Gary Anderson retained his World Championship title with a thrilling 7-5 victory over Two-Time World Champ Adrian Lewis at the Alexandra Palace on Sunday evening.
It was a pulsating contest, which included 34 maximums- breaking the record for the most 180s ever hit in a professional game of darts.
Anderson, who secured his maiden World title last year with a 7-6 win over Phil Taylor, now joins a very exclusive list of players who have retained their first World Championship title. Lewis himself achieved this feat in 2012, whilst both Eric Bristow and Raymond van Barneveld also successfully defended their first world titles.
Nevertheless, ‘The Flying Scotsman’ made a very indifferent start to this year’s final; Lewis clinched the first set with consummate ease, by breaking Anderson’s throw in the fourth leg, on D5. The Scot was averaging a miserly 79 and appeared unsettled.
However, Anderson responded magnificently in the second set, winning it without reply. The World Number 2 used just 36 darts to restore parity, averaging 128 in the set.
The third set was the tightest of the contest thus far. Lewis held throw, before he wired the bullseye for an 85 checkout. Anderson capitalised on this reprieve, drawing level with D20.
The third set proved to be a case of missed opportunities for Lewis. He missed one dart at D12 for a 98 checkout, and Anderson converted D10 to break, before clinching the set with a nerveless 75 finish.
Ando was beginning to establish a semblance of superiority over Jackpot, winning his third straight leg with a sumptuous 121 checkout on D14. Nevertheless, he wasted a golden chance to break Lewis once more in a bizarre leg. The Scot hit S9 when aiming for D12, before later miscounting; hitting D1, when he actually required D6.
Lewis took full advantage of Anderson’s miscalculation to force a fifth and deciding leg in the fourth set. Gary was throwing for a commanding 3-1 advantage, but he produced an indifferent scoring leg and Adrian punished him severely, taking out 77 on D20 to restore parity in the contest, which had seemed distinctly unlikely just minutes earlier.
It was an enthralling tussle, mainly due to the regular shifts in momentum. Anderson emerged from the interval and broke Lewis’ throw immediately, but the Stoke star delivered an instant riposte, breaking back with a majestic 131 checkout.
Anderson missed five clear darts at double for a third consecutive break in the fifth, and for the second set in succession, Lewis edged a fifth and deciding leg, hitting D5 to reclaim the initiative with a 3-2 lead in sets.
Jackpot made a phenomenal start to the sixth set, posting back-to-back maximums before dispatching 83 for a classy 11-darter. Nevertheless, the 30-year-old was unable to sustain this momentum, and Anderson produced successive 14-darters to edge ahead in the set.
Lewis wired D12 for a 101 checkout, which would have provoked another deciding leg and Anderson pounced, nailing the bull for an 86 finish, levelling up proceedings at three-apiece.
The seventh set was somewhat error-strewn. Lewis spurned multiple darts to win both the third and fourth legs, and Anderson pinned D10 to wrestle back the advantage.
This sparked a mini-surge from the Scot, who won the eighth set without reply, to open up a two-set advantage for the first time in this final. He held throw impressively in 13 darts, before punishing missed doubles from Lewis to edge 2-0 ahead in the set.
The 44-year-old Scot left 86 after just 9 darts as he attempted to wrap up the eighth set, but inexplicably, he once again miscounted, and bust his score. Fortunately, Lewis wasn’t in close contention and Gary’s blushes were spared, as he hit D12 for a 5-3 advantage.
It was absolutely imperative for Lewis to reduce the arrears imminently, and the 2011 and 2012 World Champion delivered. He took out 76 for a crucial hold, and pounced on five missed darts from the ‘Flying Scotsman’ to double his lead in set nine.
Adrian was throwing with far more fluency and conviction, and posted a magnificent 121 checkout for a 12-darter, cutting the deficit to 5-4.
Despite this, the topsy-turvy nature of this final was illustrated in the tenth set, as Anderson won it without reply. He produced a critical 86 finish to hold throw, with Lewis poised on D18 to break, before the current Premier League Champion increased his lead with a 14-darter.
Anderson moved to within a set of retaining his title moments later, with a tremendous 108 finish.
Lewis was faced with an uphill task; he had to win three consecutive sets to prevent Anderson from claiming his second world crown. However, the Stokie made the perfect start, breezing to the eleventh set without reply.
Lewis took out 81 for an 11-darter to open his account, before breaking Anderson in 13 darts. Adrian then converted 74 for a 15-darter, to reduce the arrears to 6-5.
Lewis was in blistering form, and broke Anderson in the opening leg of the twelfth set with a marvellous 12-darter, although the Scotsman stopped the rot with a pivotal 64 checkout.
Then, in the third leg, Anderson produced potentially the finish of the tournament. Jackpot was poised on 140 after 9 darts, but he didn’t get a chance to break, as the World Number 2 produced a heroic 170 checkout, to move to within just one leg of victory.
Lewis’ look of astonishment summed up the quality of that finish, and Anderson was flying. He began the fourth leg of the set with another maximum, the 34th of the final, to secure the initiative.
Lewis was unable to muster up an inspired 137 checkout, and Anderson returned to post D12 for victory; the same double he converted in beating Taylor in last year’s final.
This was a hugely significant victory for Anderson. He has received some rather unjustified comments in certain quarters about his reign as World Champion, although he has dispelled any doubts about his class with another incredible World title victory.
This also avenges his 2011 World Championship Final defeat to Lewis, where ironically, he lost by a 7-5 scoreline.
He now also joins his compatriot, the legendary Jocky Wilson, in winning two World Championship titles, cementing his legacy as one of the all-time darting greats.
In the course of winning his last two World titles; Anderson has beaten Michael van Gerwen, Phil Taylor, Peter Wright, James Wade and Adrian Lewis along the way. That is a mightily impressive statistic; illustrating Gary’s ability to beat the world’s best on the biggest stage of all.
After the match, Anderson admitted: “The way I’ve played in this tournament… I think I’ve deserved this. It’s great to have defended the title. It feels fantastic and I did it at probably 85% of my best game.”
Nevertheless, the Scot remained typically humble when asked whether he was seeking a hat-trick in 2017. “I’ve got the trophy for another 12 months at least.
“It would be lovely to make it a hat-trick next year and do something really special but I’m not getting any younger. I’ll keep plodding on and see what happens,” Ando added.