Van Gerwen defeats Aspinall to claim first ranking title of 2021

Michael van Gerwen returned to winning ways at Players Championship 29 on Wednesday, defeating Nathan Aspinall 8-5 to capture his first PDC ranking title of the season.

‘Mighty Mike’ has endured a frustrating campaign thus far, and his Nordic Darts Masters success over Fallon Sherrock represented his solitary piece of silverware in 2021 ahead of today’s action, but the world No 3 finally secured the title that his recent performances have merited.

The three-time world champion suffered defeats at the last Super Series with averages of 103, 107 and 108, although he wasn’t to be denied on this occasion, prevailing 8-5 against Aspinall in an all-Premier League clash to scoop his first ranking title since the Players Championship Finals in November 2020.

The 31-year-old opened up proceedings with resounding wins over Boris Krcmar and Peter Hudson, before posting a 104.79 average in a 6-4 victory over Andy Boulton.

The Dutchman then edged out Brendan Dolan in a hard-fought last-leg decider, before sweeping aside Krzysztof Ratajski with a 107 average in the last eight. This set up a semi-final showdown against Damon Heta, and MvG reeled off three consecutive legs in the latter stages to complete a convincing 7-3 triumph.

However, he was forced to recover from 3-1 adrift against Aspinall in a high-quality final, after the former UK Open champion stole an early march with a trio of 13-dart legs.

Van Gerwen responded with a majestic 11-darter, which sparked a sequence of four consecutive legs – the last of which came courtesy of a clinical 89 kill to establish a 5-3 cushion.

Aspinall, who fired in a remarkable eight 180’s in defeat, replied with a 14-dart break of throw, only to squander four darts at double to restore parity at five apiece in a crucial tenth leg.

This proved decisive and ‘The Asp’ was unable to force another break of throw, with Van Gerwen registering legs of 16 and 14 darts to end his ranking title drought and scoop the £10,000 top prize.

“In the last Super Series I lost three games with averages well over 100, of course that’s annoying but you have to keep believing in yourself,” Van Gerwen reflected post-tournament.

“When that happens you have to work harder, and today was one of those hard days where you have to step up a bit and I did the right things at the right moments.

“A win like this is going to give me a lot of confidence but there’s a lot of darts still to play this year and I always treat every game like a final.

“Overall, I feel good and that’s the most important thing’ my hunger is back and my performances are getting back to where they were.”

Aspinall was featuring in his first ranking final of 2021, and he underlined his intent with a 107.36 average in a 6-0 whitewash over Carl Wilkinson in his last 128 tie.

The Stockport star came through a last-leg decider against Sean Fisher in round two, before accounting for Steve Beaton in an encounter which saw both men average in excess of 102.

Aspinall backed this up with victory over Grand Slam champion Jose De Sousa, before firing in a stunning 109 average to overcome Tuesday’s runner-up Ryan Searle, and the world No 9 produced another ton-plus average in a 7-4 success against William O’Connor.

Elsewhere at the Barnsley Metrodome, Peter Wright’s underwhelming run of form continued, after the world No 2 was dumped out in his opener by James Wilson, while James Wade and Dimitri Van den Bergh suffered first-round exits for a second consecutive afternoon.

Jelle Klaasen produced a sparkling display in his last 16 clash against Michael Smith to reach his first ranking quarter-final since September 2020, while O’Connor enjoyed a welcome return to form to reach the semi-finals, overcoming Jonny Clayton and a resurgent Kim Huybrechts en route.

Ryan Searle continued his prolific form until he succumbed to Aspinall in a thrilling quarter-final contest, while Steve West and Mickey Mansell landed nine-dart finishes in their respective meetings with De Sousa and Krzysztof Kciuk.

Van Gerwen’s victory guarantees Michael Smith a place in next week’s Grand Slam of Darts, where he will be joined by Joe Cullen, unless either Chris Dobey or Callan Rydz prevail at Players Championship 30 on Thursday.

Image Credit: Kelly Deckers/PDC

2021 Players Championship 29
Wednesday November 3
Last 16

Jelle Klaasen 6-2 Michael Smith
Damon Heta 6-3 Florian Hempel
Krzysztof Ratajski 6-0 Jason Heaver
Michael van Gerwen 6-5 Brendan Dolan
Nathan Aspinall 6-3 Jose de Sousa
Ryan Searle 6-4 Martin Lukeman
Kim Huybrechts 6-2 Martin Thomas
William O’Connor 6-5 Jonny Clayton

Quarter-Finals
Damon Heta 6-0 Jelle Klaasen
Michael van Gerwen 6-2 Krzysztof Ratajski
Nathan Aspinall 6-4 Ryan Searle
William O’Connor 6-3 Kim Huybrechts

Semi-Finals
Michael van Gerwen 7-3 Damon Heta
Nathan Aspinall 7-4 William O’Connor

Final
Michael van Gerwen 8-5 Nathan Aspinall

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