Michael van Gerwen marked his return to European Tour action with a bang, firing in a remarkable 11-darter in a deciding leg to edge out Mensur Suljovic in a thrilling HappyBet European Darts Trophy final at the RWE Arena in Muelheim, on Sunday evening.
The world number one trailed 4-2 and 5-4 at one stage, as Suljovic appeared poised to win his second successive European Tour event.
Yet, Van Gerwen illustrated why he is the best player in world darts, by wrapping up the final two legs in just 23 darts, to finish with a 106.77 average and clinch the 13th European Tour title of his illustrious career. Suljovic acquitted himself superbly, averaging 101.26, but he had to settle for the runner’s up cheque on this occasion.
MvG fired in a brilliant 170 score in the opening leg, but Suljovic was unphased, and converted a two-dart 81 kill for a 14-dart hold. Van Gerwen delivered an immediate response though, hitting his first maximum and pinning tops to level up proceedings.
‘The Green Machine’ secured the first break of throw in the final, kicking off the leg with five perfect darts, before hitting D16 to round off a brilliant 11-darter. Yet, Suljovic secured an instant break back, wirh a fine 84 finish for a 12-dart leg.
The fifth leg was an extremely edgy affair. Van Gerwen missed four darts to break, and Suljovic hit D14 at the sixth time of asking to edge ahead once more. In the following leg, Suljovic wired the bull for a magnificent 161 finish, but he returned to post D8 and extend his lead, after MvG missed two more darts at double to hold.
The Dutchman responded strongly however, breaking back instantly with a composed 13-darter culminating on tops, before hitting the same target in the following leg, also in 13-darts, to restore parity at four apiece.
Nevertheless, Suljovic halted Van Gerwen’s momentum with a commanding 14-dart hold, following up scores of 140 and 131 by pinning D9 to move within a leg of victory. However, the world number one forced a dramatic deciding leg by converting a classy 76 finish in 12 darts.
Suljovic had the advantage of throw in the decider but unlike last weekend, the luck wasn’t on his side. He was only able to muster one treble from his first three visits, and MvG fired in an astonishing leg; leaving D16 after 9 darts, before completing an 11-darter to seal the HappyBet European Darts Trophy title.
It wasn’t all plain sailing for Van Gerwen though, as he delivered a sluggish performance in his last 16 win against Simon Whitlock. ‘The Wizard’ stormed into a 3-1 advantage with MvG’s average languishing in the early 80’s, but Van Gerwen recovered and won five legs on the spin to secure a 6-3 win over the Aussie, despite averaging a modest 91.86.
Nevertheless, there was nothing sluggish about Van Gerwen’s imperious last eight victory over his compatriot Jelle Klaasen. MvG produced one of the greatest performances in European Tour history, averaging 115.13 en route to a 6-2 win. Klaasen performed superbly himself by averaging over 107, but he was unable to live with ‘The Green Machine’.
Van Gerwen faced Kim Huybrechts in the semi-finals, with the Belgian bidding to reach his second consecutive European Tour final, in what would have been a repeat of last weekend’s International Darts Open final in Riesa. ‘The Hurricane’ had edged through to the last four with narrow victories over Terry Jenkins and Gerwyn Price.
Huybrechts was once again involved in a thrilling eleventh and deciding leg, although on this occasion he didn’t prevail. He had the advantage of throw, but after Kim failed to take out 99, MvG followed up a sublime 171 by pinning D10 with his last dart in hand, to survive a major scare and progress to the final with a 97.57 average.
By comparison, Suljovic’s progress was relatively serene. He began the day by recording a magnificent victory over Ian White, who averaged 104.56 and landed six maximums. Nevertheless, this wasn’t enough for the Stoke-on-Trent star, as Suljovic averaged 103.39 and hit 75% of his doubles to reach the last eight.
In the quarter-finals, the Austrian secured his first ever ranking win against second seed Peter Wright. Snakebite, who reverted from his usual 20g darts to much heavier 28g weapons, clinched the opening leg, but Suljovic was in sensational form, reeling off six straight legs to secure a semi-final berth, with an average of over 99.
In the last four, ‘The Gentle’ faced third seed James Wade. The eight-time major winner won through to the semi’s with a fantastic deciding-leg victory over reigning champion Michael Smith, who was denied a third straight Muelheim triumph.
However, Wade was unable to add to his European Tour collection, as Suljovic produced a stunning display to reach his second European Tour final in the space of seven days. The Austrian averaged 100.8 and converted 60% of his double attempts, as he recovered from 3-1 down by winning five consecutive legs to seal a special victory.
HappyBet European Darts Trophy
Sunday September 11
Afternoon Session (1pm-5pm local time, 12pm-4pm BST)
James Wade 6-3 Andy Jenkins
Michael Smith 6-4 Robert Thornton
Ian White 3-6 Mensur Suljovic
Peter Wright 6-5 Joe Cullen
Kim Huybrechts 6-5 Terry Jenkins
Dave Chisnall 3-6 Gerwyn Price
Benito van de Pas 5-6 Jelle Klaasen
Michael van Gerwen 6-3 Simon Whitlock
Evening Session (7pm-11pm local time, 6pm-10pm BST)
James Wade 6-5 Michael Smith
Mensur Suljovic 6-1 Peter Wright
Kim Huybrechts 6-4 Gerwyn Price
Jelle Klaasen 2-6 Michael van Gerwen
James Wade 3-6 Mensur Suljovic
Kim Huybrechts 5-6 Michael van Gerwen
Michael van Gerwen 6-5 Mensur Suljovic