Could Dimitri Van Den Bergh Cap Off a Superb Twelve Months With an Unlikely Success at Alexandra Palace?
It's been an excellent couple of months for Dimitri van den Bergh, with the Belgian thrower becoming the fourth-youngest winner of a PDC Major with victory in the World Matchplay.
The 26-year old was a 100/1 shot ahead of the tournament in Milton Keynes, and capped a staggering seven days by hitting his favoured double 16 to help seal a memorable victory over Gary Anderson. During his sensational run to the final, he also saw off the likes of Joe Cullen, Adrian Lewis, Nathan Aspinall, and Glen Durrant, who was reportedly struggling to come to terms with the defeat.
Van den Bergh showed tremendous focus throughout the week, beating a number of players that he'd previously struggled against. The Antwerp-born star was making his first appearance in the tournament, and as a result of his triumph, he has now been granted the opportunity to take part in the Grand Slam of Darts, which is scheduled for mid-November.
Although he has previously featured as one of the many guest players in the Premier League, he has also now put himself firmly in the frame for a place in the weekly tournament for 2021.
Despite his lofty pre-tournament odds, the Belgian's success is unlikely to have come as a surprise to those have closely followed his career. He has often been touted as one of the most promising young players on the Tour.
Having secured his second World Youth Championship title as recently as 2018, 'The Dreammaker' has improved exponentially since his brilliant 6-3 victory over Martin Schlinder in Minehead two years ago. He reached the quarter-final stage of the UK Open in March, and crashed out of the World Championships at the same stage just two months earlier.
His victory at the Marshall Arena has seen him rise to 12th in the PDC Order of Merit. His manager Mac Elkin was understandably delighted with the progress shown by the affable right-hander, explaining that the overarching plan is to continue the upward momentum, with the focus firmly on achieving further success in high-profile events.
Van den Bergh has enjoyed his recent trips to North London, reaching the quarter-finals of the PDC World Championship on two separate occasions.
In 2018, his progress at Alexandra Palace was abruptly ended by Rob Cross, a player who went on to clinch an unlikely victory over Phil Taylor just days later. Last season, he sailed through the first couple of rounds before somehow managing to edge out Adrian Lewis, despite losing the opening couple of sets. Although he briefly threatened a comeback against Nathan Aspinall in the following round, he just fell short of reaching the semi-final stage, and will be aiming to go at least one better this time around.
With an impressive 45% checkout conversion in Milton Keynes, and decent average of 98.31, the World Matchplay champion has shown that he is able to produce top-class performances on a consistent basis, and if the draw falls kindly for him, he may finally be able to get his hands on the Sid Waddell Trophy.
As of August 2nd, he is 28/1 in the latest ante-post tournament odds, with many darts fans keen to back him for success following his sensational displays in Buckinghamshire. He produced some eye-catching averages at the tournament last season, and with his finishing having markedly improved over the last twelve months, as well as his ability to hit the big numbers, he will be full of confidence going into this year's event.
The Belgian tends to have very few problems progressing through the first couple of rounds at Alexandra Palace, and he is unlikely to be troubled by fellow Team Unicorn contenders Jeffrey de Zwaan, Keegan Brown, and Chris Dobey.
However, he has typically struggled against opponents in the top ten PDC Order of Merit. He has lost five of his six meetings with Michael Van Gerwen, although they haven't crossed paths since April 2019. By his own high standards, the all-conquering Dutchman is having a fairly underwhelming season and, having been unceremoniously dumped out of the World Matchplay, he could be there for the taking later this year.
He has managed to beat Peter Wright in two of their six previous match-ups, although the 2020 champion is unlikely to surrender his stranglehold on the tournament without a fight. If Van den Bergh finds himself in the same half of the draw as Daryl Gurney, it could be bad news for 'The Dreammaker', who is yet to get the better of the Northern Irishman in six meetings. However, he does have a decent record against Michael Smith, James Wade, Simon Whitlock, Adrian Lewis, and the aforementioned Glen Durrant.
The genial thrower tends to thrive at high-profile events, and with his ability to feed off the energy of the crowd, he remains extremely popular with fans. As his walk-on music suggests, he is simply happy to be on the PDC Tour, and is clearly enjoying his darts. With his first major in the bag, Van den Bergh will surely go onto bigger and better things, and he may just have the potential to pull off a major surprise at the end-of-season showdown in North London.