Michael van Gerwen clinched his fifth World Grand Prix title with a 5-2 victory over Dave Chisnall at the Citywest Hotel on Saturday evening and with the business end of the season approaching, Van Gerwen fired an ominous warning to his challengers in typically emphatic fashion.
There was considerable discussion heading into this year’s event that ‘The Green Machine’ had never successfully defended a World Grand Prix title, although he dispelled that particular anomaly with a series of impressive displays on the Emerald Isle.
He survived a major scare in his opening round tie – fighting back from a set down to beat debutant Jamie Hughes. It’s a case of feast or famine for many players in this competition however, largely due to the short format in the early rounds.
Phil Taylor lifted the Grand Prix a record 11 times, although he was also dumped out at the first hurdle on four occasions, most notably against Andy Callaby and Adrian Gray. Van Gerwen suffered a similar shock at the same stage against John Henderson in 2017, but there was no repeat this year.
Jeffrey de Zwaan was Van Gerwen’s second round opponent and ‘The Black Cobra’ was somewhat of a nemesis for ‘Mighty Mike’ in 2018, knocking him out of both the UK Open and World Matchplay. However, the world number one gained redemption in sensational style, romping to a straight sets win.
Van Gerwen was averaging over 103 until the third set and he surrendered just two legs in the contest – affording his younger compatriot just three darts at a finishing double. It was a dominant display from start to finish, a demonstration that Van Gerwen was ready for an assault on the title.
His quarter-final victory over Mervyn King was one of the matches of the entire tournament. In a repeat of the 2012 final – which saw MvG claim his first PDC major title, Van Gerwen ran out a 3-1 winner in a tussle which saw both players land majestic 170 checkouts.
King battled valiantly throughout and had darts at double to win three of the four sets, but Van Gerwen did what he so often does – produce the goods when it matters most. Two of the sets went to last-leg deciders, with the defending champion winning both in 16 and 14 darts respectively.
MvG faced Chris Dobey in the last four, with ‘Hollywood’ appearing in his first major PDC semi-final. Dobey performed superbly throughout the week, although Van Gerwen was an obstacle too far – the Dutchman running out a 4-0 winner despite playing in second gear for much of the contest.
Van Gerwen appeared in his sixth World Grand Prix final and his opponent was Dave Chisnall – featuring in his second Dublin final. The pair have contested some classic ties over recent years, although Van Gerwen’s dominance over the St Helen’s star was nothing short of remarkable.
Heading into Saturday’s showpiece, Van Gerwen had beaten Chisnall an incredible 47 times, with Chisnall registering just nine wins against the three-time world champion – the last of those coming way back in February 2016.
Since then, Van Gerwen had enjoyed a remarkable 26-game unbeaten run against ‘Chizzy’, winning 25 of those encounters. His last televised defeat against Chisnall came on the Citywest stage in 2013 – with the Englishman prevailing in a quarter-final epic en route to reaching the final.
Chisnall had dispatched four major champions for the loss of just three sets en route to reaching his fifth PDC televised major final, although he was brushed aside in a ruthless manner by Van Gerwen, who produced his best performance of the tournament when the situation demanded it.
Chisnall recovered from losing the opening set in three straight legs by restoring parity at one apiece with a clinical 101 kill in a second set decider, but in a match decided by the finest of margins, Van Gerwen came out in top in the big moments, winning three of the next four sets which went the distance.
“It’s been a phenomenal week for me and I played really well, and it was a really good performance in the final because Dave put me under pressure. This was some of the best darts I’ve seen from Dave and he never gave in,” Van Gerwen reflected.
“He had a great tournament and he played really well and pushed me, but every time in the important moments I did the right thing – and I think going 3-1 up was a big moment. I feel good and I want to keep this form going now into the big tournaments we have coming up.”
There were various question marks surrounding Van Gerwen’s form following his summer ‘slump’, which saw him suffer a second round exit at the hands of Glen Durrant at the World Matchplay. That was preceded by a semi-final defeat against Republic of Ireland at the World Cup of Darts.
During this period, Van Gerwen incredibly went 15 consecutive games without posting a ton-plus average, which by his exceptional standards is an alarming statistic. However, normal service was resumed Down Under, as MvG scooped back-to-back titles on the World Series circuit.
Despite concerns surrounding his form, Van Gerwen has already collected 12 titles this calendar year, including a third World Championship title, a fifth Premier League crown, a fifth straight Masters title and a fifth World Grand Prix title, with the power to add in the coming months.
The Champions League of Darts is the next event on the horizon for MvG – the only PDC televised tournament he’s yet to win. The Dutchman reached the final of the inaugural staging back in 2016, suffered a group-stage exit in 2017 and was beaten in the semi-finals 12 months ago.
Van Gerwen is constantly looking for new ways to create history – it’s that ambition that makes him a champion. This event presents the perfect opportunity for him to do so and with his confidence and hunger at an optimum, the world of darts should be very afraid.
Photo Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC