Michael van Gerwen retained his World Matchplay crown with an emphatic 18-10 win over Phil Taylor in Sunday night’s final at the Winter Gardens. ‘The Green Machine’ produced a brilliant display to inflict Taylor’s first ever defeat in a Blackpool final, although ‘The Power’ still stole the headlines, albeit for the wrong reasons.
There was no shame in Taylor’s performance. In his post-match interview, he said he felt ‘gutted’ to have let the crowd down, although in truth he performed well; averaging in excess of 101. However, his conduct on-stage, particularly in the latter half of the contest, was frankly embarrassing.
At various stages of the contest, Taylor gave his Dutch opponent a fierce stare, insinuating he had done something to antagonise ‘The Power’, which wasn’t the case. He also urged the crowd to perform the ‘Icelandic clap’on numerous occasions, including when Van Gerwen was throwing, which was most unsportsmanlike.
Additionally, Taylor persisted to mock and replicate MvG’s celebrations, and even appeared to be captured calling the world number one an expletive, after Van Gerwen extended his lead to 14-8. If Taylor had been winning, Michael’s exuberant celebrations wouldn’t have left a mark on ‘The Power’. He simply couldn’t handle the fact he was being outplayed.
One of the key factors behind Taylor’s unrivalled success is his mentality- he has come up against so many top quality players, but his belief, determination and mental strength has seen him prevail on most occasions. Therefore, to see the 16-time world champion unravel to such an extent was simply bemusing.
Throughout his career, Taylor has always had the ability and mentality to wear down his opponents. He has never needed to resort to mindless antics to distract his rivals, and his behaviour last night was a blatant sign that he was a beaten man- desperate to affect Van Gerwen by any means possible.
This will have been a painful defeat for the 55-year-old. He has tasted victory at the Winter Gardens on 15 occasions, which is simply remarkable. Until last night he was yet to taste defeat in a Matchplay final, so it was uncharted territory for Phil. He is used to being the main draw in Blackpool, and his attention-seeking antics underline this point.
Taylor has long been critical of players who resort to tactics and mind-games, most notably when he’s on the losing side. If the shoe was on the other foot, and Van Gerwen was whipping the crowd into a frenzy whilst Taylor was throwing, Phil would have been apoplectic.
Taylor showed graciousness in congratulating Van Gerwen, and he even labelled him as ‘the greatest ever’ in his post-match interview. However, he also made a number of barbed comments towards the world number one, claiming: ‘He bullies people. He is an aggressive, nasty player.”
On a separate note, ‘Mighty Mike’ deserves immense credit for retaining his professionalism in the face of antagonistic and erratic behaviour from Taylor. Van Gerwen will have been surprised at the erratic demeanour of his old foe, but secretly he must have felt satisfied, as it showed that Taylor realised he had no answer on the dart board.
Van Gerwen is taking darts to a new level, but there’s no disputing that Taylor remains the master. He has enjoyed incredible longevity and his illustrious list of titles will surely never be beaten.
He deserves tremendous respect for all that he has achieved, and his run to the final, as well as his comprehensive semi-final win over world champion Gary Anderson, show that he still has the quality to compete and succeed at the top level. Nevertheless, looking back on his antics, Taylor must surely recognise that he stooped to an embarrassing level.