Michael van Gerwen produced a supreme display to defeat Gerwyn Price and clinch a third Betfred World Matchplay title on a scintillating Sunday night in Blackpool.
Van Gerwen recovered from a sluggish start to record a breath-taking 18-14 victory over the Welshman, reeling off the last five legs without reply to scoop the £200,000 top prize and the coveted Phil Taylor Trophy.
The Dutchman produced a late surge to defeat 2020 champion Dimitri Van den Bergh in the semi-finals, and he repeated the feat against Price to celebrate his first title at the Winter Gardens since 2016.
Van Gerwen looked poised to surpass Adrian Lewis’ record-breaking maximum tally of 19 in the 2013 World Matchplay final at one stage, but a flurry of ton-plus checkouts in the closing stages catapulted him to a famous win.
“To put my hands on this trophy again means the world to me,” reflected an emotional Van Gerwen, competing in just his second event since returning from arm surgery last month.
“I’ve come through a very difficult patch in my career. To come back and beat a player of Gerwyn’s quality means a lot to me. I am really proud.
“There was drama in the final, phenomenal darts, big scoring, great finishing. You cannot imagine how happy I am.
“The good times are coming again, I feel it. It’s the first time I’ve played a final against Gerwyn on Sky Sports, and to win feels incredible.
“I hope we can have a lot more battles like this. I think before this tournament a final would have been a dream for me, because I’ve been going through a tough period.”
Price was bidding to become the first Welshman to lift the World Matchplay title, and for large periods he appeared poised to make history, only for Van Gerwen to produce a sensational turnaround.
The three-time World Champion averaged 101.19, fired in fifteen 180s and converted five ton-plus finishes to become the second player in World Matchplay history to win a hat-trick of titles.
Price was in dreamland in the early exchanges, punishing a profligate start from Van Gerwen to race into a 4-0 lead, before the Dutchman came agonisingly close to opening his account with a sensational nine-darter in leg five.
Van Gerwen missed double 12 for his second perfect leg at the Winter Gardens, but a ten-darter provided the catalyst for a stunning three-leg burst, which saw him follow up a 13-darter with a spectacular 160 checkout to reduce the arrears to 4-3.
The world number three was firing in maximums with alarming regularity, but his outer ring woes resurfaced in leg eight, with six more misses at double – taking his tally to 17 – enabling Price to regain control at 6-4.
The third session was littered with quality, as Price established a four-leg buffer with legs of 11, 12 and 14 darts, but a brilliant 82 finish on the bull from Van Gerwen, coupled with a tenth 180 and a 12-dart break in leg 15, saw him cut the deficit to 9-6.
Van Gerwen maintained his relentless assault on the treble 20, firing in back-to-back 180s and taking out 97 in two darts for an 11-dart hold, before pinning an effortless 140 combination to stay two legs adrift.
Price, who finished superbly in the opening exchanges, was beginning to display fallibility in the doubling department and Van Gerwen capitalised by winning three of the next four legs to level at 12-12.
The tension was tangible in the Winter Gardens, but following four straight holds, Van Gerwen struck the decisive blow in leg 29, producing a magnificent 130 finish to secure the lead for the first time.
The 33-year-old cemented his advantage with a comfortable hold, before moving to within a leg of glory with a nerveless 114 outshot – his fourth ton-plus finish of the contest.
The Welshman replied with a ninth 180 as he looked to preserve his hopes, but an inspired Van Gerwen wasn’t to be denied, wrapping up a landmark victory with a brilliant 121 checkout on the bullseye.
This victory caps off an incredible few months for Van Gerwen, despite his injury woes, as he follows up a sixth Premier League crown with his first televised ranking title since his Players Championship Finals success in November 2020.
Price pocketed £100,000 as runner-up following a superb campaign, which included a 104.64 average against Jose De Sousa, and a nine-darter in his semi-final success against Danny Noppert.
The 37-year-old was unable to round off a brilliant week with his eighth PDC televised triumph, but he does reclaim the world number one spot following Peter Wright’s quarter-final exit.
“I was fortunate to be 9-6 up. Michael is a fantastic player and once he gets on a roll like that, it’s hard to contain him,” admitted the 2021 World Champion.
“I didn’t have a purple patch which I needed in this game, and I think Michael had it all game!
“Michael was fantastic. He’s a deserving winner. He is a great player and a great friend.
“I am definitely proud of myself, especially with the way I’ve been playing in the last couple of months. It just didn’t happen.