Michael van Gerwen landed a magical nine-dart finish en route to winning the first European Tour title of 2019, defeating Rob Cross 8-6 in a captivating European Darts Open final in Leverkusen on Sunday evening.
There were 48 players in action at the Ostermann Arena across the weekend, with an increased £140,000 prize fund on offer, but Van Gerwen retained his crown in a thrilling final contested between the world’s top two.
Cross averaged over 100 in all five of his matches throughout the tournament but it wasn’t enough to scoop the title, as Van Gerwen triumphed with a 104.79 average, three maximums and a 62% checkout success rate.
The pair made a rip-roaring start, as Van Gerwen conjured up an inspired 170 finish to hold throw, with Cross poised on 47 after just nine darts. The Dutchman doubled his lead with a 14-dart hold, but Cross replied with a clinical 95 kill on the bull and a 12-dart hold via double 10 to restore parity at two apiece.
Van Gerwen regained the initiative by following up a 174 set-up shot with a 13-dart hold, but Cross responded with a majestic 10-dart hold via double eight, before closing out a 14-dart break on double 16, after MvG wired the bull for a 124 outshot.
Despite this, the 2018 world champion squandered one dart at tops for a 5-3 lead which saw ‘Mighty Mike’ draw level on double four, and the pair then exchanged holds as the high-quality tussle continued.
The advantage of throw was proving decisive for the three-time world champion and he followed up his third maximum with a two-dart 82 combination for an 11-dart hold, but Cross continued to fight back and sank double 16 for a 14-dart hold to level at six apiece.
The contest suddenly became a best of three legs tussle, but Van Gerwen delivered in the closing stages to seal his 29th European Tour title. He defied a fifth maximum from Cross to move to the brink of victory inside 13 darts, before converting a nerveless 78 finish on double 12 to prevail, after Cross had spurned two darts at double to force a decider.
Van Gerwen had won just one of his last four Premier League fixtures and suffered a shock early exit at the UK Open, but he silenced the critics in sensational style, producing a series of emphatic displays and landing a magical nine-dart finish en route to the title.
MvG kicked off Sunday’s proceedings with a whitewash win over Jermaine Wattimena. ‘The Green Machine’ averaged 101.33 and converted 75% of his attempts at double to defeat his fellow countryman in a nine-minute demolition.
The world number one then faced Grand Slam of Darts champion Gerwyn Price for a place in the last four, but Van Gerwen had to survive a match dart in order to maintain his 100% record against the Welshman.
The Dutchman produced 127 and 132 finishes to lead 3-1, but Price won four of the next five legs to seize the initiative. Nevertheless, after Van Gerwen levelled the contest with a 13-dart leg, Price spurned one match dart as MvG prevailed with a nerveless 118 kill in the decider to clinch his 15th straight win over ‘The Iceman’.
This set up a semi-final showdown against Mensur Suljovic, who reeled off six straight legs from 2-0 down to defeat nine-time major winner James Wade in the last eight. Suljovic also led Van Gerwen 4-2, but the world champion produced an astonishing nine-dart leg in leg eight, taking out a 147 checkout (T19, Bull, D20) to register his 21st career nine-darter.
‘The Green Machine’ then fired in back-to-back 15 dart legs to move 6-4 ahead and although Suljovic responded, the 29-year-old sealed the deal with a 13-darter to confirm his spot in the final, as he became the only player to register multiple nine-dart finishes on the European Tour.
In the bottom half of the draw, Cross’ progression to the final was relatively serene as he produced four ton-plus averages on Finals Day in Leverkusen. The 2018 world champion began the day with a remarkable comeback victory over Austrian Darts Open winner Jonny Clayton.
‘The Ferret’ opened up a 4-1 lead but Cross reeled off five consecutive legs to triumph; taking out finishes of 123, 127, 112 and a 140 match-clincher to progress with a 105.74 average and set up a quarter-final clash against Justin Pipe, who produced some heroic darts this weekend.
Pipe’s father tragically passed away two weeks ago but ‘The Force’ showed immense courage to perform and reach his first European Tour quarter-final since July 2018, with wins over Ryan Meikle, Ian White and Darren Webster. However, Cross ran out a convincing 6-2 winner; averaging 101.63 in the process.
In the semi-finals the world number two and three locked horns as Cross took on Peter Wright, who defeated Ross Smith and Daryl Gurney to reach the last four. However, ‘Snakebite’ was unable to repeat last year’s run to the final, as ‘Voltage’ averaged 104.24, crashed in four maximums and converted finishes of 160 and 124 to close out a 7-4 victory.
Photo Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC
2019 European Darts Open
Schedule of Play
Sunday March 24
Michael van Gerwen 6-0 Jermaine Wattimena
Gerwyn Price 6-4 Krzysztof Ratajski
Mensur Suljovic 6-3 Joe Cullen
James Wade 6-1 Dave Chisnall
Justin Pipe 6-1 Darren Webster
Rob Cross 6-4 Jonny Clayton
Daryl Gurney 6-0 Dimitri Van den Bergh
Peter Wright 6-3 Ross Smith
Evening Session (1915 local time, 1815 GMT)
Michael van Gerwen 6-5 Gerwyn Price
Mensur Suljovic 6-2 James Wade
Rob Cross 6-2 Justin Pipe
Peter Wright 6-3 Daryl Gurney
Michael van Gerwen 7-5 Mensur Suljovic
Rob Cross 7-5 Peter Wright
Michael van Gerwen 8-6 Rob Cross