The rise and rise of Mensurmania as Van Gerwen wins in Belgium

Michael Van Gerwen showed the world why he is the PDC number one with a dominant performance in the European Championship final, beating Austria’s Mensur Suljovic 11-1, with MVG throwing the highest ever average in a televised ranking final. The 27-year old Dutchman is now undefeated in televised ranking events since January, and will be hoping to continue his fantastic run of form all the way to the World Championship.

The only time van Gerwen looked under threat was in his first match of the tournament, against Simon Whitlock, with the match going to a last leg decider. Whitlock won the Euros in 2012, and looked like pulling off a huge upset as he went 5-3 up. The Dutchman broke Whitlock’s throw to take the match to a final leg, with the Australian missing one dart at double 15 to win the match. This performance seemed to wake up van Gerwen, who was sublime for the rest of the weekend, and never looked like being beaten.

The new qualification format for the European Championship led to some big names missing out. Only the top 32 performers from the European Tour qualified, with former world champions Adrian Lewis and Raymond van Barneveld just a few of the big names to miss out. The system also led to some interesting first round draws, with reigning world champion Gary Anderson being whitewashed by number three seed James Wade, and number seven seed Alan Norris being ‘rewarded’ for his performances this year with a first round match against Phil Taylor, with the 16-time world champion winning 6-3.

Many people went into the final day of the tournament expecting another Taylor and van Gerwen showdown in the final, with the Englishman playing Suljovic, who had only ever won five legs in their four previous matches, in the quarter finals. However, the Austrian has been one of the best players on the PDC circuit in 2016, and gained his first tournament win at the International Darts Open in September. Both Taylor and Suljovic played fantastically, averaging 104 and 105 respectively, but it was Mensur who was overcome with joy at the end of the match, bowing to his opponent as he won 10-3. Peter Wright was his next opponent, with Suljovic winning 11-8 to make it into his first ever televised final.

Although van Gerwen proved too strong in the final, this was the weekend where Mensur truly showed what he was capable of. His slow, methodical style of play can sometimes wind up his opponents, but there is no doubt it gets results, with his robotic accuracy on double 14 leading many commentators to call it ‘The Mensur Double’. His performance in Belgium earnt him £40,000, his highest ever pay-check in darts, and pushed him up to number seven in the world rankings. His confidence has grown tremendously over the last twelve months, and it will be a surprise if his form doesn’t earn him his first ever invite into the Premier League of Darts next February.

There was a sombre mood around the tournament, as news reached the players that famed darts commentator Dave Lanning had passed away following a short illness. There is no doubt that he would have enjoyed the fantastic darts on show, especially from the dominant Michael van Gerwen. Time will tell whether this is the season he finally turns his performances into a second world title.

Luke Etheridge

Photo Credit: Lawrence Lustig

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