Michael van Gerwen retained his BetVictor World Matchplay crown with a thumping 18-10 victory over 15-time champion Phil Taylor at the Winter Gardens on Sunday evening. Taylor had an unblemished record in finals at the Matchplay, but he was unable to maintain this feat against an impressive ‘Green Machine’.
Van Gerwen averaged 103.93, hit twelve maximums and boasted an excellent checkout conversion rate of 61%, to cap off a quality all-round display. He now joins Taylor and Rod Harrington as the only players to have retained the World Matchplay title, as he avenged his painful 2014 defeat to ‘The Power’.
Taylor kicked off proceedings with a maximum and converted D10 to hold throw, but Van Gerwen responded with a 70 finish on D9. Taylor then spurned three clear darts to hold in the third leg, and MvG followed up a maximum with a clinical 77 checkout, to secure the first break of throw in the contest.
The world number one threatened a 9-darter in the following leg after registering back-to-back maximums, but he had to settle for an 11-darter, as he won his third straight leg. Taylor stopped the rot with a brilliant 177, followed by a 70 outshot culminating on the bull, but MvG regained his two-leg cushion by pinning D12.
The next four legs were shared, as Van Gerwen produced a two-dart 93 finish to edge 6-4 ahead at the second interval. The third session then proved decisive, as ‘Mighty Mike’ reeled off five straight legs to seize total command of the contest. Taylor had opportunities, but MvG took out finishes of 110 and 76 to move 11-4 ahead.
‘The Power’ was reeling, but he managed to halt Michael’s growing momentum with a 75 finish; yet after he wired tops for back-to-back legs, Van Gerwen held throw on D10. Taylor responded strongly however, following up tops with a brilliant 11-darter to reduce the deficit to 12-7.
Nevertheless, any hopes of a Taylor fightback were relatively short-lived. The 27-year-old Boxtel ace restored his six-leg cushion by following up his tenth maximum with a 73 kill, before Taylor fired in a classy 12-darter to remain in touch. Van Gerwen was unperturbed however, hitting scores of 180 and 177 en route to a 13-dart hold.
Taylor had the opportunity to cut the gap to 14-9 after landing a maximum, but he missed three darts at tops, enabling MvG to deliver a bruising 112 finish and move within three legs of victory. The 55-year-old Stoke star retorted by delivering a 130 finish on the bull, followed by an 81 finish for a 12-darter, as he managed to register double figures in legs.
However, van Gerwen was not to be denied. He maintained his composure superbly, winning three consecutive legs to secure victory, and scoop his 12th title of the year. Taylor didn’t perform badly whatsoever, averaging 101.13 and hitting 43% of his doubles, but Van Gerwen was ultimately superior in the decisive moments.
Yet, the most surprising element of Taylor’s performance was his on-stage antics. He led the crowd in performing the ‘Icelandic Clap’ throughout the latter stages of the contest and his behaviour became more erratic and uncharacteristic as the match progressed.
Van Gerwen was inevitably thrilled to defend his title. “It feels amazing to win this title again. I think I played well all through the tournament and I dominated the final – against Phil you always need to step up a bit and I did.
“Phil gave me a chance and he knows that if he gives me a chance I’ll take them, and my confidence was there. He’s never lost in a World Matchplay final so you know you need to play well, and I did that.
“I think I won this title quite comfortably but I did the right thing at the right moments in this tournament and I didn’t make a lot of mistakes. I think I’m the best but you need to show it on that stage, especially in moments like that,” Van Gerwen added.
However, Sunday evening was uncharted territory for Taylor, who was yet to lose in a Matchplay final. He reflected: “I’m gutted. I don’t know why but I just didn’t have enough, I’m shattered. He killed me, he bullied me. Darts has changed, I’ve been lucky enough to be involved with the greats, this is the greatest as far as I’m concerned.”
BetVictor World Matchplay
Sunday July 24
Michael van Gerwen 18-10 Phil Taylor
Best of 35 legs