Michael van Gerwen secured his first PDC title since November after recovering from 5-1 down to defeat Gerwyn Price 11-9 in a pulsating UK Open final, having landed his sixth televised nine-darter just hours earlier during a gripping evening in Minehead.
‘The Green Machine’ produced some mesmeric darts throughout the weekend and although he couldn’t replicate that extraordinary standard in Sunday’s showpiece, he capitalised on uncharacteristic profligacy from Price to claim a hat-trick of UK Open titles.
Van Gerwen’s change of manufacturer at the start of 2020 has been well-documented and whilst he’s just one point off top spot in the Premier League table, his title ‘drought’ drew some question marks, but he silenced his critics in emphatic style to scoop the £100,000 top prize.
Ironically, Van Gerwen’s last PDC triumph came in the Players Championship Finals in November, where he defeated Price 11-9 in Minehead, and the 30-year-old repeated the feat to register his 54th televised PDC title.
It was a compelling contest from start to finish and whilst Price dominated the scoring stakes in the early stages, Van Gerwen hammered in eight maximums across the final ten legs to triumph with a 101.40 average, denying the Welshman a third successive PDC ranking title.
The Dutchman drew first blood with a commanding 13-dart hold, but Price was unfazed and seized control following a blistering burst of five consecutive legs, featuring clinical 105 and 97 combinations.
The Grand Slam champion wired the bull for a 127 kill and a sixth straight leg which enabled Van Gerwen to convert a vital 76 rot-stopper, before the pair each missed a dart at double for eye-catching three-figure checkouts.
The tension was tangible as Van Gerwen sank a 14-dart break to reduce the arrears to 5-3 and although Price delivered an instant riposte to restore his three-leg buffer, the Welshman missed double 16 for a 113 checkout and a 7-3 lead, despite back-to-back maximums from MvG to kick off leg ten.
Price had the slender 6-4 advantage heading into the second interval and that advantage was maintained as the pair traded 12 and 13-dart holds to kick off the third session, but with ‘The Iceman’ edging closer to victory, he lost his cool at a crucial juncture.
The Welshman remarkably missed ten darts at double across the next three legs and whilst conceivably he could have surged 10-5 ahead, instead he trailed 8-7 and Van Gerwen piled on the pain moments later, producing a stunning 136 outshot for 9-7, after Price spurned two at tops to level.
The world number one was seemingly racing to the finish line as he followed up a tenth maximum with an effortless two-dart 96 combination for a sumptuous 11-darter, yet the pendulum swung once again in an enthralling conclusion.
Price stopped the rot with a brilliant 94 skin-saver on tops and he landed another clutch combination finish moments later, taking out 80 via double ten after Van Gerwen had missed one dart at tops for the title. Suddenly the 34-year-old was throwing to force a decider and the crowd were captivated.
Both men left potential two-dart finishes after 12 darts – Price poised on 68, with Van Gerwen lying in wait on 66. The Welshman fluffed his lines after drifting into the treble one and subsequently missing the bull, but MvG made no mistake – converting the two-dart combination to triumph.
Van Gerwen’s route to the final was anything but straightforward, as he was pitted against three Premier League players as well as two-time winner James Wade. Yet ironically, it was the unheralded Jason Lowe that provided the toughest test for ‘The Green Machine.
Having dumped out defending champion Nathan Aspinall in his opener, Van Gerwen relinquished a 5-0 lead against Jason Lowe on Saturday, before recovering from 9-8 down to defeat the 47-year-old in a dramatic decider. However, this appeared to ignite the Dutchman’s charge to glory.
The world number one cruised into Finals Day with a comprehensive 10-4 win over Wade, averaging 108, crashing in six maximums and converting 71% of his attempts at double, before producing two more sparkling displays to see off Rob Cross and Daryl Gurney.
In a repeat of last year’s Premier League final, Van Gerwen won eight of the last nine legs to complete another 10-4 success over ‘Voltage’, winning his last nine legs in 12, 12, 13, 13, 13, 11, 14, 14 and 14 darts to progress with a sensational 110.81 average.
Nevertheless, his semi-final triumph over Gurney was equally spectacular. The three-time world champion averaged 110.32, piled in five maximums and boasted an impressive 52% conversion rate to prevail 11-3, firing in his sixth televised nine-dart for good measure.
This year’s UK Open is the first major televised tournament to feature multiple nine-darters since the 2014 World Grand Prix following Jonny Clayton’s perfect leg just 24 hours earlier, taking this year’s nine-dart tally to an incredible 14 already.
Price’s run to the 2017 UK Open final marked his major televised breakthrough and despite the inevitable disappointment of defeat, his performances throughout the weekend in Minehead are testament to his remarkable rise over the last 18 months.
The world number three posted five ton-plus averages in his seven matches and displayed remarkable consistency to reach his sixth PDC final in the space of 11 events. Nevertheless, the 34-year-old was ultimately punished for squandering 23 darts at double in a breathless showdown against MvG.
Price eased through his opening two ties with successive 10-3 wins against Danny Noppert and Ricky Evans, before rattling in an inspired 11-darter to overcome Gabriel Clemens in a last-leg decider to reach the quarter-finals at this event for the fourth year in succession.
He opened up Sunday’s action with a convincing 10-5 win over two-time World Youth champion Dimitri Van den Bergh in a high-quality affair that saw both men average over 102, although Price’s clinical finishing was the decisive factor against the enigmatic Belgian.
This set up a semi-final showdown against his World Cup partner Clayton, who posted his first televised nine-darter on Saturday evening. ‘The Ferret’ saw off Scott Waites, Joe Cullen, Chris Dobey and Jamie Hughes to reach the last four, only to succumb 11-4 to his merciless compatriot.
Photo Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC
2020 Ladbrokes UK Open
Sunday March 8
Gerwyn Price 10-5 Dimitri Van den Bergh
Michael van Gerwen 10-4 Rob Cross
Daryl Gurney 10-9 Jelle Klaasen
Jonny Clayton 10-9 Jamie Hughes
Gerwyn Price 11-4 Jonny Clayton
Michael van Gerwen 11-3 Daryl Gurney – Michael van Gerwen hits nine-darter
Michael van Gerwen 11-9 Gerwyn Price