With videoNo world champion and no number 1 position in the world ranking. The grapes are particularly sour for Michael van Gerwen after the lost – epic – World Cup final against Michael Smith (4-7), who lifted the Sid Waddell Trophy for the first time.
“I missed opportunities. In the second, in the seventh and in the ninth set. And if I don’t finish it, he will. I can blame myself for this defeat and I have to take this blow to the chin like a man”, Van Gerwen lamented after the lost World Cup final, who could hardly hold back his tears. “The doubles killed me. I played a fantastic tournament, but in the final I sold myself short. I’m very sick of this. This is a very painful one,” he added via play.
Smith was also full of emotions, but then of euphoria: ,,I felt like I didn’t deserve it. But I took the opportunities that were offered to me after my opponent’s misses,” said the Englishman, who was not the favorite against the apparently unapproachable Dutchman beforehand.
It was also not surprising that the bookmakers considered Michael van Gerwen as the big favorite against Michael Smith prior to the World Cup final. The Dutchman’s average in his previous matches was considerably better than that of the Englishman (104.63 against 97.64) Mighty Mike showed themselves better (45% against 42%).
But results achieved in the past offer no guarantee for the future, Van Gerwen was well aware. He described Smith as one of the biggest dangers before the tournament. And where other toppers such as James Wade, Peter Wright, Luke Humphries and Gerwyn Price died one by one, the Michaels survived without too many problems. Van Gerwen had to go deep to fend off the unchained Austrian Mensur Suljovic in the fourth round, Smith had to pull out all the stops in the quarterfinals to reject fellow countryman Stephen Bunting.
Best leg ever
In the final, van Gerwen missed his first seven attempts at a double, but then he pressed the accelerator hard and immediately won the first set ‘against the darts’. And then, in the third leg of the second set, there was an unparalleled outburst, the best leg in darts history. Both Michaels threw eight perfect darts, after which Van Gerwen threw the ninth just short of the double 12 for a perfect leg. Smith then did so and the first nine-darter during this World Championship was a fact. When Van Gerwen then two chances to one rebreak left behind, he also lost an ‘own’ set: 1-1.
Smith then took the lead (2-1 in sets), mainly because Van Gerwen found it difficult to find the doubles (23%, against 47% for his opponent. It kept raining oohs and aahs in Alexandra Palace. For example, when Van Gerwen was under pressure 90 via single 18, double 18 and double 18 to prevent a break in leg one of set four, which BEST REGARDS problem-free inside rod: 2-2.
Smith was still ahead in terms of average (106.31 – 103.88) and throwout percentage (41% – 30%), but Van Gerwen reduced the difference. And when it came to a decisive leg for the first time in the fifth set, he struck hard: 2-3. But it was far from decided. One triple per turn and you were in danger of the other going off, that’s how high this match was. And so Smith came to 3-3.
Van Gerwen missed two arrows to take the lead again in sets and that cost him dearly, very dearly. Smith turned 0-2 in legs to 3-2 and therefore 4-3 in sets. Painful for the Dutchman, who then also handed in his ‘own’ eighth set: 5-3. Scoring they were hardly inferior to each other, Smith made the difference with throws: 50% – 37%.
Van Gerwen seemed mentally broken, because in the ninth set his arrows were further from the triple 20 than before. And Smith just kept hammering the high scores into the board. Shaking his head, he has to admit that Smith was leading 6-3 in sets and therefore only needed one more for his first world title. Van Gerwen’s average even dropped below a hundred, while he finished all his matches with a higher average this tournament. Another evidence of the collapse. Or could he pick himself up again? The answer was: no.
After five years (Rob Cross, 2018), England has the world title back in its own home. ‘Darts is coming home’, the English darts fans in Alexandra Palace sang towards the end of the match. It became 2-2 in the ninth set, with Van Gerwen starting the fifth leg. Knowing that he had to win it to keep his hopes of his fourth world title intact. Could he handle the pressure? The first arrow to win the leg and the set went wrong, the second, the third… but the fourth hit and the deficit was reduced to 4-6.
But the mountain was still high for the Vlijmenaar, who had to take set eleven from Smith to begin with. And: Bam! He immediately placed a break in the first leg. But in the fourth leg things went wrong again. Van Gerwen had one chance to win the leg and the set by throwing double bull, but that just failed. Smith broke back and was allowed to start the fifth leg.
With 180 he started it perfectly and he didn’t let it slip. Michael Smith is the new world champion. Michael van Gerwen cannot crown his return to a high level after his hand operation with the very highest. Not yet.
watch here the schedule and all results of the World Cup darts at Alexandra Palace in London.
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