BACK-TO-BACK IN BLACKPOOL AS VAN GERWEN RETAINS BETVICTOR WORLD MATCHPLAY TITLE
MICHAEL VAN GERWEN retained his BetVictor World Matchplay title with a ruthless 18-10 defeat of Phil Taylor at Blackpool's Winter Gardens on Sunday evening, denying the 15-time champion a return to glory with an outstanding performance.
Having lost out to Taylor on the Winter Gardens stage two years ago, van Gerwen followed up his 2015 success against James Wade by defeating the 15-time World Champion with a clinical display, hitting two-third of his darts at doubles alongside 12 maximums.
The triumph sees van Gerwen become only the third player - alongside Taylor and Rod Harrington - to retain the prestigious World Matchplay title, as he retained the trophy and pocketed a £100,000 first prize as he won a 12th tournament of 2016.
"It feels amazing to win this title again," said van Gerwen. "I think I played well all through the tournament and I dominated the final - against Phil you always need to step up a bit and I did.
"To beat Phil is always nice because he's a legend and I've got so much respect for him. He knows that and that makes it even better to win this trophy by beating him.
"Phil gave me a chance and he knows that if he gives me a chance I'll take them, and my confidence was there. He's never lost in a World Matchplay final so you know you need to play well, and I did that.
"I think I won this title quite comfortably but I did the right thing at the right moments in this tournament and I didn't make a lot of mistakes. I think I'm the best but you need to show it on that stage, especially in moments like that.
"I'm a really happy man to retain this title, it means a lot to me."
A maximum helped Taylor to win the opening leg, only for van Gerwen to finish 70 to level and 77 to break in the third - following three missed doubles from the Stoke great - before a brilliant 11-darter, featuring two 180s, saw the Dutchman move 3-1 up.
Taylor finished 70 on the bull to hit back in the fifth and shared the next four to stay in touch at 5-4, only for van Gerwen to follow a two-dart 93 checkout with finishes of 65, 110, tops, 63 and 76 in a six-leg burst to move 11-4 up.
Taylor pounced on misses from van Gerwen to win two of the next three, and also hit legs of 11 and 12 darts as he pulled back to 13-8 - but a 13-darter from the Dutchman, featuring a 177 and a 180, was followed by a 112 checkout seemed to stop the fightback in its tracks.
Taylor responded with a 130 finish and then took out 81 for a 12-darter to stay in touch at 15-10, but double 18 and double eight edged van Gerwen towards the title before he landed double 16 to complete a brilliant triumph.
The defeat for Taylor was his first in a World Matchplay final, and the Stoke legend conceded: "I'm gutted. I don't know why but I just didn't have enough, I'm shattered.
"He killed me, he bullied me. Darts has changed, I've been lucky enough to be involved with the greats, this is the greatest as far as I'm concerned.
"This is a fella that's dominating like I did. He does everything right and at the moment we're not. I've got to start making changes and that starts tomorrow morning."