Michael van Gerwen produced arguably the greatest performance in the history of professional darts as he defeated his compatriot Raymond van Barneveld in an astonishing tussle, to set up a final with reigning world champion Gary Anderson on a thrilling night of semi-final action at the Alexandra Palace on Sunday evening.
Van Gerwen recorded the highest average in the history of the PDC World Championship to defeat Raymond van Barneveld 6-2 to remain on course for his second world title. Van Gerwen was simply mesmeric; averaging 114.05, landing fifteen maximums and converting 51% of his doubles to truimph.
Nevertheless, it takes two players to produce a titanic tussle and Van Barneveld illustrated why he’s a five-time world champ with a magnificent display. Barney averaged 109.34, fired in fourteen maximums, produced four ton-plus finishes and hit 68% of his doubles, but he was beaten with the highest losing average in World Championship history.
Van Barneveld made a sensational start to the contest to win the opening set without reply. MvG missed a dart to break in the opening leg and Barney pounced with a vital 107 kill. The five-time world champion then doubled his tally with a classy 131 finish for a 12-dart break, before wrapping up the set with a two-dart 96 checkout.
The second was majestic. Van Gerwen drew first blood with a 124 kill, before Barney followed up successive maximums with an 11-darter. Van Barneveld then converted a stunning 160 finish to break, but MvG stayed alive in the set with a 114 checkout with RvB sat on D12 for the set.
The set decider was equally as eventful. Barney fired in a superb 177 to leave D12 after just 12 darts for the second straight leg, but once again he wasn’t afforded a shot as the world number one sank tops for a 13-darter to level up proceedings at one set apiece.
The 49-year-old Den Haag ace hit his sixth maximum en route to drawing first blood in set three, but Van Gerwen fought back to record successive 13-darters and seize the initiative, which he cemented by pinning D8 to establish a 2-1 lead in sets.
Van Barneveld responded tremendously in set four however. He registered six perfect darts before breaking in 11 darts, and he followed this up with an effortless 127 kill to round-off a 12-dart leg. MvG stayed alive in the set by pegging tops for a 13-darter, but Barney held his nerve to hit D10 for a 13-darter of his own to level up at 2-2.
The five-time world champion kicked off set five with his twelfth maximum to complete a magical 11-dart leg, but Van Gerwen stormed back to clinch the set, firing in successive 11-darters himself before pinning D10 with Barney poised on D18.
Van Gerwen hit the front in set six after pegging D5 with his last dart in hand, but Barney fired back with a comfortable 15-dart hold. However, ‘The Green Machine’ was in merciless form, regaining the lead with a 66 finish for a 12-darter with RvB sat on 48, before extending his cushion to 4-2 with another 11-dart leg.
MvG landed his eleventh maximum and took out 82 for another 11-darter to kick off set seven, before doubling his tally on D18. Van Barneveld continued to battle and stayed afloat by hitting the same target for a 13-darter, but Van Gerwen was simply unstoppable and fired in his 13th 180 before taking out 68 to move one set away from victory.
Van Gerwen came agonisingly close to pinning the first nine-darter of the tournament in the first leg of set eight. MvG hit eight perfect darts before wiring D12, but he returned to peg D6 in the following visit.
Barney drew level with a clinical 84 kill on the bullseye, but MvG regained the lead on tops before rounding off a simply astonishing triumph with a 90 finish, which culminated with successive D18s.
Van Gerwen was understandably elated with his spellbinding performance. “I think this is a phenomenal performance from myself but Raymond made me play. You have to play your A game if you want to win this. “Everything is possible for me but everyone knows I only have one goal.”
Elsewhere, Gary Anderson secured a place in his third successive World Championship final with a hard-fought 6-3 victory over his fellow Scot Peter Wright. The world champion led from the outset and recorded victory with a 103.45 average, fifteen maximums and 35% on the doubles, as Wright lost eight legs in succession having levelled up at 3-3.
Anderson stormed to the opening set without reply after an edgy start from Snakebite. Wright kicked off proceedings with a maximum but squandered six darts at double in the very first leg, before later missing one dart at D16 in leg three as Anderson sealed the opener on D4 with a 100.2 set average.
Wright’s double-trouble continued after the break. He missed darts for 125 and 127 finishes as Anderson punished with 62 and 127 checkouts. Snakebite drew level with a 12-darter followed by a 13-dart leg, but the world champion responded with a sublime 12-dart hold to double his lead, despite Wright averaging 116 in set two.
Anderson continued his dominant start to break throw with a clinical 62 kill. However, the defending champion then spurned four darts to extend his cushion and Wright took advantage to level on tops. This proved decisive, as Snakebite converted a 64 outshot to hold, before wrapping up the third set with a majestic 10-dart leg.
Wright was scoring magnificently but spurned three darts to break in the early stages of set four. The next two legs saw the pair exchange 118 checkouts, before Wright forced a set decider with a fine 116 kill. Nevertheless, Ando held his nerve once more to re-establish a two set lead after following up back-to-back maximums with a 12-dart hold.
Anderson seized command of set five with 62 and 79 finishes, but after missing two set darts for a 4-1 lead, he was ruthlessly punished by his compatriot. Wright stayed afloat on D8, before converting a two-dart 80 kill to level. Ando then wired the bullseye in the set decider, as Snakebite nailed a pivotal 90 finish to reduce the arrears to 3-2.
The opening two legs of set six were shared, before Anderson regained the lead with an assertive 12-dart hold. Wright delivered an impressive riposte however, converting a 13-darter to level the set, before restoring parity at three apiece on D12 after Anderson spurned two set darts on D4.
The contest was becoming increasingly tense and both men were struggling to hold their throw. The first three legs of the seventh set all went against the darts as Wright was unable to secure the lead for the first time. Yet Snakebite appeared poised to seal another break until Anderson fired in an inspired 157 checkout to clinch a 4-3 lead.
This gave ‘The Flying Scotsman’ a real boost, as he flew out of the traps after the interval. He kicked off set eight with an 11-dart hold, before following up five perfect darts with a classy 12-dart break of throw. Wright had the chance to prolong the set but failed to take out 75, which Anderson duly punished by pinning D8.
Anderson’s dominance continued in the following set, as he secured his sixth successive leg with a magnificent 121 finish. The two-time world champion then moved to within a leg of victory on tops and after Wright squandered three darts to prolong the drama, the second seed wrapped up victory on D10.
Anderson admits Van Gerwen ‘deserves’ the title, but he’s adamant he won’t relinquish it without a fight. “To win it twice, I’m very proud. I feel comfy up here for some strange reason. I’m just glad to get over the winning line. If somebody deserves to win it it’s probably Michael but unfortunately for him, I’m still going.”
Photo Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC
William Hill World Darts Championship
Sunday January 1 (7pm)
Gary Anderson (2) 6-3 Peter Wright (3)
Michael van Gerwen (1) 6-2 Raymond van Barneveld (12)