Michael van Gerwen will face Phil Taylor in the final of the World Darts Championship tomorrow night. It will be van Gerwen’s first world championship final and Taylor’s 18th.
Taylor beat Raymond van Barneveld 6-4 in a game which started as a landslide before becoming something slightly more interesting and even tense, with an on-stage confrontation between the players at the end of the game.
Taylor and van Barneveld exchanged words with Taylor seeming to reject van Barneveld’s embrace.
Last night van Gerwen also produced some excellent darts, including a nine-dart finish, to beat James Wade 6-4.
But that second semi-final, a repeat of the 2007 and 2009 final, pitted the two biggest names in darts against each other. Barneveld had been in good form recently but Taylor looked to have crushed him with his relentless play before allowing his position to slip.
Taylor’s scoring was superior at first, with a three-dart average on the fringe of three figures throughout the first six sets. But it was the range and precision of his finishing which put him ahead. Taylor took out 107 to go two sets ahead, and then 141 and 111 to win the fourth.
Van Barneveld took time to start throwing with much confidence and while he took the sixth set to a deciding leg Taylor won that to go 5-1 up. But the momentum was changing, with the usually ruthless Taylor uncharacteristically slack, allowing the Dutchman back into the game. Taylor missed darts to win the game in the seventh set, which van Barneveld won before taking the eighth as well.
In the ninth van Barneveld, with confidence and support back on his side, produced a rare 125 finish and won his third consecutive set, his double check-out percentage even overtaking that of the fraying Taylor.
But a 100 finish turned the 10th set in Taylor’s favour and he finally finished off the match, showing the effects of the tension exchanging angry words with van Barneveld after the game.
Michael van Gerwen, though, produced some of best darts of the tournament on his way to the final. The hyper-talented 23-year-old Dutchman came within millimetres of a unique achievement in the history of the game.
Van Gerwen out-threw Wade throughout, and went 3-1 up in sets, but two legs down in the fifth. His next nine perfect darts were remarkable enough, as Van Gerwen became just the sixth ever man to throw a nine-darter in a televised world championship. What followed was even more special, as Van Gerwen got eight ninths of the way to repeating the feat, before missing double 12 by less than the width of a dart’s barrel.
Wade, though, won that set and pulled it back to 3-3. Van Gerwen, it seemed, had used up most of his brilliance, and ground his way to 5-3 ahead. He missed darts for the match in the ninth set, and needed a tenth to overwhelm Wade.
Van Gerwen was a worthy winner, even looking beyond the famous minutes in the middle. He had a three-dart average more than 10 points higher than Wade’s, an excellent 97.87 to Wade’s scrappy 87.37.