Michael van Gerwen claimed glory in the inaugural staging of the World Series of Darts Finals, beating Peter Wright in a pulsating last-leg decider at the Braehead Arena, Glasgow.
Peter Wright was absolutely sensational and can consider himself extremely unfortunate not to have claimed his maiden TV title.
Snakebite played superbly throughout the day, but van Gerwen produced astonishing darts under such intense pressure in the final, which was coupled with a partisan Scottish crowd jeering his every shot.
I am beginning to run out of superlatives for Michael. The man is phenomenal. In his quarter-final against Raymond van Barneveld, MvG was in serious danger of exiting the tournament.
van Barneveld led 8-6 and was throwing majestically, but the ‘Green Machine’ produced extraordinary darts, winning four successive legs to sink the Five-Time World Champion.
On a separate note; it is fantastic to see Raymond back to his best. I can vouch for the fact that Ray has been working tirelessly over recent months and his brilliant performances have not been reflected in his results.
He could count himself mightily unfortunate to suffer defeat today. He wired D20 for a 142 finish at 8-8, before wiring D8 for a 96 finish in the following leg, which would have sent the contest into a last-leg decider.
However, he averaged 103.49 and following on from his Grand-Slam semi-final appearance last week, he is in excellent shape heading into the ‘business end’ of the year.
In the semi-finals, van Gerwen took on Adrian Lewis, whilst Wright faced Phil Taylor. van Gerwen was breath-taking against Lewis; Adrian averaged just over 100 but was made to look distinctly mediocre against the Dutchman; who averaged 110 en route to an emphatic 11-5 triumph.
Nevertheless, like van Barneveld, Lewis can be hugely encouraged by his performances over recent tournaments. His throw is looking as silky smooth as ever and he looks full of confidence heading into a defining period.
Adrian notoriously peaks at this time of the year, and he looks well-placed to challenge for a third World-title next month.
In this evening’s first semi-final, Phil Taylor’s major TV drought continued, as he was edged out by the home favourite Wright 11-9 in a thrilling contest.
The decisive moment came in the fourteenth leg, with Wright leading 7-6. Taylor had chances to level up proceedings, before Peter produced a nerveless 116 checkout to establish a two-leg advantage.
From this moment onwards, Snakebite never relinquished this advantage and was dominant on throw, as he prevailed 11-9. Taylor averaged 104, which continues the trend of Phil playing extremely well, but failing to get the result.
Phil is still scoring superbly and delivering tremendous performances, but players are no longer fearful of him, whilst in the decisive junctures of matches, his doubling is not as reliable as it once was.
Wright met van Gerwen in last month’s European Championship semi-final, which was also broadcast on ITV4, with MvG running out an 11-7 winner. Michael led 8-1 before Wright reeled off six successive legs, only to falter in the sixteenth leg, which essentially ended his hopes.
Once again, van Gerwen started purposefully, storming into a commanding 4-0 advantage. You would have been forgiven for fearing a procession in this final, but Wright demonstrated admirable character to fightback.
After pinning D8 to open his account, Wright produced finishes of 121 and 86 to reduce the arrears further, and suddenly, he had won five consecutive legs and was leading the contest. Despite this, van Gerwen was unperturbed, restoring parity at the second interval with a stunning 170 checkout.
It was a nip and tuck contest, but an extremely high-quality one at that. van Gerwen crucially broke throw to secure an 8-7 advantage in what appeared to be a crucial turning point, but Wright responded instantly, breaking back courtesy of a classy 116 finish.
With the scores poised at 9-9, the match essentially became a best of 3 legs contest. MvG scored superbly to fashion out a break opportunity, but missed two darts at D14, allowing Wright to move just one leg away from securing his maiden TV title.
Wright hit his fifth maximum to leave 90 after 9 darts against the throw, but he was denied a shot for the title, after van Gerwen produced a stunning 129 checkout on the bull, to force the last-leg decider that this battle merited.
Wright had the advantage of the throw and opened up with back-to-back 140s, but van Gerwen left 50 after just 9 darts, with Peter sat on 121. The Scot was unable to find the elusive treble, giving the World Number 1 a chance to seal victory.
Unsurprisingly, Michael made absolutely no mistake, completing the win with a remarkable 11-darter, to seal his third successive TV title. Peter was unsurprisingly deflated, but he was extremely gracious in defeat. His time will come. No doubt about it.
Nevertheless, Michael van Gerwen is just on another level. Last month, he trailed Gary Anderson 10-7 in the European Championship final, but he won four successive legs, whilst denying the World-Champion a single shot at double for the crown.
van Gerwen’s ability is mesmerising, but his mental fortitude and capability to produce such fantastic darts in critical moments, is simply unparalleled at present. Van Barneveld and Wright both extended ‘Mighty Mike’ to the very limit, but once again, he triumphed against all the odds.
Unibet World Series of Darts Finals
Sunday November 22
James Wade 6-10 Peter Wright
Phil Taylor 10-3 Stephen Bunting
Adrian Lewis 10-6 Terry Jenkins
Raymond van Barneveld 8-10 Michael van Gerwen
Best of 19 legs
Phil Taylor 9-11 Peter Wright
Adrian Lewis 5-11 Michael van Gerwen
Best of 21 legs
Peter Wright 10-11 Michael van Gerwen
Best of 21 legs