MVG seals third world title with 7-3 win over Smith
Michael van Gerwen was crowned champion of the darting world for the third time as his final opponent Michael Smith was left to rue several crucial missed darts at doubles that could’ve pushed the final scoreline far closer than the eventual 7-3 result.
‘Mighty Mike’ put his agonising sudden death defeat to Rob Cross in the semi-finals last year to win the richest darts match of all time and become only the second man to win three PDC world titles, although he has a lot of catching up to do on the great Phil Taylor’s 14.
A disappointing year in the big TV events for the world number one saw many name Gary Anderson as their favourite for the biggest event of them all, but Van Gerwen still won two UK Open Qualifiers, four Players Championships and eight European Tours to add to the big titles of the Masters, the Premier League, the World Cup, and the World Grand Prix in 2018.
However, New Year’s Day’s final was a highly anticipated clash with a tournament of shocks and surprises ending with a final that a significant portion of punters would have predicted with Michael van Gerwen coming through a stacked top half of the draw that included Gary Anderson, Adrian Lewis, Daryl Gurney and James Wade taking on Michael Smith, who’s 2018 saw a ‘coming of age’, reaching four televised finals and winning one of them.
‘The Bullyboy’ completed a fantastic year with a run to the final at the Ally Pally, although the draw was kind to him in that the highest ranked player he faced in his campaign was world number 23 John Henderson. Despite a stern test from surprise package Nathan Aspinall in the semi-finals, Smith had eased through to the richest match in the history of darts with many tipping him to push MVG all the way.
Van Gerwen was yet to trail at any point of the tournament, losing exactly one set in each of his six outings so far. His dominance continued in the early stages of the final, and there were little sign of nerves with the pair playing for £500,000, the runner-up picking up £200,000. The world number one took out 129 in the very first leg, and despite an impressive first set revival from the St. Helens man, the Dutchman found a 14-darter in the decider to edge ahead.
It was a similar pattern in set two, MVG averaging over 100 once more although Smith had two darts to send it into a deciding leg in which he would have been throwing first. The bookies’ favourite then took out 68 in two darts to seal the second set 3-1 and double his overall lead. The Premier League runner-up continued to grab legs here and there, but he kept faltering at the crucial times when sets where on the line.
The third set was slightly more comfortable for Van Gerwen, sealing it 3-1 on tops for a 14-darter – Smith averaging just 84 in that particular stanza. The first whitewash in a world final since 2006 was becoming a real possibility as Smith missed four darts for a 3-1 deficit and MVG found double 8 to prolong his agony. It would have been ironic had the Dutchman reeled off seven straight sets in the final given that shorter formats had always seen him drop at least one set earlier in the tournament.
That wasn’t to be, though, as the crowd’s support of Smith finally gave him some impetus, taking out a 124 for the fifth set in a deciding leg with Van Gerwen sat on 20. That seemed to spark him into life as he completed a trio of ton-plus checkouts with a 127 and another 124, before a 15-darter made it 4-2. A 107 average in that set was as good as it got for the underdog, though, as he failed to outplay MVG in any of the remaining sets.
A crucial 112 out won Van Gerwen a seventh set 3-1 that included two 13-darters, and Smith’s problems early in the match reared their head once more as he missed three darts for a 5-3 deficit, allowing the Dutchman back for a 17-dart break of throw. The Englishmen still wouldn’t lie down, forcing ‘Mighty Mike’ to serve out the ninth set. MVG’s treble 19 cover-shooting was saving his skin, but it didn’t work for him when he was one leg away from victory as Smith pinned double 7 for a 6-3 scoreline.
The 134s were back with a vengeance, though, in the tenth set as MVG looked to avoid any more unnecessary procrastination and seal the title in style. He hadn’t been at his outstanding best, but his average was over 100 for the whole game and averaged 105.6 in the final set to seal the match, finding double 16 for a 14-darter and to win set ten 3-1, therefore setting off the fireworks and confetti and enabling him to call himself a three-time champion of the world.
Perhaps a slightly underwhelming final, but a scoreline that most of us predicted before the action got underway. The 2018/19 William Hill World Darts Championship, however, will forever be remembered for an incredible amount of upsets, the new format of 96 players helping to contribute to 5 of the top 8 going out before the last 16 as well as the runs of Ryan Searle’ Ryan Joyce, Luke Humphries and Chris Dobey amongst others.
It also saw plenty of tiebreakers in the early rounds with the likes of Alan Norris, James Wade and Mervyn King coming through, while Gary Anderson was involved in two all-time classics with Jermaine Wattimena and the aforementioned Dobey on his way to a crushing semi-final defeat to eventual champion Van Gerwen. A new record of total 180s for the PDC World Championship as well with 880 maximums, although that was to be expected with the expanded field.
At the end of it all, as it so often is, although slightly less often than usual in 2018, it was Michael van Gerwen who lifted the Sid Waddell Trophy high above his head to deservedly become the three-time champion of the world.
The biggest tournament in world darts is sadly over for another year, with even more drama and prize money surely to come in the 2019/20 edition. However, the darting world never stops turning with all roads leading to Hildesheim on Thursday for European Q-School, the last two days of which coincide with the start of the Lakeside Championship, as the likes of Glen Durrant, Mark McGeeney and Scott Waites look to leave the BDO with a bang ahead of their attempts to win PDC Tour Cards in Wigan.
The newly-crowned World Champion returns to action in Milton Keynes at the start of February, a first-round clash with Masters debutant Jonny Clayton as he looks to win that tournament for an incredible fifth time. Soon after, the Premier League roadshow will be back with a slightly controversial line-up announced after the final tonight, which includes new world number six Michael Smith and of course the man of the moment Michael van Gerwen.
2018/2019 William Hill World Darts Championship
Schedule of Play
Tuesday January 1 (2000)
Michael van Gerwen 7-3 Michael Smith