Michael van Gerwen and Gary Anderson will collide in a mouthwatering semi-final at the William Hill World Darts Championship on Sunday evening, but ‘The Green Machine’ believes his mental strength gives him the edge.
The pair have won four of the last five World Championship titles between them and this is the fourth time they’ve met at the Alexandra Palace in just six years. Their last World Championship encounter saw a record 42 maximums hit in an incredible 2017 final, with Van Gerwen running out a 7-3 winner with a 108.06 average.
Van Gerwen has won 19 titles in another trophy-laden season, but he’s only scooped three television titles- the Masters, Premier League and World Grand Prix, which marks his lowest return since 2014.
Anderson has enjoyed one of the best years of his career, winning maiden titles at the UK Open, World Matchplay and Champions League of Darts, whilst he also finished as runner-up in a controversial Grand Slam of Darts Final.
The Scot’s Matchplay triumph saw him achieve the much coveted ‘triple crown’, becoming just the third player behind Phil Taylor and Van Gerwen to have won the World Championship, Premier League and World Matchplay.
However, when asked how the semi-final could be decided, MvG said: “The mental aspect. I think mentally I’m stronger than him, and he knows most of the time on the really important moments in the last few years, I’m ahead of him. I won more games than him when I had to and I hope I can use that tomorrow as well.”
The Dutchman eased into the semi-finals with an emphatic 5-1 victory over Ryan Joyce, averaging 101.12- his 17th consecutive ton-plus average at the World Championship. “I think I played well overall tonight, but I had a terrible spell because I put too much pressure on myself,” said Van Gerwen.
“I wanted to show everyone what I can do and I dipped down a bit but I can’t really complain with a 5-1 win. Tomorrow night I will be expecting something special from myself, I can’t let myself down and I need to make sure I’m sharp.”
MvG will face a stern test against fellow two-time world champion Anderson, in arguably the biggest rivalry in world darts at present. ‘The Flying Scotsman’ came through two gruelling seven-set epics against Jermaine Wattimena and Chris Dobey to reach the quarter-finals; surviving one match dart against Wattimena.
Nevertheless, Anderson produced a majestic display to dispatch Dave Chisnall, who had won 11 consecutive sets at the tournament heading into this match. The fourth seed won six of the opening seven legs to establish a two-set lead with a 109 average, before defying 121 and 112 checkouts from ‘Chizzy’ to extend his lead to 3-0.
Chisnall recovered from 2-0 down in the fourth to reduce the arrears to 3-1, but finishes of 115 and 130 from Anderson saw him restore his three-set advantage. The St Helen’s star won set six in a decider, but any hopes of a comeback were thwarted by Anderson, who ended the contest with a 171 followed by a 48 finish to seal a 5-2 win.
“Dave always gives you a tough game so I’m glad to make it through, and the 180’s are back which is pleasing,” said Anderson. “My back was still a bit sore, so it was good that I could get the job done in fairly quick time and now I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”
In the bottom half of the draw, Premier League finalist Michael Smith is through to his first World Championship semi-final, after recording a brilliant 5-1 win over Rob Cross’ conqueror Luke Humphries. ‘Bully Boy’ averaged 103, crashed in eight maximums and fired in back-to-back 11-darters in the sixth set to advance through to the final four.
“My dream is another step closer to reality now, I’m pleased with my scoring but not my doubles-hitting,” said Smith. “The way I was two or three years ago that game probably would’ve turned out differently but I’m a different player now and I put my foot down when I need to.”
Smith now takes on former World Youth finalist Nathan Aspinall for a place in the final on New Year’s Day, after ‘The Asp’ continued his dream Alexandra Palace debut. Like Smith, Aspinall confirmed his semi-final spot with a thumping 5-1 victory in the last eight, easing past Brendan Dolan on Saturday afternoon.
Aspinall had already accounted for Gerwyn Price, Kyle Anderson and Devon Petersen to reach this stage, and he rose to the occasion on the biggest day of his career. The 27-year-old averaged 99.72, posted five maximums and converted 41% of his attempts at double, to guarantee himself £100,000 in prize money and move into the world’s top 40.
“It feels unreal, this is a life-changing win for me and my family,” said Aspinall. “I felt really relaxed and I enjoyed it up there today, it’s probably the most calm and confident I’ve felt up there even though that was the biggest game of my life. The dream isn’t over yet, I feel there’s more to come from me and I can’t wait to play my semi-final.”
Photo Credit: Chris Dean/PDC
2018/2019 William Hill World Darts Championship
Schedule of Play
Saturday December 29
Afternoon Session (1230)
Nathan Aspinall 5-1 Brendan Dolan
Gary Anderson 5-2 Dave Chisnall
Evening Session (1900)
Michael Smith 5-1 Luke Humphries
Michael van Gerwen 5-1 Ryan Joyce
Sunday December 30 (1900)
Michael Smith v Nathan Aspinall
Michael van Gerwen v Gary Anderson
Tuesday January 1 (2000)
Van Gerwen/Anderson v Smith/Aspinall