Michael van Gerwen was crowned the 2019 Darts World Champion last night, beating Michael Smith 7-3 in the final at London’s Alexandra Palace.
This year’s contest was perhaps the best yet, once again highlighting the enormous popularity that the game now has. There were a range of firsts at the 26thth running of the PDC event. The number of competitors has grown substantially this year, from 72 to 96. Along with the top seeds, a greater number of wildcards were awarded to players from all over the world. In a positive move from the PDC, women were included in the event for the first time, somewhat reducing the stigma that it is a solely male event. Two female competitors took part, although both Lisa Ashton and Anastasia Dobromyslova were sadly eliminated in the opening round. Perhaps most different, though, was the absence of 16-time champion Phil Taylor, a man who dominated the sport for over three decades. Although he struggled to win many tournaments in his later years, he did reach last year’s final, and his iconic entrance music and legendary status will never be matched.
Beginning on December 13th, there were upsets from the get go. A huge number of the top seeds crashed out in the opening two rounds, including Peter Wright, Gerwyn Price, Mensur Suljovic, Simon Whitlock and five-time world champion Raymond van Barneveld. Taking their spots were an exciting group of young players, including Nathan Aspinall from Stockport. Last year’s winner Rob Cross, two-time world champion Gary Anderson and top seed Michael van Gerwen all advanced through to the last 16 with relative ease, although Anderson suffered a bit of a fright in a close game with Jermaine ?????. Former world-champion Adrian Lewis also progressed after a difficult year, having been suspended for some extremely confrontational behaviour in a minor tournament.
The standout games of the opening rounds were surely Devon Petersen’s astonishing comeback against 11th seed Ian White, and Lithuanian Darius Labanauskas’ victory over van Barneveld. The Dutchman announced just before the tournament began that this would be his penultimate World Championships before he retires from the game. For someone who normally delivers huge performances at the Alexandra Palace, this was certainly not one of those years from the five-time world champion.
The tournament stopped temporarily on the 23rd December for Christmas but played resumed again on the 27th. Gary Anderson had another difficult opponent in Chris Dobey, who had one of the performances of his life, but just fell short, losing to the Scotsman 4-3. A number more of the top seeds went crashing out in Round 4, including James Wade, Adrian Lewis and last year’s world champion Rob Cross, who was beaten 4-2 by Luke Humphries.
Unfortunately, the four quarter-finals were not quite as exciting as the earlier rounds. Michael van Gerwen stormed past Ryan Joyce, Michael Smith easily dispatched Luke Humphries and Gary Anderson eliminated Dave Chisnall. One surprise though was Nathan Aspinall, one of the lesser known players, beating Brendan Dolan to secure a semi-final spot. Unfortunately, he would go on to lose 6-3 to Michael Smith, but it was an incredible tournament from the young Stockport thrower nonetheless. In the other semi-final, Gary Anderson and Michael van Gerwen didn’t provide us with another thrilling match as they have done so many times before. The Dutchman breezed past Anderson 6-1, to book his place in the final against Michael Smith.
In the final, van Gerwen raced into a four-set lead, punishing Smith several times with fantastic checkouts. Smith though, in his first World Championship final, was not letting his head drop. He battled back to take 2 sets, including one without dropping a leg. But it wasn’t enough; the world number one won three of the next four sets, to take his 3rd title at the Alexandra Palace.
Immediately after, the line-up for the 2019 Premier League was announced. This will run weekly from February until the end of May, and includes the following players:
Michael van Gerwen (Netherlands), Rob Cross (England), Peter Wright (Scotland), Gary Anderson (Scotland), Daryl Gurney (Northern Ireland), Gerwyn Price (Wales), Mensur Suljovic (Austria), James Wade (England), Michael Smith (England), Raymond van Barneveld (Netherlands).