Either Michael van Gerwen or Peter Wright will see in the new year as the PDC World Darts Championship 2020 winner.
This will be the first decade in which a World Darts Championship title isn’t held by Phil Taylor or Eric Bristow. Michael van Gerwen is destined to join the pair as one of the game’s all-time greats. But how many titles will the Dutchman accrue before he calls it quits? It’ll be four if he comes out on top at the Alexandra Palace this evening. But Peter Wright stands between him and glory. Wright, hurt so often by agonising near misses, can rid himself of darting demons if he can pull off the greatest win of his life.
Only five PDC World Championship final line-ups have been repeated before today. Phil Taylor avenged defeat to Dennis Priestley at the inaugural event by besting the Yorkshireman at four more finals. The Power also lost to Raymond van Barneveld in that unforgettable 2007 showdown, before reversing the charges two years later.
Taylor beat John Part in 2001 before losing to the same man in 2003, and Gary Anderson had the last laugh over Adrian Lewis in the 2016 final, five years after Jackpot took the title ahead of the Scot. Peter Manley is the only player to face the same player multiple times in a final without winning one – he fell victim to the Power in 2002 and 2006.
The World Darts Championship is testament to the old adage: if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Could Wright avenge his 2014 final failure at van Gerwen’s hands?
Mighty Mike targets number four
Michael van Gerwen is into his fifth World Championship final in eight years; having won three out of four to date, he’ll want to make it four from five. The Dutchman is a bubbling mass of confidence, absolutely certain that he’ll lift the trophy once again. That sort of self-assuredness is priceless in the big moments, especially in times of trouble.
That being said, we haven’t seen the world number one in bother since the very first night. Facing his nemesis Jelle Klaasen, van Gerwen struggled to focus and fell a set down, flirting with a two-set deficit at times. Mighty Mike woke up, stepped up a gear (leaving a few higher gears untouched) and powered through.
Ricky Evans and Stephen Bunting couldn’t lay a glove on the darting heavyweight, and even though Darius Labanauskas and Nathan Aspinall claimed five sets between them, neither looked like sending van Gerwen packing. Now he’s just one step from another World Darts Championship, and another piece of silverware to slot into a heaving trophy cabinet.
One possible cause for concern is that van Gerwen has turned off at times throughout the tournament. It hasn’t prevented victories, but lapses in concentration have prevented the Green Machine from getting going. Labanauskas benefited from it at times, and a less wasteful Aspinall might have used those dips in form to make him sweat. He’s got away with it because he hasn’t really been required to exhaust his full arsenal to date. As a result, we haven’t seen the best of van Gerwen by a long chalk.
He’s of course the favourite, and is someone who doesn’t fail to get geared up for the big events – of which the World Darts Championship is undoubtedly the magnum opus. Van Gerwen has to just keep reminding himself that the trophy’s not his until it’s in his hands. After that, he can sit back with the highest PDC Order of Merit total ever amassed.
Does Wright know how to get it right?
It has been an interesting year for Peter Wright. Snakebite started the year in odd form, once again floundering in the Premier League. During the summer months, he was playing better than anyone, yet failed at the World Matchplay when he was tipped widely for the title.
Wright made it to the Grand Slam final, and couldn’t claim the title – in his defence, Gerwyn Price was simply unstoppable. He could end the season with three floor titles and nothing else. Or he could head back to Suffolk with the World Darts Championship trophy in tow.
It was almost over for Snakebite before it began. Noel Malicdem looked set to pull off an almighty Ally Pally shock, only for Wright to pull something special out of the bag. Seigo Asada and Jeffrey de Zwaan also pushed him, but it felt like the Scot was starting to get comfortable.
His zenith came in a spectacular 5-3 success against Luke Humphries, in which Wright piled in a 105.86 average. Things weren’t quite as good in a strangely flat semi-final against Gerwyn Price – one which will be remembered more for off-the-oche drama than any of the darts thrown – but a big hurdle was overcome nonetheless.
We’ve seen a different Peter Wright in London this time around. He’s got a set that he looks happy with, and is producing good darts. Normally not the biggest maximum-hitter, Snakebite has thrown 57 180s at a rate of over 11 per match. His tally in the semi-final win over Price (16) was his biggest ever at the World Darts Championship.
The problem, as we all know, is about converting chances into titles. Wright has won the UK Open title, yet so many more chances have gone begging. Even in beating Price, quite a routine victory in hindsight, a few match darts went quite awry. He insists that there’s no mental block – the ever-popular Scot can prove it categorically tonight.
And so it comes down to this
What a wonderful World Darts Championship we’ve had. Seeds have been rattled, and often toppled. The international qualifiers have got better and better. Standards have risen – there were no sub-80 averages, and there may never be any again bar the odd slip.
WC tournament averages by players' qualifying method from 2013 to 2020 (provisional)
We've seen a dramatic increase in regional qualifiers' averages, in spite of the tournament's expansion – they're barely more than 5 points behind the top seeds overall. pic.twitter.com/8fo4jzVKbL
— Christopher Kempf (@ochepedia) December 27, 2019
Fallon Sherrock became a global household name thanks to her Alexandra Palace history-making. In Ted Evetts, we saw not only good darts but the best in sporting behaviour. Luke Humphries 3-2 Jermaine Wattimena and Jeffrey de Zwaan 4-3 Dave Chisnall were bona fide classics. A cavalcade of young and exciting players strutted their stuff. We’ll be seeing lots more of Keane Barry, for sure. And Ricky Evans’ walk-ons were magnificent, obviously.
Now either Michael van Gerwen or Peter Wright will chalk their name into the annals of darting history as the 2020 champion.
The great scales of history tip heavily in the Dutchman’s favour. They’ve met in 18 finals in all; van Gerwen has come out on top 16 times. It won’t just be the 2014 World Darts Championship final that springs to mind, either. There’s the European Darts Open final in 2018, where Wright led 5-1 and 7-5 before losing 8-7. The 2017 Premier League final was perhaps the most heart-wrenching case of finish line fever seen in recent years. We saw a repeat of sorts this year at the Champions League of Darts, with van Gerwen again profiting from Wright’s mishaps.
Of course, this World Darts Championship has been different in many ways. Perhaps it’ll be the moment where Snakebite casts off the shackles of precedent, to claim the £500,000 top prize. Maybe it’ll be the familiar sight of MvG hoisting that trophy once again.
At the end of a spectacular tournament, one thing we want above all is a final that lives long in the memory, no matter who wins it. We should start the decade as we mean to go on, after all.
Happy New Year, everyone. Buckle up for some titillating tungsten.
Click here for more information on the PDC World Darts Championship, which takes place at the Alexandra Palace between December 13 and January 1.
PDC World Darts Championship 2020 Final
Starts 19:00 GMT, best of 13 sets
Michael van Gerwen  vs  Peter WrightTags: Michael van Gerwen, PDC, PDC World Darts Championship 2020, Peter Wright
Author: Ed McCosh