Michael van Gerwen continued his magnificent run of form to secure a third successive Players Championship Finals title with an emphatic 11-2 victory over Jonny Clayton in Minehead on Sunday evening.
‘The Green Machine’ has won the European Championship, World Series of Darts Finals and Grand Slam of Darts titles since suffering a shock exit to John Henderson at the World Grand Prix, and MvG extended his unbeaten streak to 28 matches as he scooped the £100,000 title in comprehensive style.
Clayton was appearing in his maiden televised final and acquitted himself admirably, but Van Gerwen made a blistering start and the Welshman was never able to recover. The Dutchman averaged 105.50, piled in five maximums and converted 48% of his darts at a double to secure his fourth Players Championship Finals crown.
MvG drew first blood after following up a brace of maximums by pinning D16, before doubling his tally with a 13-darter on tops. Van Gerwen then claimed his third straight leg with a 15-dart hold via D8, before pegging the same target for yet another 15-darter, having wired the bull for a 170 in the preceding visit.
‘The Ferret’ then spurned three darts at double to open his account as Van Gerwen moved 5-0 ahead with a clinical two-dart 100 combination, but Clayton opened his account on D10 moments later.
Van Gerwen restored his five leg lead on D8, but the Welshman fired in a stylish 116 checkout to double his tally. However, he then squandered two darts at double to reduce the arrears to 6-3 and MvG pounced; hitting D1 to salvage a hold of throw, before effortlessly dispatching a 63 kill to continue the procession.
The world champion then polished off a 64 outshot to stretch his lead to 9-2, before posting a tidy 13-darter via D12 to move to within a leg of victory. Clayton continued to battle but he was unable to deny an imperious Van Gerwen; who landed D5 to retain his title and extend his extraordinary winning sequence on ITV4 to 72 matches!
Van Gerwen reflected: “It’s been a phenomenal weekend. It was a great tournament, I think I played really well and I had to perform against new players round by round, so I had to keep my focus.
“Jonny did great to reach the final. It’s a big step for him because he wasn’t in the top 32, so it’s a massive step for his career. Fair play to him, he did really well but I’m glad I won the final.
“After not being here for the UK Open [in March] I’m really glad to be back here with this trophy. I’ve won the last four TV tournaments so this is great for my confidence going into the World Championship – but I’ll enjoy this title first.”
Nevertheless, it wasn’t all plain-sailing for ‘Mighty Mike’, as earlier in the day he came through a hard-fought quarter-final clash against his fellow countryman Jan Dekker. Van Gerwen made a blistering start; storming into a 4-1 lead with an incredible 121 average.
Yet Dekker responded superbly; landing five maximums and dispatching 50% of his attempts at double to restore parity at seven apiece. However, Van Gerwen won the next three legs to triumph with a 105.08 average, TEN maximums and a 38% checkout conversion rate.
The world number one then produced a vintage display to demolish Justin Pipe and seal his place in the final. ‘The Force’ started strongly; registering successive 12-darters on his own throw as the opening four legs were shared, but Van Gerwen then ran riot.
‘The Green Machine’ won nine of the remaining ten legs to prevail 11-3 with a 103.72 average, four maximums and a 44% checkout success rate, as Pipe was brushed aside despite piling in seven maximums. However, it was a positive weekend for the Taunton ace, who was appearing in his third semi-final in six years at this event.
On the other side of the draw, Clayton, appearing in his maiden TV ranking quarter-final, kicked off the day with an impressive comeback victory over Steve Beaton. ‘The Bronzed Adonis’ led 7-4 at one stage and spurned darts at double for an 8-4 advantage, as Clayton won six of the remaining seven legs to triumph with a 91.86 average.
This set up a semi-final showdown against top seed Rob Cross, who followed up his victory over Adrian Lewis by beating another established star in the shape of James Wade to seal his spot in the last four. ‘Voltage’ stormed into an early 3-0 lead but ‘The Ferret’ fought back valiantly to cause a major upset.
Cross displayed uncharacteristic frailty in the finishing department, converting just eight of his 31 attempts at double, and the Welshman took full advantage. He averaged 95.48, landed four maximums and dispatched 32% of his attempts at double, as he reeled off four straight legs from 8-7 behind to clinch the biggest pay-day of his career.
Elsewhere in Minehead, Belgian hotshot Dimitri van den Bergh won the World-Youth Championship title with a high-quality 6-3 win over Josh Payne. ‘The Dream-Maker’ was brilliant; averaging 101.23, posting 14 scores of 140+ and converting 60% of his darts at double to clinch glory, including an eye-catching 146 checkout.
Payne acquitted himself very well; averaging 92.11, piling in two maximums and dispatching finishes of 84 and 108, but he was unable to deny an inspired Van den Bergh- who recorded the highest average in the final of any World-Youth Championship.
Photo Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC
Mr Green Sport Players Championship Finals
Sunday November 26
Rob Cross 10-6 James Wade
Jonny Clayton 10-8 Steve Beaton
Justin Pipe 10-9 Daryl Gurney
Michael van Gerwen 10-7 Jan Dekker
Best of 19 legs
Jonny Clayton 11-8 Rob Cross
Michael van Gerwen 11-3 Justin Pipe
Best of 21 legs
PDC Unicorn World Youth Championship Final
Dimitri Van den Bergh 6-3 Josh Payne
Best of 11 legs
Mr Green Sport Players Championship Final
Michael van Gerwen 11-2 Jonny Clayton
Best of 21 legs