MVG nails nine on way to European Darts Open title
Michael van Gerwen won his 29th European Tour title in style at the European Darts Open, hitting a sublime nine-dart leg in his semi-final with Mensur Suljović before seeing off Rob Cross 8-6 in a pulsating final.
A tournament that failed to really get going until day two certainly ramped up on the final day of action with astronomical averages all over the place, topped off by MVG’s third nine-darter of 2019 already and the superb final that followed. For Cross, it was the final that his form this year has deserved and surely it’s only a matter of time until he wins a title. Huge credit must also go to Justin Pipe, who battled through to the quarter-finals despite losing his father less than two weeks ago. There were emotional scenes after all of his matches in Leverkusen – ‘The Force’ jumped into the crowd to thank them for their support after him win over Darren Webster before movingly telling Rob Cross ‘to go and win it for his dad’ after their quarter-final.
Cross couldn’t quite do that, but a rejuvenated Pipe seems back to his best despite tragic circumstances. Sunday afternoon’s last 16 got going in style, Jermaine Wattimena failing to carry on from his brilliant comeback against Glen Durrant as Van Gerwen took just nine minutes to win all six legs, averaging over 101 with 75% on the doubles. He would play Gerwyn Price in the last 8, who came through a more scrappy encounter with Krzysztof Ratajski.
‘The Polish Eagle’ managed to hit less than 5% of his double 20 attempts over the weekend at the Ostermann Arena, although he still beat Michael Smith on Saturday with a 105 average. His scoring wasn’t as good against ‘The Iceman’, however, and a close game saw Price squeeze over the line 6-4. Euro Tour specialist Joe Cullen was up next, but his opponent Mensur Suljović produced impeccable timing to progress 6-3 despite an average of six points less than ‘The Rockstar’.
That set up another mouth-watering semi-final, whoever came through the next game. Dave Chisnall and James Wade, both in great form, couldn’t be separated by the bookies before their meeting, but ‘The Machine’ punished missed doubles in almost every leg from the St Helens thrower and topped the game off with a 164 checkout to win 6-1 with an average of 101. Justin Pipe was up next against fifteenth seed Darren Webster in a great chance for both players to reach the final session. The Taunton man stormed into a 5-0 lead, and pinned double 16 for another emotional victory; Pipe’s amazing run given the circumstances continued.
Premier League leader Rob Cross then met Jonny Clayton in a game which saw ‘The Ferret’ punish Cross for the odd missed double early on before ‘Voltage’ found top form, winning five legs in a row which included three ton-plus checkouts to take the game’s tally up to five, and an average for that period of around 112, culminating with 302 in six darts, the same as his World Championship-winning shot. His final average was 105.74, which was enough for a 6-4 win over Clayton and a quarter-final meeting with Pipe.
Daryl Gurney then saw off an out of sorts Dimitri Van den Bergh 6-0, hitting more than half of his double attempts with the Belgian missing all eight of his. Incredibly, that would set up a third rematch from the Nottingham Premier League schedule ten days ago as Peter Wright beat Ross Smith 6-3 in another high-quality game. ‘Snakebite’ only missed two checkout attempts, but another solid weekend for ‘Smudger’ who’s in the provisional qualification spots for the World Matchplay.
After a short break, the quarter-finals began with Gerwyn Price looking to beat Michael van Gerwen for, incredibly, the first time in his career, in 14 attempts. He hardly did anything wrong, taking ‘Mighty Mike’ to a deciding leg in a brilliant game, but missed the big number on 57 and then squandered his match dart. Van Gerwen finished 118 for a skin-saver and a 6-5 win with a 102.88 average to Price’s 103.32.
Mensur Suljović seemed to be playing slower than usual against James Wade, which caused some irritation for the Aldershot thrower, who did say after his third round victory that he knew what to expect from ‘The Gentle’. He couldn’t deal with the amiable Austrian as Suljović stormed to a 6-2 win, averaging over 102. Hero of the weekend, Justin Pipe, took to the stage against in form man Rob Cross, and got off to an excellent start, pinning a stunning 170 checkout to lead 2-1.
However, ‘Voltage’ repeated the trick from the afternoon and won five consecutive legs, only one of them in more than fifteen darts, to seal a 6-2 success, finishing with 50% on the doubles and an average of 101.63. The game between Peter Wright and Daryl Gurney started slowly, but burst into life in leg four with three maximums and an eventual 12-dart break for the Northern Irishman. The first five legs all saw breaks of throw in fact, before ‘Snakebite’ stormed ahead and continued his incredible doubling in Leverkusen with 6/12, which was enough for a 6-3 win.
That meant he would remain as world number three, but in the bigger picture the semi-finals got underway, featuring four of the top seven seeds. It was a scrappy start to Van Gerwen and Suljović’s match-up, the World Matchplay runner-up pinning tops for the best leg of the match and a 4-2 advantage. Van Gerwen then pulled one back, before out of nowhere going 180, 174, 147 (T19-BULL-D20) to hit yet another nine-darter, the 21st of his career, and find another different way of doing it as well.
The first player outside the World Grand Prix to hit a PDC nine-dart leg including a bullseye, and also the first to include a double 20. Not only the way he did it, but the timing was incredible with the Dutchman under pressure in a scrappy game. It seemed to knock the stuffing out of ‘The Gentle’, though, who was nowhere near MVG in the next two legs, before pegging it back to 6-5.
Van Gerwen found a 13-darter in the twelfth leg, however, to seal a 7-5 win which will be remembered for his second Euro Tour nine-darter, becoming the first player to do so, and another different route to glory. It also sealed his 34th European Tour final, where he would face one of the two players directly below him in the Order of Merit. Rob Cross threatened to produce perfection for the second game running, going seven darts in, but had to settle for a 10-darter to lead Peter Wright 2-1.
It was another sensational game, the 2018 World Champion storming into a 5-2 lead with both players averaging well over 100. ‘Snakebite’ did well to stick with him, but Cross won the game with a 12-darter and a 124 finish, ending up with 4 180s and a 104 average in a game that also featured a 160 checkout for ‘Voltage’. The 7-5 victory meant he progressed to his third Euro Tour final and his first in over eighteen months; all three of them against Van Gerwen.
The finale began in some style – one of the best legs you’re ever likely to see as 100, 180, 174 from Cross wasn’t enough with MVG pinning the second 170 of the tournament to immediately follow in a 171. He kicked off the next leg with five T20s, which made it eleven perfect darts and finished it with a 54 checkout for a 2-0 advantage. The Premier League leader vitally found the bull in leg three to half the deficit, before a 12-darter levelled things up.
The sensational standard wasn’t relenting, a 10-darter from Cross in reply to a 13-darter from Van Gerwen as they stayed level. Arguably, the crucial moment came in leg eight when ‘Voltage’ missed a dart to break and MVG won that leg and the next to lead 5-4. A 17-darter made it 5-5, before MVG won the next leg by 282 points to go two away. Two more holds of throw followed as the game seemingly headed towards a deciding leg, but ‘Mighty Mike’ punished Cross for two misses to seal his 29th European Tour title with his highest average of the weekend. Incredibly, despite a great performance, the final saw Cross’ lowest average of the tournament, but it was a completely different story to the UK Open where fatigue appeared to cost him the title.
So, Michael van Gerwen carries on where he left off on the European Tour on a weekend which saw another nine-darter and plenty of enthralling contests. The Green Machine ensured there is still no English winner of the European Darts Open in its eight years of existence. After two convincing wins to kick off his campaign, MVG was made to work in the final session of action but got the job done for his fourth title of 2019. Seven of the eight quarter-finalists in Leverkusen return to Premier League action on Wednesday for the first part of a double-header in Rotterdam which culminates in Judgement Night.
They then head to Hildesheim next weekend, where Michael van Gerwen will be looking to defend his German Darts Championship title, an event which saw James Wilson reach the final in 2018. ‘The Jammie Dodger’ returns to Euro Tour action at Halle 39, and is set to be joined by all the same seeds apart from Simon Whitlock, who will be replaced by Stephen Bunting, leaving the Australian’s European Tour seeding in doubt.
Gabriel Clemens, Robert Thornton, Ricky Evans, Luke Humphries, Jamie Hughes and Nathan Aspinall are also among the 47 players who will be hoping to stop Michael van Gerwen winning a 30th Euro Tour title after a stunning 29th in Leverkusen.
2019 European Darts Open
Schedule of Play
Sunday March 24
Michael van Gerwen 6-0 Jermaine Wattimena
Krzysztof Ratajski 4-6 Gerwyn Price
Mensur Suljović 6-3 Joe Cullen
James Wade 6-1 Dave Chisnall
Justin Pipe 6-1 Darren Webster
Rob Cross 6-4 Jonny Clayton
Dimitri Van den Bergh 0-6 Daryl Gurney
Peter Wright 6-3 Ross Smith
Michael van Gerwen 6-5 Gerwyn Price
Mensur Suljović 6-2 James Wade
Justin Pipe 2-6 Rob Cross
Daryl Gurney 3-6 Peter Wright
Michael van Gerwen 7-5 Mensur Suljović
Rob Cross 7-5 Peter Wright
Michael van Gerwen 8-6 Rob Cross