A review of Sunday's darts action at the BetVictor Masters as Michael van Gerwen hit two 170 checkouts en route to winning the title for a fifth year in a row.
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Michael van Gerwen made a dream start to the PDC darts season by defeating James Wade 11-5 to win the BetVictor Masters for the fifth year a row.
The world champion, who ended the last campaign on a ultimate high by lifting the Sid Waddell Trophy for the third time, laid down another ominous marker to his rivals in Milton Keynes as he collected the 118th winners' cheque of his career - this time worth £60,000.
MVG may not have been at his explosive best but he still managed to extend his winning streak on this stage to 20 matches dating back to 2015 with relative ease and he even hit two 170 checkouts on Sunday - once against Wade and the other against Dave Chisnall in the semi-finals.
Van Gerwen was in cruise control in the final, averaging just under 100 compared to Wade's disappointing 87 and although he only managed two 180s, he did bring the crowd to their feet with three 100+ finishes.
"I'm really pleased," Van Gerwen told www.pdc.tv. "It's a great venue for me and this is a tournament I love, so I'm delighted. I didn't play phenomenally in this tournament and there's more in the tank, but I'm hoping this is going to be the start of another good year.
"The tour gets more difficult every year and I'm trying to get better all the time. You want to be strong here to start the year well and give yourself confidence, and I've done that. James did well to reach the final. He deserves a lot of credit because I think a lot of people underestimate him."
MVG made a bright start with a 13-darter in the opening leg but although his five missed darts at a double for an early break were punished by Wade in the next leg, he responded in style with a stunning 124 checkout on the bullseye.
The Machine, who showed his trademark battling spirit in a semi-final triumph over Peter Wright earlier in the evening, produced a classy finish from 76 to restore parity only for MVG to edge ahead again when racing away with a 14-darter.
MVG was surprisingly averaging in the mid-90s during these early exchanges, with the Aldershot thrower taking full advantage to level it up at 3-3.
However, when trailing 4-3 he spurned three darts from 24 as van Gerwen pinned tops for a 13-dart break and the world champion went one better in the next leg with another bullseye finish from 124.
The Dutchman was really turning on the style now and landed his second 170 checkout of the night to complete a second successive 12-darter for a 7-3 lead.
Wade, appearing in his third televised final in his last six tournaments having won the European Championship and World Series of Darts late last year, did show a brief hint of resistance with a 12-darter only for MVG to take the next two.
The Englishman punished MVG's three missed darts from 36 to reduce the arrears again but that would be the last leg he'd win as the 29-year-old got his hands on the trophy yet again.
He's now won 34 major PDC crowns among his 118 career titles and couldn't be in much more confident mood heading into the Premier League.
The only sign of weakness over his four matches this weekend was his finishing. He missed 22 darts at doubles in his first-round win against Jonny Clayton on Friday, 21 in both his matches with Mensur Suljovic and Chisnall while he spurned 17 against Wade.
"I take my hat off to Michael - he did the job and was quality," said Wade. "He gave me so many opportunities and I played really poorly in the final.
"There's still a lot more to come from me. I've got to the final and that shows what I've got to come."
Michael van Gerwen extended his BetVictor Masters winning streak to 19 matches with yet another victory over Dave Chisnall as he booked his spot in tonight's final against James Wade.
In the 28th televised meeting between the pair, MVG made it 27 wins in his favour with an 11-7 scoreline as Chizzy failed to put the world champion under pressure throughout the largely one-sided contest.
The Dutchman stormed into an early 4-2 lead with the help of two 12-darters - one of which being finished off with a superb 170 checkout - while he soon took that tally to three when taking out 141 for a 6-2 advantage.
Chizzy, still seeking the first televised title of his career, was uncharacteristically struggling from a scoring perspective and his first 180 didn't arrive until he was 7-4 down - but even then he lost the 12th leg.
MVG's standard dropped off enough to allow his opponent three of the next five legs but he promptly ended any glimmer of a potential comeback with a 10-darter to seal the victory.
He averaged 100 compared to Chisnall's 93, hit one more maximum with three and pinned 10 of his 31 attempts at doubles.
The 29-year-old hasn't lost any of his 23 consecutive matches against Chisnall, who lasted avoided defeat in a Premier League draw two years ago, and the only defeat he suffered on TV was back at the 2013 World Grand Prix.
The Dutchman will now go forward into tonight's final against Wade in search of his fifth successive Masters title, and still defending an unbeaten record in this competition since it was moved to Milton Keynes at the start of his streak in 2015.
Wade came through a war of attrition against Peter Wright, eventually running out an 11-9 winner as his resurgence at the top of the sport continued.
The Machine, who celebrated becoming a father by ending a near five-year wait for a televised title at the European Championship last October before landing another at the World Series of Darts seven days later is now into his third final in his last six tournaments.
Both those major titles at the back end of last season were characterised by his trademark killer timing and holding his nerve at the key times in close matches and those qualities once again came to the fore in a real battle against Wright.
At 4-3 down, Snakebite began a run of seven successive breaks of throw in the match up to and including Wright's 100 checkout to level the scores at 7-7.
Whereas Wright's stronger scoring had been rescuing his chances against the throw, Wade was responding with clinical finishing to punish the wasteful Scotsman.
It actually looked as though Wright was making a decisive push for the finish line when moving 9-7 up with back-to-back 13 darters only to fall apart when the Machine to ground him down with four legs on the spin.
Wade, who averaged 94 compared to Wright's 98 and failed to hit a single 180, pinned 11 of his 19 darts at doubles in a tremendous display of finishing while his opponent missed 19 of his 28 attempts.
Michael van Gerwen eased into Sunday evening's BetVictor Masters semi-finals with a 10-5 victory over Mensur Suljovic at the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes.
The world champion is bidding to get the 2019 season off to a flying start by lifting this prestigious trophy for the fifth year in a row and remained on course with commanding - of not spectacular - performance.
However, MVG struggled to shake Suljovic off in the first half of the match, with the Austrian landing a superb 161 checkout to cut the deficit to 6-4 before taking the next in 16 darts for a break of throw.
However, this just prompted the Dutchman to find another level as he won four legs in 14 (x2), 13 and 12 darts to claim his 18th successive victory in this event.
He nearly sealed his place in the last four with a nine-darter but it was his eighth dart that let him down.
MVG averaged 103 compared to Suljovic's 97 and hit four more 180s with six although his checkout percentage of 32.26% is a where he'll need to improve against Dave Chisnall.
Van Gerwen missed 22 darts at doubles in his first-round win on Friday and on this occasion he spurned 21.
Chizzy earlier booked his semi-final spot with an impressive 10-4 triumph over Stephen Bunting but he'll now need to end a 22-match winless run against MVG if he's to keep alive his hopes of landing a first televised title.
The St Helens thrower, who has been runner-up in five big TV events throughout his career in the BDO and PDC including the 2016 Masters to the Dutchman, last defeated him at a UK Open qualifier back in February 2016 while the last time he triumphed in a televised meeting was the 2013 World Grand Prix.
But on this form he could run van Gerwen close at the very least as he hit 10 maximums compared to Bunting's 93 and averaged just shy of 100, although he won't be too happy about his checkout percentage of 38.46%.
Chizzy's high points were a pair of 11 darters - sealed by checkouts of 85 and 94 - while the most eventful leg was the final one which he clinched in 24 having at one point been back on 352 when Bunting had left himself 56 after missing out on a nine-darter.
His St Helens opponent won't be too downhearted having been a late entry into this event earlier in the week due to Gary Anderson's injury-enforced withdrawal.
James Wade produced a stirring comeback from 4-0 down to end Joe Cullen's hopes of a dream Masters debut.
The Bradford man, who shocked former world champion Rob Cross on Saturday night, won the opening leg with a fine 81 checkout and edged the next three as he took advantage of Wade's sloppy start but the fourth would be the last he won until he found himself 7-4 down.
The Machine, who is seeking his third TV title in recent months having bagged the European Championship and World Series of Darts Finals towards the end of the 2018 season, averaged over 107 from 4-0 down to 7-4 up - a run which included a high checkout of 140 and two from 81 to complete 12 and 11 darters.
Wade dropped off a little as Cullen won the next two legs but punished the Rockstar for five missed darts at doubles in the next and a further failure at tops in the 15th to go 9-6 up before sealing his win with a 101 checkout.
The Aldershot thrower's average of 95 was in no small part down to missing 21 double attempts but that was still better than Cullen's six conversions from 22. He also his two more 180s with five.
Next up for Wade is Peter Wright, who showed encouraging signs of improvement by defeating World Championship runner-up Michael Smith 10-6 in the last of the quarter-finals.
Snakebite endured a largely difficult 2018 compared to his stunning 2017, in which he won 11 titles, and suffered a deflating second-round exit to Toni Alcinas at the Ally Pally but after scraping past Adrian Lewis in a dramatic final-leg decider on Saturday, he raised his standards to reach the last four of this event for the first time.
He averaged 95.07 compared to Smith's 94.96 and hit two more 180s with seven while his match-clinching 118 checkout was also the highest of the match.
It was a nip-tuck encounter with no more than one leg between them until Wright moved 6-4 ahead but a crucial moment had come earlier in the eighth when Bully Boy spurned three darts from 40 that allowed his opponent to hold throw at 4-4.
Wright, tipped up pre-tournament at 9/2 to reach the final, broke throw in 14 darts before a 101 checkout established that two-leg lead although Smith responded with a finish from 98 for a 12-darter.
A fine 12-darter from the St Helens man when 7-5 down kept him in the hunt only for Wright to reel off three legs on the spin, including a 118 checkout in the last, for a morale boosting victory
Smith had averaged an impressive 101 against Ian White in the opening round despite admitting in our pre-season interview that his recent honeymoon left him short of practice, but he couldn't reach those heights on this occasion.
The semi-finals and finals are both held tonight from 7pm, live on ITV4.
Tournament results so far & Sunday schedule
Friday February 1
Evening Session (7pm)
First Round (Best of 19 legs)
- Daryl Gurney 8-10 Dave Chisnall
- Mensur Suljovic 10-1 Simon Whitlock
- Stephen Bunting 10-9 Darren Webster
- Michael van Gerwen 10-5 Jonny Clayton
Saturday February 2
Evening Session (7pm)
First Round (Best of 19 legs)
- Gerwyn Price 7-10 James Wade
- Rob Cross 6-10 Joe Cullen
- Michael Smith 10-5 Ian White
- Peter Wright 10-9 Adrian Lewis
Sunday February 3
Afternoon Session (12.45pm)
TV Coverage: ITV 4
Quarter-Finals (Best of 19 legs)
- Dave Chisnall 10-4 Stephen Bunting
- Michael van Gerwen 10-5 Mensur Suljovic
- Joe Cullen 6-10 James Wade
- Michael Smith 6-10 Peter Wright
Evening Session (7pm)
Semi-Finals (Best of 21 legs)
- Michael van Gerwen 11-7 Dave Chisnall
- James Wade 11-9 Peter Wright
Final (Best of 21 legs)
- Michael van Gerwen 11-5 James Wade