Gary Anderson’s glittering career reached a new high as he defeated Mensur Suljovic 21-19 to win the World Matchplay for the first time.
By Chris Hammer
In doing so the Flying Scotsman becomes just the third player of all time behind Phil Taylor and Michael van Gerwen to complete the Triple Crown of Darts, which also consists of the World Championship and Premier League.
Anderson was initially on the brink of victory when 17-13 up but Suljovic, who surprisingly scored the heavier throughout with an average of 104 and 14 180s (scroll down for full match stats), produced a spirited run of four successive legs, including a 121 checkout on the bullseye, to ensure a compelling contest continued beyond the best-of-35 format.
With both players now needing to win by two clear legs, the Austrian then edged ahead 18-17 before Anderson recomposed himself to stop the rot and restore parity.
The next two legs were shared but only after Anderson's dart at bull to win the title dramatically hit the wire, allowing Suljovic to take advantage with a superb 11-darter under immense pressure.
The crowd fell silent between darts such was the tension of one of the greatest televised finals ever seen but the majority of them erupted when Anderson pinned double eight after the Gentle blew two attempts from 40.
The 47-year-old then finally joined Taylor and MVG in the elite group of Triple Crown winners as he completed a 15-darter on double 10 to round off a match - and tournament - of the highest drama.
"I'm delighted to win this magnificent tournament," said Anderson. "It was a struggle to win as it always is against Mensur and I think I rode my luck a bit tonight.
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"When the bullseye to win it bounced out it was frustrating but I managed to regain my composure to win it. It's been nice to see Phil back in Blackpool this week and the crowd have been fantastic.
"This is a special place for me now and I'll look forward to coming back here next year to defend my title."
Although Anderson had won those other two prestigious titles twice each, he had never previously reached the final at the Winter Gardens in his nine previous visits to Blackpool – but now he's completed the set after the most memorable of weeks.
On route to glory he defeated Raymond van Barneveld in a classic before bringing down the house with a nine-dart finish in a quarter-final of the ages against Joe Cullen (click here to watch), while his stunning display on Saturday night saw him end the giant-killing run of MVG’s conqueror Jeffrey de Zwaan.
It's also Anderson’s second TV major title of the season having also won the UK Open for the first time at a freezing Minehead back in March.
Suljovic's third major final - and the longest in Blackpool history - may have ended in defeat but he can take great credit for how he pushed one of the game's all-time legends to the limit once again.
The last time they met with a title up for grabs was at last year's Champions League of Darts, which the Austrian won to claim his maiden TV crown.
At one stage the plucky Austrian led 9-7 with the aid of a 118 checkout and another 14-darter as he threatened a shock result only for a flurry of missed doubles to open the door for Anderson, who capitalised by winning seven of the next eight legs. (Click here for full leg-by-leg report)
Although he did pull back to 15-13, the white flag looked ready for waving two legs later only for Suljovic to bravely bounced back before Anderson finally finished him off.
"It was a brilliant feeling to play in this final - it was such a good game," said Suljovic, whose 14 180s was the most he'd ever thrown in a single match. "Thank you to everybody for the support, I loved playing here.
"Gary played brilliant, he was the best player in the tournament so it is OK to lose to him - he is a champion and I respect him."
Anderson 21-19 Suljovic: Match statistics
- Anderson: 101.41
- Suljovic: 104.43
- Anderson: 14
- Suljovic: 14
- Anderson: 30
- Suljovic: 42
- Anderson: 47
- Suljovic: 53
- Anderson: 35.71% (21/58)
- Suljovic: 37.25% (19/51)
- Anderson 105
- Suljovic 121 & 100