van Gerwen and Thornton to meet in Grand Prix Final!

van Gerwen v Thornton
Photo: Lawrence Lustig/PDC

Reigning World Grand Prix Champion Michael van Gerwen and former UK Open winner Robert Thornton will contest the 2015 World Grand Prix final at the Citywest in Dublin on Saturday night.

After a number of high-profile casualties in the early stages of the tournament, van Gerwen and Thornton were the only seeded players to reach the quarter-final stage and eventually, their quality shone through.

Michael van Gerwen eased past Mark Webster 4-1 with a commanding performance. The first two sets were shared, before the Dutchman won 9 out of the final 11 legs to secure victory. Webster started very brightly, but was unable to sustain this level as van Gerwen’s unrelenting nature took its toll on the Welshman.

Robert Thornton produced a fine comeback to end Mensur Suljovic’s World Grand Prix fairy tale in Friday’s first semi-final. The Austrian led 2-1, but Thornton then capitalised on some uncharacteristic double frailties from Suljovic to win the final three sets and seal his spot in his maiden World Grand Prix final.

Mensur Suljovic, playing in his first PDC major semi-final, began strongly as he claimed the opening set. Thornton hit three 180’s in the opening legs, nevertheless Suljovic held throw and led 2-1(in legs.) The Scot then failed to find a starting double in his first visit and Mensur took full advantage, posting D10 to edge 1-0 ahead.

The second-set was a high-quality yet tense affair, with both men doubling efficiently and scoring well. Thornton had the advantage of throw and appeared in total command of the fifth and final leg of the set.

However, some sloppiness from the World Number 7 allowed Suljovic a chance at 122, but fortunately for the 45-year-old Ayrshire ace, he couldn’t take it, allowing Thornton to convert D20 and restore parity.

The third set was virtually an exact replica of the opening set. Suljovic negated Thornton’s heavy scoring with some clinical finishing and with Thornton again struggling to hit an opening double in the fourth leg, ‘The Gentle’ capitalised and hit D10 to lead 2-1 in sets.

The Scottish star delivered an instant riposte in the fourth set. With the scores locked at 1-1 in set four, Thornton missed three darts at D20 and Suljovic had a wonderful opportunity to grab the initiative and move 3-1 ahead in sets.

However, Thornton eventually held with a 140 finish, before two missed darts at D20 for Mensur in the following leg enabled the former Premier League star to draw level at two sets apiece.

The unorthodox Austrian has had tremendous success in 2015, due to his consistency and composure in decisive moments. However, he’d never had experience of a major semi-final and this inexperience was exposed in set five.

His usually reliable D14 began to evade him, as he missed 8 darts to start the third leg. Thornton broke and despite missing multiple doubles in the following leg, he eventually clinched his third set on D1.

Suljovic responded perfectly to this disappointment by breaking Thornton’s throw instantly in set six, but he failed to maintain this advantage and was broken straight back. The next two legs went comfortably with throw, before a hugely significant deciding leg ensued.

Suljovic appeared in pole position to break and force this enthralling contest into a final set, but ‘The Thorn’ hit a brilliant 180 to leave 56, which he subsequently converted to seal victory.

The Austrian deserves immense credit for a fantastic tournament and he’ll benefit considerably from this experience. The pressure took its toll for a couple of legs, but this ultimately proved costly and the Scot showed his nous and big-game experience to pounce upon Suljovic’s errors.

Thornton averaged 90, hit a respectable 41% on the doubles, whilst he also hit 11 180’s. His heavy-scoring was integral to his victory; he hit these maximums at crucial junctures of the contest and whilst Suljovic is particularly consistent, he doesn’t possess Thornton’s incredible scoring power.

In the second semi-final, Mark Webster’s quest for a first World Grand Prix final was abruptly halted by an imperious Michael van Gerwen.

The opening set was fantastic; both men were averaging 100 after four legs, but Webster endured a miserable deciding leg as he threw for a 1-0 advantage. The Welshman missed 7 darts to begin the leg and MvG profited from this error, posting D16 for a 1-0 lead.

He appeared on the verge of extending his sets advantage, as he led 2-0 in the second. After double-trouble at the latter stages of the leg, Webster eventually converted D10; before he produced a classy 82 checkout in the following leg, to force another fifth and deciding leg in the set.

Van Gerwen made a scratchy start but consecutive 140s put him in command. Despite this, after missing D16 for a 103 finish, Webster showed his steel and tenacity, delivering a fantastic 105 checkout to restore parity.

The World Number One delivered a swift and emphatic response, easing to the third set without reply. Webster eventually halted his run of four consecutive losing legs, but after missing 6 darts to start the third leg, he handed the Dutchman the initiative.

Van Gerwen duly accepted this invitation and threw for the fourth set. Webster narrowly wired the bull for a brilliant 130 checkout, but MvG was unperturbed and nailed 48 in two darts for a 3-1 lead in sets.

Michael’s comprehensive response to his second set disappointment was admirable, although unfortunately for Webster, his consistency began to wane. The 26-year-old from Boxtel grew in confidence and started the fifth set in sumptuous style; hitting successive finishes of 154 and 124 to move a leg away from his third World Grand Prix final.

Webster showed the character that earned him a semi-final spot; he broke back courtesy of D9, but his revival was short-lived, as van Gerwen took out 74 to secure a comfortable victory. Webster was tenacious, but van Gerwen’s ruthlessness proved decisive.

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