Michael van Gerwen retained his Unibet Masters crown with an 11-6 victory over Dave Chisnall at the Arena MK in Milton Keynes, as he bounced back from his World Championship heartbreak in ideal fashion. Despite this, Michael’s hopes were very nearly ended by Phil Taylor in a dramatic semi-final tie.
Van Gerwen wasn’t at his vintage best against Chisnall in the final, averaging 98.94, posting six maximums and hitting 40% on his doubles, but he was always in control as he punished a sluggish start from Chizzy. Dave came from 8-0 down to stun Robert Thornton in the opening round, but he was unable to replicate such heroics against MvG.
Chisnall hadn’t beaten van Gerwen in their last 10 TV meetings; his last victory came at the 2013 World Grand-Prix, and this psychological hurdle appeared to be a telling factor, particularly in the early exchanges of the final.
van Gerwen was simply imperious in the opening stages. He held throw emphatically in the opening leg with a clinical 70 checkout, before doubling his lead courtesy of a two-dart 64 kill for a 14-dart break.
The pair traded maximums in a high-quality third leg, but van Gerwen held throw with a magnificent 84 checkout for an 11-darter. Chisnall’s scoring power was just lacking somewhat, and the Dutchman pinned D16 for another 14-dart break in the fourth leg.
The pair traded maximums once more in the fifth leg, but after Chisnall was unable to produce an inspired 142 checkout, van Gerwen pinned D20 for a 5-0 advantage and an average of over 110.
‘The Green Machine’ produced a stunning scoring leg in the sixth leg, leaving D18 after just 9 darts. Yet, uncharacteristically, MvG was found wanting, as he missed 5 darts to clinch the leg, and after narrowly missing D19 for a 155 checkout, Chizzy returned to make amends and post D19 to open his account.
van Gerwen was unperturbed, converting a 110 checkout, before breaking once more on D10 to establish a 7-1 cushion. Chisnall wasn’t throwing with the conviction or rhythm which saw him reach the final, but he continued to battle valiantly and secured back-to-back legs to reduce the arrears to 7-3 heading into the interval.
MvG posted a stunning 171 en route to holding throw in the eleventh leg, but Chisnall responded with a fine 90 finish culminating on the bullseye. The St Helen’s star was unable to sufficiently pressurise the Dutchman’s throw, and Michael moved 9-4 ahead by virtue of hitting D10 with his last dart in hand.
Chisnall reduced the deficit to 9-5 with another D19, but after posting a timely fifth maximum in the following leg, he was unable to register a shot at double sat on 88, and van Gerwen clinically converted an 80 checkout in two-darts to move to the cusp of retaining his Masters crown.
‘Chizzy’ maintained his slender hopes of victory via D4, having earlier posted his sixth maximum, but this simply delayed the inevitable. Despite missing four match darts, MvG wasn’t punished by the ‘Yellow Peril’, and van Gerwen converted D5 to clinch the title.
van Gerwen was a deserving champion. He averaged 112 in a 10-1 demolition of Stephen Bunting in round-one, before dismantling Michael Smith 10-3 in the quarter-finals with a marvellous exhibition of darts. MvG’s dominance in 2015 was sparked by winning this event, and he’ll be hoping that this win has a similarly galvanising effect this year.
Earlier in the evening, van Gerwen sealed his place in the final after surviving SEVEN match darts against Phil Taylor in an epic semi-final. ‘The Power’ led for the vast majority of the contest and was 9-6 ahead at one stage, but he was unable to close out victory, and the world number one capitalised.
Apart from the opening leg, van Gerwen didn’t lead until the 21st and deciding leg, but one of the turning points came in the eighteenth leg, with Taylor leading 9-8. The 55-year-old required 121 with MvG sat on 144, but after hitting T20 with his first dart, Taylor declined the option of going the 11 and bull route, which was ruthlessly punished.
Taylor did the same against Raymond van Barneveld in last season’s Premier League. Ironically, van Barneveld was also on 144, and the five-time world champion took this out when trailing 2-0, a checkout which arguably re-ignited his campaign. MvG replicated this majestic 144 checkout to restore parity at 9-9, and Taylor was left red-faced.
However, Taylor responded by edging 10-9 ahead, until he astonishingly missed seven match darts, on D16, D8, D4 and D2 respectively, allowing van Gerwen to clean up D16 to force a deciding leg. Taylor had the advantage of throw, but Michael took out 87 on D12 for a 12-dart break in the deciding leg of the contest.
Elsewhere, Chisnall secured a berth in his third PDC TV final with a relatively comfortable 11-6 victory over eight-time major winner James Wade. The contest began explosively, with a staggering fifteen 180’s hit in the opening ten legs, as Wade converted a classy 138 checkout to level up proceedings at 5-5.
However, the St Helen’s star enjoyed a stunning surge as he reeled off five consecutive legs to move within a leg of the final. Wade kept his faint hopes alive after Chizzy missed two match darts, but the world number 10 clinched victory in the following leg with a fine 117 finish.
It was an excellent performance from Chisnall. He averaged a shade under 100, hitting twelve maximums and boasting an impressive checkout ratio of 55%, and despite hitting six maximums, Wade wasn’t able to match Chisnall’s consistent power-scoring.
Chisnall’s wait for an elusive first major TV title goes on, although he can take plenty of encouragement from an excellent performance in Milton Keynes this weekend. He kicks off his Premier League campaign against Robert Thornton on Thursday, where he’ll be hoping to replicate his opening-round win over the World Grand-Prix champion in Leeds.
2016 Unibet Masters
Sunday January 31
Dave Chisnall 11-6 James Wade
Michael van Gerwen 11-10 Phil Taylor
Michael van Gerwen 11-6 Dave Chisnall