Rivalries will be renewed tonight on the biggest stage in world darts, as Gary Anderson and Gerwyn Price lock horns for the right to be crowned 2021 PDC world champion.
Just over two years ago, the pair contested arguably the most controversial final in PDC history at the Grand Slam of Darts, with Price running out a 16-13 to claim his maiden televised title.
It’s been a remarkable ascent up the darting pyramid since for ‘The Iceman’ and tonight’s World Championship final presents the opportunity for him to go full circle – victory over ‘The Flying Scotsman’ will see him claim the sport’s holy grail, whilst becoming the new world No 1 in the process.
Price has already broken new ground by becoming the first Welshman to progress to a PDC World Championship final, but he can end Michael van Gerwen’s seven-year monopoly at the summit of world darts by scooping the £500,000 top prize tonight, as if he needed further incentive.
Nevertheless, Anderson certainly won’t be lacking in motivation. The Scot has not landed a major title since his defeat to Price in their infamous Grand Slam showdown, and he’s bidding to usurp his late, great countryman Jocky Wilson, by lifting a third world crown.
It’s testament to Anderson’s quality and class that in a year where he’s struggled by his own admission, he’s reached the World Matchplay final, the Premier League semi-finals and now a fifth World Championship final.
Having laboured in the early stages of the competition, his controversial 4-3 win over a methodical Mensur Suljovic appears to have galvanised the two-time world champion, who hit the headlines for his post-match outbursts following that deciding-set triumph.
Since then, Anderson has followed up a whitewash win over Devon Petersen with a comprehensive 5-1 success over Dirk van Duijvenbode, which saw him post a ton-plus average for the first time in 19 matches.
In the semi-finals, the 50-year-old saw off Dave Chisnall, who was unable to replicate the heroics that saw him demolish Van Gerwen 5-0 just 24 hours earlier. Anderson offered a scathing assessment of his performance, despite averaging 100 and firing in 13 maximums en route to a 6-3 victory.
“I’ve come here with no expectations whatsoever but I’ve managed to make it through to the final so it can’t be bad,” said Anderson, who is through to a fourth world final in seven years.
“It didn’t feel like a great game so I was surprised to see that I averaged over 100. It didn’t feel like that. I feel like I’ve played alright for most of this tournament and I’ll give it a good go in the final.
“I think I need to play better against Gerwyn but I’ll just play my darts and he’ll play his. I’ll be quiet and he’ll be loud and we’ll see how it goes.”
Price has not faced a top-ten player en route to his first world final, although his progress has been anything but serene. The third seed has been taken to final sets in three of his five matches thus far, but when he’s been under pressure, he has produced the goods.
Having defeated his compatriot Jamie Lewis 3-2 in a scrappy opener, Price edged out an impressive Brendan Dolan in a last-leg thriller, before cruising into the last eight after dispatching a resurgent Mervyn King 4-1 in professional fashion.
The 35-year-old defied a late rally from two-time major winner Daryl Gurney to come through another last-leg shootout and reach the last four, where he produced his performance of the event to date – converting eight ton-plus finishes to defeat a brilliant Stephen Bunting, having trailed 3-1.
“That’s the best I’ve played in this tournament and I needed to. I’m here to win this and I’m in the final so I’ve got every chance now,” said Price, who will become the tenth PDC world number one if he pockets the £500,000 top prize on Sunday evening.
“Stephen played really well and he punished me whenever I slipped up. There were a couple of sets where I was 2-0 up and he came back. He gave me a really good battle.
“I’m full of confidence after that game. I definitely improved for this match but there is a lot more in the tank. I always seem to find that bit of extra edge when I need to and I know I have got what it takes to win the final.”