A review of Saturday's action at the Betfred World Matchplay, as Gary Anderson and debutant Dimitri van den Bergh reached the final in Milton Keynes.
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Master overcomes apprentice in thriller
Gary Anderson reached the 20th major televised final of his legendary PDC career after twice defying Michael Smith comebacks to edge a gripping World Matchplay encounter 18-16 at the Marshall Arena.
The 2018 champion saw two five-leg leads at 8-3 and 14-9 wiped out during the best of 33-leg showdown, with the second of those seeing his former apprentice storm into a 15-14 lead.
But just when he looked as though he had run out of steam, the Flying Scotsman produced a trademark late blitz to take four of the next five legs to prevail in a tie-break situation.
Anderson, who is maintaining an unbeatable behind-closed-doors major record having also won the Storm Emma affected UK Open during his glorious 2018, wasn't happy with his overall performance, in which he averaged 97.97 compared to Smith's 94.02 and hit half as many 180s with seven.
The two-time world champion's finishing was pretty impressive, however, pinning 18 of his 41 attempts at doubles (43.9%) and hitting three 100+ checkouts as his opponent disappointingly spurned 32 of his 48 (33.33%).
It was a relatively cagey start from both players but at 2-2, the Flying Scotsman started to pick up the pace with back-to-back 13-darters before a clinical 74 checkout put him 5-2 ahead.
Bully Boy responded with a classy 120 finish only for his former mentor to take the three on the spin to open up a commanding 8-3 advantage.
The St Helens thrower needed to act quickly and while he hardly hit the afterburners, he did do enough to punish Anderson for a lean scoring period over the next four legs - in which he also missed three darts at doubles - to reduce the deficit to 8-7.
A superb 127 checkout on the bullseye finished off a 12-darter from the former two-time world champion but two legs later Smith completed his revival by levelling up at 9-9.
This served only to spark the 49-year-old back into life as he followed up a 13-darter with a marvellous 128 checkout to restore a two-leg cushion by the final interval.
Smith seemed deflated and after falling 12-9 behind, he spurned two darts from double 10 and Anderson made him pay with a 13-darter.
That lead became 14-9 as the Flying Scotsman built up a five-leg lead for the second time in the match but again the wheels came off after missing two darts at double 18 for 15-9 and Bully Boy came charging back with five legs on the trot.
Anderson had only managed one attempt to finish during the previous four legs - and that was at the bullseye - and then spurned four at the outer ring in leg 29 as Smith pinched it on double one to take the lead for the first time in the match.
With tension building, it now appeared as though all the momentum was with the five-time major runner-up, who was bidding and hungry to reach the World Matchplay final for the second year in a row.
The two-time Premier League king, though, should never be written off even at the twilight of his career and proved why with a sparkling 116 checkout to complete a 12-darter after his opponent had just missed an attempt at the bullseye.
Smith, who was flying under the wing of his close friend for many years during his time in the same management stable, was then made to pay for spurning a dart at tops as Anderson took out 68 for a 16-15 lead, but he showed plenty of character of his own to force extra-time with an 81 finish in the next.
That would be the last dart he'd have at a double, with Anderson ensuring both comebacks would ultimately be in vain.
Smith, who has also reached the finals of the 2018 World Championship, Premier League (2018), Masters (2020) and the lesser regarded World Series of Darts Finals (2018), will be gutted about how he gave himself too much to do against a player not at his best but there are plenty of positives to take from his first major appearance since a two and a half stone weight loss during lockdown.
As for Anderson, he'll now eye the ninth major PDC title of his career having previously lifted the World Championship (2015, 2016) and Premier League (2011, 2015) trophies twice apiece as well as the World Matchplay (2018), UK Open (2018), Champions League of Darts (2018) and Players Championship Finals (2014).
The 2019 World Cup winner also has an overall total of 14 televised titles if you include the unranked World Series events.
In addition to all this, Anderson's run into the final has crucially defended £70,000 of the £115,000 he won from this tournament in 2018 and will therefore prevent significant damage to his Order of Merit ranking. He may of course even improve on that with a top prize of £150,000 available on Sunday night.
"To win it would be fantastic - to get my name on that trophy again would be special," Anderson told www.pdc.tv.
"I got a good lead and let him in. Michael will be gutted - his scoring wasn't quite up there tonight and he was struggling a little bit.
"It was great up to a point for me and I felt like I had it done and dusted but then it went wrong - I was struggling to get my darts up but I plodded on and pinched it at the end.
"I'm fighting myself and it's driving me nuts. I had all the time off last year and then I was just getting into it again and we went into lockdown.
"I want to get my game back to where I know it should be and I'm expecting to play like I used to but it's not happening for me at the moment. I'm playing nowhere near what I should be."
Dimitri makes more debut dreams
Dimitri van den Bergh reached his first major final on his sparkling World Matchplay debut as he withstood Glen Durrant's gutsy comeback to win a nail-biting clash 17-15.
The Dream Maker, who headed to Milton Keynes as a 200/1 outsider despite spending three months as a lockdown lodger at Peter Wright's house, averaged close to a 100 in a high-quality display while also showing tremendous character and nerves of steel against such an experienced player famed for his mental strength in tight encounters.
Not least during Friday night's quarter-finals when Durrant's iron willpower helped him reel in Vincent van der Voort from a perilous position of 10-5 down - but on this occasion one of the sport's brightest stars refused to crumble.
Weaker minded players would have done just that when Duzza levelled the match at 13-13 with an 11-darter having earlier trailed 12-8 before twice edging ahead 14-13 and 15-14.
On both occasions the two-time World Youth champion responded with 13-darters without allowing his opponent an attempt at a double and he repeated the trick in the 31st leg to move one away from a famous victory.
And there were no signs of pressure from the confident Belgian as he calmly finished the job with a 14-darter.
Van den Bergh, who has always had a reputation for being a blossoming stage player having previously reached five individual TV quarter-finals since the start of 2018 including two World Championships and the recent UK Open, will now have to beat one of the greatest of all time when he faces Gary Anderson.
He can take plenty more belief from this display as he averaged 98.97 compared to Durrant's 98.44 and hit the same number of maximums with nine.
Unlike in previous rounds where he was churning out the 100+ checkouts in style, the 2018 German Darts Masters runner-up's highest finish was just 76 while he will need to brush up on his doubles having spurned 29 of his 46.
Durrant, who knocked out world champion Peter Wright earlier in the tournament 12 months on from doing the same to Michael van Gerwen on debut en route to the semi-finals, will be desperately disappointed after falling one step short of his maiden PDC major final for the fourth time.
The three-time BDO king started the match on fire with a 151 checkout in the very first leg before a further finish of 72 and an 11-darter helped him move into an early 3-1 lead.
The 26-year-old then rallied by winning four legs on the spin and although Durrant hit back with a 10-darter, he continued to keep his nose in front at 6-4.
The Teessider produced another ton+ checkout - this time from 104 - to complete a 12-darter before Van den Bergh went on to open up his 9-5 advantage.
He repelled Durrant's initial comeback of three successive legs by responding in kind for a 12-9 lead and that's when the drama of the closing stretch began.
Van den Bergh said: "It's incredible - I don't think I realise what I've done yet. I kept digging in and I did the job when I had to do it at the end.
"I know Glen so well so I was nervous right to the end because you expect him to step up at any moment. Tonight he gave me opportunities and those little moments are the ones where I step in.
"I'm so proud to be in the final but I want to win it now. I'm in the final for a reason, and if I manage to win it will not be an upset.
"It's because I've worked hard for it and kept digging in and believing in myself. Tomorrow I will need to be on top of it from the start to the end.
"I think it will work for me that Gary is a fast player because I've played other fast players this week. I'll be ready and I think I have a big chance to be one of those winners who everyone remembers."
Routes to the World Matchplay final
- Rd 1: 10-5 Justin Pipe
Doubles: 10/28 (35.71%)
100+ Checkouts: 120, 112
- Rd 2: 11-7 James Wade
Doubles: 11/27 (40.74%)
100+ Checkouts: N/A
- QF: 16-12 Simon Whitlock
Doubles: 16/51 (31.37%)
100+ Checkouts: N/A
- SF: 18-16 Michael Smith
Doubles: 18/41 (42.9%)
100+ Checkouts: 128, 127, 116
DIMITRI VAN DEN BERGH
- Rd 1: 10-5 Nathan Aspinall
Doubles: 10/24 (41.67%)
100+ Checkouts: 156, 103
- Rd 2: 11-9 Joe Cullen
Doubles: 11/32 (34.38%)
100+ Checkouts: 138, 118, 105, 104
- QF: 16-12 Adrian Lewis
Doubles: 16/39 (41.03%)
100+ Checkouts: 164, 104
- SF: 17-15 Glen Durrant
Doubles: 17/46 (36.96%)
100+ Checkouts: N/A
World Matchplay tournament stats
- Tournament Average: 95.75
- 180s: 27
- Checkout percentage: 37.50% (55/147)
- 100+ checkouts: FIVE: 128, 127, 120, 116, 112
- Legs won/lost: 55/42
DIMITRI VAN DEN BERGH
- Tournament Average: 97.76
- 180s: 29
- Checkout percentage: 38.30% (54/141)
- 100+ checkouts: EIGHT: 164, 156, 138, 118, 105, 104, 104, 103
- Legs won/lost: 54/41
Gary Anderson v Dimitri van den Bergh: Head to head
- Overall H2H: 1-1
- Televised Meetings: 0-1
7-8: 2018 German Darts Masters (SF)
- Other Meetings: 1-2
5-1: PDC Home Tour (Last 128)
World Matchplay: Semi-final results & Sunday schedule
Saturday July 25 (2000 BST)
Semi-Finals (best of 33 legs)
TV Channel: Sky Sports
- Gary Anderson 18-16 Michael Smith
- Dimitri van den Bergh 17-15 Glen Durrant
Sunday July 26 (1900 BST)
Finals (best of 35 legs)
TV Channel: Sky Sports
- Gary Anderson v Dimitri van den Bergh
Related Darts Content
- Chris Hammer's Player-By-Player Guide
- Paul Nicholson's World Matchplay analysis
- World Matchplay betting preview & tips
- 2020 World Matchplay draw and schedule
- Carl Fletcher's vital statistics
- 2020 Premier League venues & dates
- 2020 PDC event calendar & results
- 2020 World Darts Championship results
- 2019 PDC event results
- Sky Bet's darts odds
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