Michael van Gerwen fought back from 4-2 down against Peter Wright to retain his German Darts Masters title at the Ballhausforum, Dolce Hotel, Munich, on Monday evening, despite feeling distinctly ‘under the weather’.
The Dutchman, who revealed in his post-match interview that he had been suffering with illness for over a week, was well below par by his exceptional standards, averaging just 92.72 against Snakebite.
However, he displayed great tenacity to fightback; reeling off four legs in succession to secure his 10th European Tour final.Wright will be bitterly disappointed to have squandered such a fantastic opportunity, although Snakebite can take many positives from another extremely consistent performance in Munich this weekend.
Van Gerwen held throw in a very sloppy opening leg after Wright spurned two darts at D12 for a break. MvG gratefully accepted Snakebite’s invitation and pinned D8 for a 19-dart hold. However, the Scot responded strongly and levelled up proceedings immediately by nailing D18 for a 14-darter.
Wright then punished another mediocre leg from MvG to break in the third leg with a brilliant 92 finish that culminated with two D18s. The world number one was seriously out of sorts and Snakebite sealed his third consecutive leg with a magnificent 158 checkout to establish a two-leg cushion.
The Scot had an opportunity to win a fourth straight leg moments later, but he missed his solitary dart at D18 for a 144 finish, and Van Gerwen returned to post D10 and reduce the arrears to 3-2.
The Dutchman recorded his second maximum as he threatened to break back and he was handed a wonderful opportunity to do so, after Wright wired D20 for a 120 finish. Nevertheless, Michael was unable to convert his one dart at tops for a 72 checkout, and Wright pinned D20 to regain his two-leg cushion.
‘The Green Machine’ fired his in third maximum of the final but his double-woes continued, and his four missed darts afforded Wright a chance to cement a crucial double-break. However, Wright was unable to register a dart at double from 100 and MvG hit D5 with his last dart in hand to remain in contention.
Although van Gerwen was significantly off-colour for much of the contest, a player of his quality can produce moments of brilliance at any moment, and the Dutchman spurred into life in the eighth leg, hitting his third maximum in as many legs, before following this up with a clinical 85 checkout for a brilliant 11-darter to break throw.
This visibly deflated Wright, and van Gerwen clinched his third straight leg by posting D16 for a solid 16-darter and suddenly, Snakebite was on the brink. The Scot fired in his second maximum in the tenth leg as he aimed to force a decider, but after Wright failed to take out 66, Van Gerwen returned to nervelessly convert 70 in two-darts, to retain his title.
Earlier in the day, Van Gerwen eased past former world finalist Kevin Painter 6-2 with an average of over 102 in the last 16. Yet, ‘The Green Machine’ survived a major scare against Gary Anderson’s protege Chris Dobey in the last eight, with Michael edging through via a last-leg decider.
Dobey hit remarkable finishes of 86, 87, 130 and 143 to scare the world number one, but van Gerwen showed his class in the decider, recording two maximums and pinning an 11-darter to keep his title defence alive.
In the last four, Van Gerwen faced Joe Cullen, who was appearing in his first ever European Tour semi-final. Cullen had whitewashed world champion Gary Anderson in the previous round, but ‘The Rockstar’ was unable to replicate these heroics as MvG prevailed 6-1, despite the Dutchman averaging a modest 91.45.
It was far more competitive than the scoreline indicates, although Cullen was punished for a poor checkout percentage of 9%. Irrespective of his semi-final disappointment, it was a tremendous weekend for the Yorkshireman, who continues to make tremendous strides in 2016.
Elsewhere, Wright endured a very tough route through to the final and survived a match dart against ‘The Spartan’ Cristo Reyes in the last 16. Reyes led 3-1 and spurned three darts for a 5-3 cushion, and Snakebite capitalised on his opponent’s profligacy.
Wright converted a majestic 124 finish on the bullseye to force a last-leg decider, and after Reyes missed one match dart at D16 for a 106 checkout, Wright nailed D10 with his last dart in hand to scrape through to the quarter-finals and set up a quarter-final clash against Adrian Lewis’s conqueror, James Richardson.
The Scot then had to overcome a multitude of maximums against Richardson in the last eight. ‘Ruthless’ hit six 180’s in as many legs in the opening exchanges, but he was punished for missing crucial doubles and Wright’s class shone through, as Peter won the final three legs without reply to record a convincing 6-2 triumph.
In the last-four, Wright faced his fellow Premier League star Michael Smith, who came from 3-0 down to defeat Ian White and secure his semi-final berth. There was just the solitary break of throw in the entire contest, but Wright was the man to land the decisive blow as he advanced through to his third European Tour final with a 96 average.
Ultimately, the cream rose to the crop in Germany, with three of the four semi-finalists being made up of Premier League players. Michael van Gerwen was arguably below par for much of the tournament, yet he still secures another title and that speaks volumes for his hunger, tenacity and ability to deliver under pressure.
German Darts Masters
European Tour Event Two
Ballhausforum, Dolce Hotel, Munich
Monday March 28
Evening Session (7pm-11pm local time, 6pm-10pm UK time)
Peter Wright 6-2 James Richardson
Ian White 4-6 Michael Smith
Joe Cullen 6-0 Gary Anderson
Chris Dobey 5-6 Michael van Gerwen
Peter Wright 6-4 Michael Smith
Michael van Gerwen 6-1 Joe Cullen
Michael van Gerwen 6-4 Peter Wright