Michael van Gerwen admits that he felt ‘sick’ after losing out to Rob Cross in an epic sudden-death leg in the semi-finals of the World Darts Championship at the Alexandra Palace on Saturday evening.
‘The Green Machine’ squandered six match darts as he lost out to debutant Cross in one of the greatest matches in darting history. The world number one averaged 102.44 but was left to rue an incredible 58 missed darts at double, as Cross produced the performance of his career to stun the defending champion.
In a 54-leg classic containing 31 maximums, Cross triumphed with a 100.97 average, fifteen maximums and a 38% checkout success rate, as Van Gerwen’s hopes of winning a third world title were dashed in dramatic fashion. Nevertheless, ‘The Green Machine’ believes that despite his doubling profligacy, he deserved to win the match.
Speaking to Dutch darts station RTL7 after the gruelling tussle, the Dutchman reflected: “Of course he’s a great winner. But I think I deserved to win this match to be quite honest. I had six match darts and normally I don’t miss that many. I’m sick of it. But those three missed darts on D8 and two on D4 were killing me.
“You know what it is. I think we both have been playing a very good match. It was very difficult to break each other. I said to myself ‘wait till you get a chance to break him an get on’. But I couldn’t do that. I was annoyed of that and had to follow him. At the end a few times I thought I had him but then I missed six match darts. That shouldn’t be happening.”
It’s an astonishing story for Cross, who only turned professional in January. However, he claimed four Players Championship titles on the Pro Tour circuit, reached his first TV final in October’s European Championship and now he’s bidding to become the first player since Raymond van Barneveld in 2007 to win the PDC world title on debut.
‘Voltage’ survived two match darts in a thrilling second-round tie against Michael Smith, before fending off an inspired fightback from Dimitri van den Bergh in the quarter-finals. He’s now survived eight match darts in total after Van Gerwen’s misses, and the world number one believes the stars have aligned for the former electrician.
“I think this is just his year. He had the luck going for him. It’s that simple. Those doubles were so close on the wire. I’m sick about that. Normally that doesn’t happen to me and I’m the only one to blame for it. My scoring was good at the right moment but my doubles let me down. I can only blame myself for that.
“He played really well, all credits to him. But I should have won this. Again. I can only blame myself and nobody else. I don’t like saying it was because of the crowd or other things. I missed those doubles and it was my fault.”
This victory for Cross sees him rise to world number six, as he prepares to face the departing Phil Taylor in the final on New Year’s Day. ‘The Power’ is bidding to write his own fairy-tale by claiming a 17th World Championship crown in his final competitive match, but victory for Cross would catapult him up to third on the PDC Order of Merit.
Nevertheless, for Van Gerwen, it’s a bitterly disappointing end to another very successful year. Since losing in the first-round of the World Grand Prix to John Henderson back in October, Van Gerwen won the European Championship, World Series Finals, Grand Slam and Players Championship Finals titles- an incredible winning-run of 33 matches.
However, this defeat means that Van Gerwen is still yet to retain a title in the set-play format and he admits it is tough to swallow. “I hate losing, especially on this tournament. I think I was better than Rob but on the important moments I could bring something extra. But missing these doubles was extremely painful. There was nothing I could do about it.”
Photo Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC