Michael van Gerwen breezed through to the semi-finals of the Unibet Masters with an emphatic 10-3 triumph over Michael Smith, to set up a semi-final tie against Phil Taylor at the Arena MK in Milton Keynes on Sunday evening.
‘The Green Machine’ averaged 105.8, hit four maximums and boasted a checkout ratio of 76% as he coasted past the world number eight, to keep his hopes of retaining his title well and truly alive.
The contest began in explosive fashion. After MvG claimed the opening leg, an astonishing four 180’s were hit in the second leg, but it was van Gerwen who claimed the spoils.
The Dutchman romped into a 3-0 lead after Smith failed to convert D18 for an 87 finish, before the world number one posted successive 124 finishes to move 5-0 ahead at the first interval, with an incredible average of over 116.
Bar some errant doubling, Smith was playing well, but there was simply nothing he could do against a relentless van Gerwen. The 26-year-old established an 8-0 lead and the whitewash seemed a distinct possibility, but ‘Bully-Boy’ continued to battle and got his rewards, by reducing the deficit to 9-3.
However, this only delayed the inevitable. Van Gerwen sealed his semi-final berth with a magnificent 142 finish (T17, T17, D20) to continue his brilliant Masters record. MvG has only dropped four legs in his opening two legs, and on the basis of the tournament so far, he’ll take some stopping.
The man faced with this unenviable task is Phil Taylor, after ‘The Power’ prevailed in an epic last-leg decider against Peter Wright. The pair averaged 104 apiece in what was a terrific battle, and contested one of the greatest last-leg deciders in recent memory.
Wright left D8 after just 9 darts against the throw in the decider, but he wasn’t afforded an opportunity, as Taylor hit back-to-back maximums, before pinning D16 for an 11-darter to seal his progression.
‘The Power’ began the quarter-final clash in lacklustre fashion, as Wright broke the throw on D5, despite having missed five doubles previously to open his account. ‘Snakebite’ extended his lead with a confident 14-darter, but he wired the bull for a 3-0 lead and double-break, allowing Taylor to hold throw in 13 darts.
The Scot squandered opportunities to regain his two-leg cushion after failing to convert 48, enabling Taylor to level up proceedings with a second successive 13-darter. The 16-time world champion was throwing with conviction and went into the interval with a 3-2 lead, after pinning D16 once more.
Wright restored parity in the sixth leg with a clinical 65 checkout, but Taylor enjoyed one of his trademark ‘Power’ surges, winning three consecutive legs thanks to finishes of 71 and 84, to establish a 6-3 cushion.
Nevertheless, the typically tenacious Wright fought back admirably. He converted a majestic 161 checkout, before drawing to within one leg with another ton-plus finish, taking out 115 on D20. Peter then levelled up the contest with a 13-dart finish culminating on D18, having posted his fifth maximum in the preceding visit.
Wright missed D12 for a 101 checkout which would have sealed a fourth leg in succession, and Taylor halted Wright’s momentum by hitting D15. However, the Scot continued to battle away and the next three legs went with throw, with the contest tantalisingly poised at 8-8.
Taylor was averaging 105, but losing with impressive ton-plus averages was a recurring theme for the 55-year-old in 2015. It appeared that history would repeat itself again, after Wright took out a fantastic 124 checkout on the bull, after Taylor had just missed D16 for a stunning 142 finish.
Suddenly, the 2014 World Championship finalist was throwing for a semi-final place, but with Wright sat on 118, Taylor posted his third maximum at an opportune moment to leave D14. ‘Snakebite’ hit the requisite T20, but his dart at D19 was wayward, and ‘The Power’ confidently hit D14 with his first dart to force a deciding leg.
What ensued was quite remarkable. After kicking off with scores of 100 and 131 respectively, Taylor posted successive 180’s to leave 41, whilst Wright hit 180 followed by 174 to leave 16. However, the advantage of throw ultimately proved decisive, as Taylor returned and held his nerve on D16, to claim his first win over Wright in three TV meetings.
Elsewhere, Dave Chisnall eased through to his first ever semi-final at the Masters with a comprehensive 10-4 victory over Vincent van der Voort. Van der Voort, who defeated world champion Gary Anderson last night, was unable to replicate such heroics against the two-time major finalist, who averaged 104 en route to a comfortable victory.
Chisnall, who remarkably came from 8-0 down to defeat Robert Thornton 10-9 in the last 16 on Saturday afternoon, will face eight-time major winner James Wade for a place in the final.
The first four legs of this quarter-final contest were shared, before the pair traded maximums in a high-quality fifth leg. However, van der Voort held throw to head into the interval with a 3-2 advantage, courtesy of a fine 99 finish for a 12-dart leg.
Nevertheless, ‘Chizzy’ was rampant after the break, and won five consecutive legs to establish a commanding 7-3 cushion. He held throw in the sixth leg, before leaving 40 after just 12 darts to pressurise the Dutchman’s throw in the seventh leg.
Vincent missed two darts at D19 for a 98 checkout and was duly punished, with Chisnall converting D20 to lead for the first time. The St Helen’s star cemented the break of throw with a clinical 72 finish, before hitting his sixth maximum to continue his fine form.
Van der Voort required 92 to hold throw and stop the rot, but the ‘Dutch Destroyer’ missed D12 and was duly punished, as Chisnall won his fourth consecutive leg via D18. The world number 10 completed the perfect session with a ruthless two-dart 64 checkout, and van der Voort was facing an ominous 7-3 deficit.
Both players made a strong start after the break, kicking off the eleventh leg with maximums, but van der Voort finally stopped the rot, with a confident 14-darter culminating on D20. Yet, Chizzy remained unperturbed, and regained his four-leg cushion with a classy 13-dart hold.
Chizzy moved to the cusp of victory by breaking Vincent once more, courtesy of pinning his final dart at D4. The Dutchman had little answer to Dave’s consistency and power-scoring, and ‘The Yellow Peril’ sealed his semi-final spot with his eighth maximum and a magnificent 84 checkout culminating on the bullseye.
In the opening match of this afternoon’s quarter-final session, James Wade continued his impressive record at the Masters, beating Kim Huybrechts 10-5 to reach the semi-finals of this event for the third time in four years.
Huybrechts was unable to reproduce the performance which saw him cruise to a 10-4 victory over World Championship finalist Adrian Lewis last night, and Wade took full advantage.
‘The Machine’ wasn’t firing on all cylinders, with both men averaging a modest 91, but Wade’s experience paid dividends, and he’ll be expecting to raise his level considerably against Chisnall, otherwise his hopes of winning a second Masters title will surely be over.