Dimitri Van den Bergh defied ‘mental games’ from Gerwyn Price to keep his World Matchplay title defence alive on a thrilling night of quarter-final action at the Winter Gardens.
It was one of the most anticipated showdowns of this year’s tournament – the reigning champion against the world champion and the world No 1. However, it was the brilliant Belgian who prevailed, averaging in excess of 102 to close out an emphatic 16-9 victory.
‘The Dream Maker’ fired in 14 maximums during his second-round clash against Dave Chisnall – a record at that stage of the World Matchplay. He produced another brilliant display of power-scoring against ‘The Iceman’, crashing in ten 180’s and punishing the Welshman’s profligacy on the outer ring.
Price opened up proceedings with a classy 105 kill, but Van den Bergh reeled off five consecutive legs from 2-1 adrift to establish a commanding cushion.
The next four legs were shared, before Price registered three consecutive 14-darters to reduce the arrears to 8-7; celebrating by imitating Van den Bergh’s signature dance at the third interval.
However, the two-time World Youth champion was undeterred, and after the pair traded 13-darters, Van den Bergh rattled off six consecutive legs to move to the brink of victory, which featured three breaks of throw, a 12-darter and a clinical 90 kill on the bull.
The reigning Matchplay champion squandered one match dart to complete a 16-8 success, although he made amends in the very next leg, converting a two-dart 68 kill to storm through to the semi-finals.
“I loved it, the crowd were brilliant and I’m so happy to have won that game,” said Van den Bergh. “I’m ecstatic and I think I was the deserved winner.
“Gerwyn’s the World Champion and world number one and it’s incredible to be playing against him – I like him, he’s a great man and I have a lot of respect for him.
“He was trying everything but I couldn’t let him get into my head. I gave him space and I focused on myself. I had to show a lot of mental strength again.
“My emotions were like a rollercoaster and I’m extremely proud.
“I fought hard and never gave up, and I knew that’s what I had to do against a player like Gerwyn, and it’s unbelievable to beat him 16-9.“
Van den Bergh is bidding to join Rod Harrington, Phil Taylor and Michael van Gerwen in becoming the fourth man to retain his World Matchplay crown, and he will take on Krzysztof Ratajski for a place in Sunday’s showpiece.
‘The Polish Eagle’ had beaten Brendan Dolan and Luke Humphries to reach his second consecutive quarter-final at the Matchplay, but he sealed his place in a first major PDC semi-final with a convincing win over debutant Callan Rydz.
Ratajski came into the tournament fresh from a series of underwhelming results on the Pro Tour, but Van den Bergh insists he is well aware of the threat posed by the former World Masters champion.
“It’s going to be a big battle on Saturday but I know how good Ratajski is and he showed it again today. He’s fantastic and I’ve got to be focused and believe in myself.
“It would be unbelievable to be one of those players who defends this title but I’ve got to keep my feet on the ground.”
Image Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC