For every top darter there was that first time on a big stage, including Michael van Gerwen. In May 2006, he made his television debut at the International Darts League, formerly one of the major television tournaments in the Netherlands. As a 17-year-old, he got to face big names like Colin Lloyd, Martin Adams, Daryl Fitton and Tony O'Shea.
After surviving a pool with Lloyd, Tony Eccles and Martin Atkins in the first round, Van Gerwen found himself in the last sixteen (four pools) in a group with Adams, Fitton and O'Shea. Van Gerwen legitimately faced three BDO icons, but he wasn't afraid of anyone. The Brabander showed that in the first match of this group against Martin Adams.
Van Gerwen immediately started the match (first to 7 legs) with three 140 scores, although Adams would hold his leg in 15 darts. After Van Gerwen came back to 1-1 in 14 darts in his own leg, the fireworks really began. While Adams was waiting on his own leg at 36 after 12 darts, Van Gerwen turned the Triavium in Nijmegen upside down. Via a 125-finish (Bull-25-Bull), Van Gerwen broke to go 1-2. Adams could only watch it with a big grin.
Adams though, did not let Van Gerwen's 125 get him down. First he broke Van Gerwen back to 2-2 with a 13 darter, to keep his own leg in 12 darts via a 121 finish on the bull. However, the violence of Adams did not faze Van Gerwen either. The next leg Van Gerwen hit 141, also in 12 darts. It was 3-3.
Breaking point, or not
After Adams held his own leg in 15 darts, he broke Van Gerwen to go 5-3 in 14 darts. A break point seemed imminent. Adams was left on 40 looking to move to 6-3 ahead, but Van Gerwen improbably threw out 146 and it became 5-4. The next legs all went with the darts and in just 14 arrows.
At 6-6 there had to be a sudden-death leg in a sensational match. Van Gerwen won the bull and started with a 180, which proved too much for Adams. After nine darts, Van Gerwen was on a finish, Adams was not close. Still Van Gerwen threw out a 164-finish as the final chord of a sensational game and won 7-6. Van Gerwen threw 108.5 average, Adams lost despite a 106.8 average.
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Afterwards, there was a standing ovation in the hall. At the time Van Gerwen's good buddy Jelle Klaasen applauded, and names like Fitton and Andy Fordham were also astounded. The late mastercaller Martin Fitzmaurice addressed the audience, with the gentlemen still on the stage. He stated along with Darryl Fitton and Andy Fordham, "This is the best match darts has ever seen."
Van Gerwen would advance to the quarterfinals at the 2006 International Darts League, where Van Barneveld was too strong 9-3. But it didn't matter anymore: Van Gerwen's name was established.