Peter Wright produced one of the greatest performances in World Matchplay history to dispatch Michael van Gerwen and set up a clash against his former housemate and reigning Dimitri Van den Bergh in Sunday’s final.
Following a thrilling night of action at the iconic Winter Gardens, Wright posted a remarkable 110.37 average – the highest in a World Matchplay semi-final – to complete a 17-10 success and seal his spot in a second Blackpool final.
The eight-time major winner also registered 12 maximums, converted three ton-plus checkouts and boasted a 46% success rate on the outer ring, to record his 22nd career victory over Van Gerwen, who remains without a PDC title of any description since November 2020.
The world No 2 made a blistering start to proceedings, racing into a 4-1 lead with a 113 average. There was a significant disparity in the averages and that continued in the second session, yet Van Gerwen fought back to reduce the arrears to 6-4.
Wright was finding the treble 20 with ominous regularity and he came agonisingly close to achieving perfection in leg twelve – missing the double 12 for a magical nine-darter. However, the Scot wrapped up the leg in 10 darts, before stretching his lead to 10-4 with consecutive 11-darters.
The 51-year-old squandered the opportunity to complete a clean sweep in the third session, spurning a series of darts at double 16. If he had landed the double at the first attempt, he would have averaged an astonishing 134.2 during that five-leg sequence, but Van Gerwen exploited his opponent’s misses, which sparked a stirring fightback.
The Dutchman followed up a stunning 127 kill with an 11-dart break of throw, and his revival continued as he won two of the next three legs to reduce the arrears to 11-9, as his average climbed to 106.
Wright made some minor adjustments to his equipment during the interval despite an average of 112, although normal service was resumed when he converted a clinical 149 combination to restore his three-leg buffer.
Van Gerwen continued to battle valiantly, but a stunning 121 finish on the bull from Wright to make it 14-10 appeared to finally break the resolve of ‘Mighty Mike’, and Snakebite stormed to victory by claiming the next three legs without reply, sealing the deal with a wonderful 12-dart hold to spark emotional scenes at the Empress Ballroom.
“It was tears of joy at the end because Jo [Wright’s wife] will be here tomorrow,” Wright explained.
“She’s done an amazing job – she had her operation last Thursday and came straight to Blackpool so that she could do my hair.
“I told her that she had to stay home and rest but she wanted to come. I’d promised her that she could come to the final if I got there.”
Wright added: “I thought he played really well there and it felt like an amazing game. You know Michael can reel off legs and he did that, but I had to ride that burst of fantastic legs.
“Michael’s the best player in the world and we all know it. For me to be favourite against him shows how well I’ve been playing and my darts have backed that up. It’s probably one of my best performances.
“I’ve dreamed about winning this and picking up that trophy, and now I’m one game away from achieving that dream.”
Wright – a runner-up in 2017 – now takes on reigning champion Van den Bergh for the right to lift the coveted Phil Taylor Trophy, after the Belgian produced a remarkable comeback to defeat former World Masters winner Krzysztof Ratajski.
‘The Dream Maker’ endured a nightmare start to proceedings which saw Ratajski romp into a 6-2 lead, but ‘The Polish Eagle’ completely lost his range on the outer ring and was suitably punished, as Van den Bergh won 15 of the final 18 legs to close out a comprehensive 17-9 victory.
The two-time World Youth champion wasn’t at his blistering best, but he still averaged 98.51 and crashed in eight maximums, as he bids to become the fourth player to successfully retain his Matchplay crown.
“I’m ecstatic, with the way the game started, I needed the crowd,” admitted an emotional Van den Bergh post-match.
“Krzysztof missed some doubles and I battled back and took my chances, but even when I got in front I didn’t feel in control – but I’m in the final now. The crowd knocked me off my feet tonight – it was such a feeling and I can only thank them.
“It would be a dream come true to be the back-to-back World Matchplay champion. I’ve done it before with the World Youth Championship and to have the chance to win this in front of a crowd is a dream. I want to give the crowd a fantastic game, and I would love to lift the trophy again.”
2021 Betfred World Matchplay
Saturday July 24
Dimitri Van den Bergh 17-9 Krzysztof Ratajski
Peter Wright 17-10 Michael van Gerwen