‘It’s been the hardest time of my life’ insists Cross after Van Gerwen victory

Rob Cross ended his two-year wait for a PDC ranking title in Salzburg on Sunday, defeating Michael van Gerwen to claim a second European Championship title and bring a halt to ‘the hardest time of his life’.

Cross capitalised on a profligate display from Van Gerwen to claim his fifth televised crown courtesy of an 11-8 victory at the Salzburgarena, to retain his place in the world’s top 16.

‘Voltage’ could have plummeted to as low as 24th in the world with an early exit in Austria, as he sought to defend the £120,000 he accrued by virtue of his 2019 success, but he defied the odds to move up to 11th on the Order of Merit and put himself firmly back in the Premier League picture.

Four-time European Champion Van Gerwen appeared poised to secure his first PDC ranking title since November 2020 after overcoming world No 1 Gerwyn Price and a resurgent Nathan Aspinall in thrilling tussles, but he was left to rue a multitude of missed doubles in Sunday’s showpiece.

Cross wasn’t at his vintage best in Salzburg, although he was relatively untroubled throughout the event, and he capped off a terrific weekend by registering just his third televised triumph over Van Gerwen in 18 attempts, which also sealed his Grand Slam of Darts qualification.

Earlier in the afternoon, Cross dispatched Grand Slam champion Jose De Sousa 10-5 in the quarter-finals, and he eased past 2018 semi-finalist Joe Cullen 11-3 in the last four, having raced into a 9-0 advantage.

“It’s nice to win again after the last 18 months, which has probably been the hardest time of my life,” revealed Cross, who was featuring in his third European Championship final.

“I have to dedicate this to my family, friends, management and sponsors who have stood by me and been incredibly supportive.

“I love playing in Austria, I’ve got a great record here. I love the people, I’d play here every week if I could.

“Granted, I didn’t play my best tonight, and I’m thankful that Michael wasn’t himself in the final. You have to take chances when they are presented to you.

“I think this is going to be a turning point for me, with the confidence it’s going to give me I know I’m going to get better over the next few months. I would love to win another World Championship.”

In a repeat of the 2017 European Championship final, the opening four legs went with throw, before Cross punished two missed darts at double from MvG with a clinical 123 combination on the bull to seize the initiative.

Van Gerwen responded emphatically after the interval, converting a magical 138 kill to restore parity at three apiece, yet Cross was undeterred, establishing a two-leg buffer at 6-4, before stretching his advantage with a 13-dart break in leg 11.

Cross continued to capitalise on the Dutchman’s fragility on the outer ring to move to the cusp of glory at 9-4, only for the three-time world champion to come roaring back, reeling off three consecutive legs to preserve his slender hopes.

However, the world No 3 squandered five darts at double to reduce the arrears to 9-8 in a dramatic 17th leg, and Cross sank double four to edge closer to the title.

‘Voltage’ missed a match dart at tops to prevail with a 107 checkout, and Van Gerwen pinned the same target to reduce the deficit, but any hopes of a stirring fightback were short-lived, as Cross wrapped up proceedings with a sublime 11-darter, culminating with a two-dart 81 checkout.

Van Gerwen was bitterly disappointed post-match, particularly given his performances earlier in the afternoon. The Dutchman recovered from 4-1 adrift to edge out world No 1 Price in an absorbing quarter-final clash, which saw both men average in excess of 107.

‘The Green Machine’ then defied an astonishing fightback from Nathan Aspinall in an epic semi-final. Aspinall rallied from 7-1 down to force a thrilling decider, only for Van Gerwen to fire in back-to-back 180’s en route to an 11-darter in the last leg.

“When you play like I did in the final then you deserve to lose,” Van Gerwen reflected candidly.

“You can find a million excuses but I have to say I didn’t show up in the final, it wasn’t good enough and I can only blame myself.

“I am starting to perform a little bit better – except for the final – but I don’t like picking up runner-up trophies. It doesn’t count for anything, I’m a winner.”

Image Credit: Kais Bodensieck/PDC Europe

2021 Cazoo European Championship
Sunday October 17
Afternoon Session

Quarter-Finals
Nathan Aspinall 10-9 Danny Noppert
Michael van Gerwen 10-8 Gerwyn Price
Rob Cross 10-5 Jose de Sousa
Joe Cullen 10-7 Mensur Suljovic

Evening Session
Semi-Finals

Michael van Gerwen 11-10 Nathan Aspinall
Rob Cross 11-3 Joe Cullen

Final
Rob Cross 11-8 Michael van Gerwen

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