Michael van Gerwen fired in a spectacular 12-dart leg to edge out Michael Smith in a thrilling last-leg decider and clinch the Austrian Darts Open title on a dramatic day of action at the Multiversum Schwechat, Vienna, on Sunday evening.
Smith was going in search of his fourth European Tour title, and two of those had come by virtue of defeating Van Gerwen in the final. The St Helen’s star appeared poise to secure the hat-trick of victories over ‘The Green Machine’, until the Dutchman produced a stunning final leg to scoop the £25,000 winner’s prize.
Van Gerwen averaged 105.16, landed four maximums and converted 46% of his attempts at double to triumph, as Smith was edged out despite averaging 101.01, taking out a stunning 170 kill and boasting a checkout success rate of 56%. However, it was MvG who claimed the spoils to secure his third European Tour title of 2017- his 17th of all time.
Smith made a fine start to the final; drawing first blood with a 16-dart hold on tops, before following up his opening maximum with a 13-darter to double his tally. Nevertheless, Van Gerwen fired back instantly; dispatching a nerveless 72 kill on D4 to reduce the deficit, having posted his first maximum earlier in the leg.
The world champion then restored parity via D8 after Smith failed to take out 101, but the St Helen’s star regained the initiative after dispatching a clinical 86 finish on the bull, with MvG sat on tops. However, the Dutchman responded emphatically; following up a fine visit of 164 with a classy 87 kill for a 12-dart leveller.
Van Gerwen then appeared destined to break Smith’s throw in the seventh leg; firing in his third maximum to leave 54 after just nine darts. Nevertheless, ‘Mighty Mike’ spurned two darts at tops to break throw and Smith ruthlessly punished this error; converting a sensational 170 outshot to send the Austrian crowd wild.
Despite this, the Dutchman bounced back superbly. He squared up the tie at four apiece with a 14-darter, before moving to the cusp of victory with a 13-darter via D18, after Smith had missed tops for a 117 finish. However, with Van Gerwen seemingly closing on in the title, ‘Bully-Boy’ landed a nerveless 70 kill to break back and force a decider.
The St Helen’s star had the advantage of throw in the decider, but ‘Mighty Mike’ illustrated exactly why he’s the world number one. Smith left 68 after just 12 darts, but wasn’t afforded an opportunity. Van Gerwen posted successive 140’s to leave 100 after 9 darts; subsequently nailing tops to clinch the title with a majestic 12-dart leg.
Earlier in the afternoon, Van Gerwen had sealed his spot in the last eight with a comfortable victory over his compatriot Vincent van der Meer. ‘The Green Machine’ averaged 96.31, landed two maximums and converted 40% of his attempts at double to close out a 6-3 triumph.
Nevertheless, Mighty Mike upped the ante considerably on Sunday evening, dropping just a further two legs en route to the final. Van Gerwen thrashed German World Cup star Martin Schindler in the opening quarter-final; averaging 101.13 and boasting an impressive 43% checkout success rate.
In the last four, the world number one faced Cristo Reyes- who performed excellently to reach his second straight European Tour semi-final. However, the Spaniard was helpless against a rampant MvG, who piled in three 180’s, converted 60% of his double attempts and averaged an astonishing 115.57 average to storm into the final with a 6-1 win.
However, Smith’s progress to the final wasn’t quite as serene. He booked his spot in the last eight with a narrow 6-4 victory over Jelle Klaasen in the afternoon session. Klaasen, who whitewashed Rob Cross in round-two, registered five maximums against ‘Bully-Boy’, who prevailed with an 89.04 average and four 180’s.
This set up a quarter-final clash against Mervyn King, who had boasted a 71% checkout success rate coming into this contest. Nevertheless, the St Helen’s star was in rampant mood; averaging 98.74, crashing in four maximums, taking out a classy 126 kill on the bull and agonisingly wiring D12 for a nine-dart finish.
The former World-Youth champion then took on Joe Cullen for a place in the final. Cullen had averaged 107.45 to defeat Kim Huybrechts on Sunday afternoon, before dispatching nerveless 126 and 160 finishes to overcome Kim Viljanen in the last eight, after Viljanen had taken out 111 and 151 checkouts himself.
Nevertheless, ‘The Rockstar’ was unable to replicate those showings against Smith, as he was denied a place in his maiden European Tour final. There was a significant disparity in the averages, as Smith triumphed 6-4 with a 97.88 average and four 180’s, as Cullen departed Vienna with a miserly 79.67 average.
Photo Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC
Sunday June 25
Afternoon Session (1pm-5pm local time, 12pm-4pm BST)
Michael van Gerwen 6-3 Vincent van der Meer
Martin Schindler 6-4 Jamie Bain
Daryl Gurney 6-3 Benito van de Pas
Cristo Reyes 6-5 Simon Whitlock
Kim Viljanen 6-2 Chris Dobey
Joe Cullen 6-3 Kim Huybrechts
Michael Smith 6-4 Jelle Klaasen
Mervyn King 6-4 Mensur Suljovic
Evening Session (7pm-11pm local time, 6pm-10pm BST)
Michael van Gerwen 6-1 Martin Schindler
Cristo Reyes 6-3 Daryl Gurney
Joe Cullen 6-4 Kim Viljanen
Michael Smith 6-3 Mervyn King
Michael van Gerwen 6-1 Cristo Reyes
Michael Smith 6-4 Joe Cullen
Michael van Gerwen 6-5 Michael Smith