triumph. Unfortunately, The Aldershot ace was unable to replicate these heroics against ‘The Green Machine’.
The final was a topsy-turvy affair in the opening stages, as the pair exchanged breaks in the opening two legs. Wade then held on D6 for a 2-1 advantage, before MvG responded with D16 for two-apiece. The final leg of the session was the most dramatic; the World Number 1 hit a maximum to create a break opportunity, before squandering three darts at D8. Wade seized his chance, to edge 3-2 ahead at the first interval.
The second session was a relatively underwhelming affair in terms of averages, but the nerves added to the spectacle. Both men traded maximums in leg 6, but Wade was first to a finish and converted his chance to extend his lead to 4-2.
Wade could have extended his advantage in the following two legs, missing shots at 80 and 108 respectively. Van Gerwen capitalised on Wadey’s uncharacteristic profligacy, taking out 68 and 56 in consecutive legs to restore parity.
The 9th leg was error-strewn to say the least. Wade missed five darts at his trusted tops, tens and fives for a valuable hold, yet MvG also displayed fragility on the outer segments. This allowed the 2006 Matchplay Champion to clean up D2 with his final dart, to preserve his slender lead.
The partisan Blackpool crowd were almost treated to a stunning 161 finish from Wade in the following leg, but his bull effort agonisingly clipped the 25 wire, allowing van Gerwen to hold throw for 5-5 at the interval.
The Englishman responded superbly to this disappointment as the players re-emerged from the intermission, taking out 107 to hold throw for 6-5, with MvG ominously poised on D20 to break. It was vintage Wade, and a feature of his incredible performance against Taylor on Saturday.
However, the next 10 minutes saw a considerable momentum shift in this final, as Wade’s scoring prowess deserted him at a critical time. van Gerwen produced a fine 127 finish for 6-6, before forging ahead for the first time since leg 1, as he nailed D8. He held in routine fashion to extend his advantage, before delivering a blistering 144 checkout for 9-6 and a double-break.
Van Gerwen’s scoring prowess is undeniable, particularly when he settles into a rhythm. Despite this, after 15 legs, he was averaging a modest 99. He was displaying certain levels of inconsistency, although he wasn’t being particularly troubled by Wade, who was hindered by ever-increasing visits without a treble.
The Machine’s most potent attribute is his clinical finishing under pressure. His ton-plus finishing is almost unparalleled at times. Nevertheless, his mediocre scoring was preventing him from getting shots at double, therefore nullifying his most realistic threat of securing victory.
The enigmatic Dutchman won his fifth successive leg for a 10-6 lead thanks to a two-dart 80 checkout, before the left-hander eventually stopped the rot with a composed 68 kill. The next two legs were shared, before a potentially match-defining moment arose in the 20th leg.
After narrowly missing the bull for a 161 finish and a 6-4 advantage, Wade was again left pondering what could have been, as he came within touching distance of a roof-raising 167 checkout. That would have reduced the arrears to 11-9, but MvG converted D18 for 12-8 and psychologically this was massive; the finishing line was in sight.
The man from Boxtel missed a cluster of doubles in leg 21, as Wade reduced the deficit to 12-9, but van Gerwen delivered an immediate riposte, coolly converting a clinical 72 finish. Wade was becoming visibly frustrated at his inability to hit the T20 with any sort of regularity and van Gerwen capitalised on this, winning back-to-back legs for 15-9.
Wade held his nerve to hit D5 with his last dart in leg 25, but MvG remained unperturbed, restoring his six-leg cushion for 16-10. Wade was dejected and evidently aware of his impending fate, but he continued to battle valiantly and held throw in leg 27. The Dutchman closed to within one leg of glory with a nerveless 14-darter for 17-11, but Wade ensured van Gerwen would have to serve it out, winning his 12th leg in an impressive 13 darts.
The World Number One demonstrated why he has been so incredibly successful and prolific over the last two years, as he converted D20 for an excellent 14-darter for an 18-12 win. This sparked jubilant celebrations from MvG, who adds another major title to his ever-growing collection. He wasn’t at his explosive best, but he was professional and industrious, outplaying Wade in all departments.
Wade enjoyed a terrific tournament. He was mightily impressive against Kyle Anderson and Mensur Suljovic, whilst he arguably delivered the performance of the tournament in defeating Taylor and ending his imperious Blackpool reign. He admitted his regret at his performance in the final.
He averaged a modest 90, which is simply not sufficient to trouble a player of van Gerwen’s quality or pedigree. Despite this, he can take major encouragement from reaffirming his ability to challenge and overcome the World’s elite. But in terms of elite, there remains one man ahead of the rest at present. That man is Mighty Michael van Gerwen.