Michael van Gerwen clinched his third successive Grand Slam of Darts title with a dramatic 16-12 victory over Peter Wright at the Wolverhampton Civic Hall on Sunday evening.
It was a captivating clash between the world’s top two, but ‘The Green Machine’ won six of the final eight legs to prevail with a 102.18 average, seven maximums and a 52% checkout conversion rate.
Wright battled valiantly in his maiden Grand Slam final; averaging 97.71, crashing in six maximums and converting 48% of his attempts at a double, but he was unable to add to his UK Open title as he was once again edged out in a major final by the imperious MvG.
The pair exchanged holds in the opening two legs, before Wright fired in a classy 120 checkout for a 12-dart hold. However, Van Gerwen responded by following up a 177 with D5, before a dramatic fifth leg ensued.
MvG kicked off the leg with five perfect darts, but Wright almost stole the leg; wiring D18 for a 150 outshot. Nevertheless, Van Gerwen returned to dispatch a 63 finish to claim the first break. Both players then exchanged 14-dart breaks, until ‘Snakebite’ piled in his first maximum and found tops for a 13-darter and a fourth consecutive break.
Wright then took out 76 for the second time in the contest to retake the lead, but Van Gerwen delivered an emphatic riposte; dispatching a two-dart 100 checkout for an 11-darter to head into the interval locked at five apiece.
‘Mighty Mike’ was beginning to dominate on his own throw; reeling off 13 and 12-dart legs with the darts, but ‘Snakebite’ held firm; pegging D2 to lead 8-7 after the Dutchman had followed up his fourth maximum by missing D13 for a 146 outshot.
Van Gerwen levelled up proceedings via D18, before the pair traded impressive ton-plus finishes. Wright took out a spectacular 156 checkout for an emphatic hold, but the world number one responded with a fine 114 finish after Wright had posted his third maximum.
Van Gerwen then threatened a break of throw himself by leaving 36 after just 12 darts, but Wright conjured up an inspired 149 finish for a precious hold, before ‘Mighty Mike’ closed out a tidy 13-darter to head into the final interval with the scores all square at 10-10.
Nevertheless, with the final essentially now a best of 11 contest, Van Gerwen came into his own. He dispatched a two-dart 68 combination to break after Wright had spurned two darts at D16, before piling in a majestic 146 outshot to establish a 12-10 cushion.
‘The Green Machine’ then took out an effortless 100 outshot for a scintillating 11-dart hold, until Wright halted the Dutchman’s charge with a 13-dart leg culminating on tops.
This didn’t subdue MvG, as he followed up his sixth maximum with a 13-darter to restore his three-leg buffer.
However, Wright continued to battle and landed a brace of maximums before hitting D1 to preserve his hopes. The world number two then had the throw to reduce the arrears to 14-13, but he was unable to produce his second heroic fightback of the day.
MvG found tops for a fourth straight break to move to within a leg of victory, which he duly sealed after following up a fine 177 by pegging D16 to complete a 15-darter and confirm his Grand Slam hat-trick.
In his post-match interview, Van Gerwen reflected: “It was a final and there was pressure on us. You want to perform at as high a level as possible and I think I had a fantastic tournament.
“After ten-ten I had a little turbo, but maybe we were trying too hard and we didn’t want to lose to each other. Sooner or later Peter will stop me in a final but I’m over the moon that I won.
“I feel great and winning a tournament like this is always nice, good for your confidence and I think I also deserved it with the way I played, the average I threw, the 180s and the good scores,” the Dutchman added.
Earlier in the day, Van Gerwen had stormed into his third consecutive Grand Slam final with a comprehensive 16-8 victory over six-time winner Phil Taylor. The 16-time world champion had won six of the pair’s last eight meetings, but ‘The Green Machine’ produced a dominant display and boasted a stunning average of 106.87.
The first six legs all went with throw, but Van Gerwen won four consecutive legs to establish a 6-3 cushion. The world number one also fired in a stunning 164 outshot on the bullseye to move 9-6 ahead and’The Power’ was unable to replicate the performance he produced in his quarter-final clash against Daryl Gurney.
Van Gerwen’s ruthless combination finishing also proved decisive, but the turning point came in the twentieth leg. Taylor missed an opportunity to reduce the arrears to 11-9 and ‘Mighty Mike’ pounced; reeling off five consecutive legs from this point onwards to end Taylor’s hopes of enjoying a fairy-tale Wolverhampton farewell.
On the other side of the draw, Wright sealed his place in the final with a sensational comeback victory over his fellow countryman Gary Anderson. ‘Snakebite’ trailed 13-7 at one stage, but a change of darts at the interval inspired the UK Open champion, who produced a stunning late surge to shock the two-time world champion.
Wright won five of the next six legs to reduce the arrears to 14-12, before landing a 12-darter to cut the gap to the solitary leg. Anderson then pegged D5 to move to within a leg of victory after Wright wired one dart at tops to level the tie, but the drama continued.
‘Snakebite’ produced an 11-darter to preserve his hopes at 15-14, before Anderson wired one match dart at D7, which allowed Wright to land another 11-dart leg to send the match into a decider. The colourful Scot had the advantage of throw which paid dividends, as he produced a clinical 64 kill to triumph with a 100.69 average.