Mensur Suljovic defeated Dimitri van den Bergh 8-2 to clinch German Darts Masters glory in front of a record-breaking 20,000 fans at the Veltins Arena in Gelsenkirchen on Friday evening.
The world number six claimed the second televised title of his career in the opening World Series event of the season, dropping just thirteen legs across his four matches to secure the £20,000 winner’s prize.
Both Suljovic and Van den Bergh had battled through the 16-player field to reach the final on a marathon day of darting drama in front of a world record crowd, but the Belgian was unable to follow up stunning victories over Michael van Gerwen and Gary Anderson by sealing his first senior PDC title.
The Champions League of Darts winner improved round-by-round and saved his best until last; averaging 101.63, crashing in five maximums and converting 62% of his attempts at a double to prevail. This win also confirms Suljovic’s spot at the season-ending World Series Finals, which will be hosted on his home soil in Vienna.
Suljovic made a blistering start to the contest; firing in an early maximum and taking out 109 for a comfortable hold. The Austrian then doubled his lead with a two-dart 100 kill after Van den Bergh missed two darts at double, but the Belgian broke back instantly on D4, after Suljovic wired D10 for a 137 outshot.
Nevertheless, ‘The Gentle’ was in clinical mood; regaining his two-leg buffer with a tidy 80 checkout, before stretching his lead to 4-1 after following up his third maximum with a 13-dart hold via D16. The Premier League debutant then crashed in his fourth 180 and completed an effortless 81 finish for an 11-darter to continue the procession.
Suljovic almost completed his third ton-plus checkout of the contest by wiring tops for a 111 finish, which enabled the Belgian to reduce the deficit to 5-2 via D16. However, Van den Bergh had failed to hold throw throughout and this pattern continued in the eighth leg, as Suljovic posted his fifth maximum en route to his second 11-darter of the final.
The interval didn’t hamper the Austrian’s momentum as he found D8 to move to the brink of victory at 7-2 and although Van den Bergh continued to battle, he had nothing left in the tank. By comparison Suljovic looked a man at total ease and he completed a clinical 76 finish; fittingly on his favoured D14- to secure his second televised title.
‘The Gentle’ reflected: “It’s a great feeling for me and I’m really happy. Dimitri is a brilliant player and it was a long day, but I did well. The crowd was brilliant and to win this tournament makes me so happy. People have been playing really well against me recently but I had a good feeling and it was a great day.”
Suljovic had begun Friday’s action with a routine 6-2 victory over host-nation qualifier Robert Marijanovic. ‘The Gentle’ opened up an early 2-0 lead, only for Marijanovic to level. However, the Austrian then rattled off four consecutive legs in 14, 13, 14 and 15 darts to round-off a convincing win with a 96.59 average and five maximums.
This set up a quarter-final clash against world champion Rob Cross, who laboured to victory against Stefan Stoyke in round-one. Cross and Suljovic met in the last eight of January’s Unibet Masters- with Suljovic edging to victory, and history repeated itself in Gelsenkirchen.
Suljovic outscored ‘Voltage’ for much of the contest but was almost punished for missing 20 darts at a double. Cross broke throw in the opening leg but didn’t lead again until he established a 7-6 lead, but the Austrian forced a decider with a 13-dart break of throw, before converting a nerveless 83 kill on D16 to seal his semi-final spot.
In the last four, the Champions League of Darts winner took on defending champion Peter Wright, who survived a scare in his quarter-final tussle against Raymond van Barneveld, who whitewashed Manfred Bilderl in the tournament’s curtain-raiser.
‘Snakebite’ took out finishes of 130 and 156 to storm into a 5-1 lead against Barney, but the five-time world champion won six of the next eight legs to force a decider, in which the Dutchman had the throw. Nevertheless, Wright conjured up a sublime 12-dart break to fend off the fightback and triumph with a 102.66 average.
Despite this, the world number two was unable to replicate that type of display against Suljovic. Mensur thrashed Wright 7-1 in this season’s Premier League and he recorded another comprehensive victory against the beleaguered Scot; averaging 99.71 and dispatching 67% of his attempts at double to secure a place in his third televised final.
In the top half of the draw, Van den Bergh produced some extraordinary darts to reach the final on his World Series debut. He kicked off his campaign with a magnificent whitewash win over Martin Schindler; averaging 109.98, firing in three maximums and converting 67% of his attempts at double to secure his place in the last eight.
‘The Dream-Maker’ then produced a clinical display to sensationally thrash world number one Michael van Gerwen 8-3 in the quarter-finals. Van Gerwen averaged 98.72 to Van den Bergh’s 94.35, but the Belgian’s timing was exemplary as he secured his first win over ‘Mighty Mike’ at the fifth attempt.
The opening four legs went with throw, before Van den Bergh reeled off three straight legs in 15, 16 and 14 darts to establish a 5-2 cushion. MvG stopped the rot with a majestic 12-darter, but ‘Dancing Dimitri’ was unflappable; winning the final three legs without reply to inflict Van Gerwen’s heaviest defeat of the season.
In the last four, the World Youth champion faced two-time world champion Gary Anderson, who eased past Gabriel Clemens 6-2 before edging out Jamie Lewis to reach the last four. However, ‘The Flying Scotsman’ relinquished a commanding advantage against Van den Bergh in a topsy-turvy semi-final tussle.
Anderson led from the outset, establishing 4-2 and 5-3 cushions. Van den Bergh displayed impressive resolve and restored parity at five apiece, but Anderson then completed 13 and 14-dart breaks of throw to lead 7-6, before firing in his third maximum to leave D4 and close in on victory.
Nevertheless, the Belgian conjured up an inspired 124 checkout (T20, T14, D11) to break throw and force a decider, in which he had the advantage of throw. Van den Bergh showed no signs of nerves; kicking off with his fifth maximum and sealing victory inside 11 darts, to triumph with a 92.47 average and a 53% checkout conversion rate.
Although it wasn’t to be for the 23-year-old in the final, it was another demonstration of his ability and temperament on the big stage. To claim the scalps of Van Gerwen and Anderson on the same day illustrates his class and poise, and it’s surely only a matter of time before he secures his maiden senior PDC title.
Photo Credit: PDC
2018 German Darts Masters
3pm Local Time
Raymond van Barneveld 6-0 Manfred Bilderl
Jamie Lewis 6-5 Nico Kurz
Mensur Suljovic 6-2 Robert Marijanovic
Gary Anderson 6-2 Gabriel Clemens
5.30pm Local time
Dimitri Van den Bergh 6-0 Martin Schindler
Michael van Gerwen 6-4 Max Hopp
Peter Wright 6-1 Dragutin Horvat
Rob Cross 6-4 Stefan Stoyke
8pm Local Time
Gary Anderson 8-6 Jamie Lewis
Dimitri Van den Bergh 8-3 Michael van Gerwen
Peter Wright 8-7 Raymond van Barneveld
Mensur Suljovic 8-7 Rob Cross
Dimitri Van den Bergh 8-7 Gary Anderson
Mensur Suljovic 8-2 Peter Wright
Mensur Suljovic 8-2 Dimitri van den Bergh