December 29 2015. It was the last 16 of the PDC World Championship, and world number one Michael van Gerwen was playing his compatriot Raymond van Barneveld. Despite being massive underdog, van Barneveld won the match in the seventh and final set, and van Gerwen left the tournament dejected that for the second year in a row, he’d failed to live up to his status as favourite.
Fast forward twelve months, and that remains the last time the young Dutchman was defeated in a televised ranking event. In the 2016/17 season, MVG won a total of twenty-six tournaments, capping off a brilliant season by defeating Gary Anderson 7-3, to win his second world championship.
As with all of van Gerwen’s matches during the tournament, the final was a high quality affair, with both players averaging above 100, with Anderson hitting 22 180’s during the match, breaking the PDC maximum record, and equalling the all-time televised record, set by Ted Hankey in 2000. The first two sets went with throw, before Anderson broke to take a 2-1 lead, as he hoped to become only the third man to win three successive world titles.
The turning point in the match was the final leg of the fourth set, as van Gerwen took out 86 to break Anderson’s throw, and tie up the match. As has been the case in many matches this year, the Dutchman began to dominate the final after this, winning twelve of the next fourteen legs, to move just one set away from the title. A stage invader seemed to briefly put van Gerwen off his stride, as Anderson pulled a set back, but it was a temporary blip, as he took out 85 in the final leg of the tenth set to secure the match, the £350,000 winner’s cheque, and his second world title.
Darts has seen rapid growth since the formation of the PDC, with twenty-two different nationalities being represented here. It was also the first world championship in either the PDC or BDO where none of the semi-finalists were English, with two Dutchman (van Gerwen and van Barneveld) and two Scotsman (Anderson and Peter Wright) reaching the final four.
Many within the sport attribute this growth down to Phil Taylor, the 16-time world champion who became a household name in the 90s and early 2000s. However, at 56 years old, the question is no longer whether he will win another world title, but whether he will take part in another world championship, as he has slowly cut down his schedule over the last few years. Taylor has been invited into the Premier League, which comes to Leeds in February, and has said he will play in all the televised events he has already qualified for over the next couple of years, but is unlikely to carry on beyond this. With young stars such as Corey Cadby, Michael Smith and Benito van de Pas beginning to make their way through, it is likely that these will be the players most likely to stop the dominance of the Green Machine.
Photo Credit: Ben Hoskins