Van Gerwen overcomes Taylor in ‘hardest year’ to claim Dubai Darts Masters hat-trick
DUBAI // On a stifling night at the Dubai Tennis Stadium, Michael van Gerwen hit a trademark hot-streak right on cue to end the challenge of Phil Taylor, then pronounced himself “the master of the desert”.
The world No 1 mounted an enthralling comeback to beat the sport’s most successful player in the final of the Dubai Duty Free Darts Masters.
When victory was secured, “Mighty Mike” gave a three-finger salute to celebrate his hat-trick of titles in this arena.
This success means he does not have to worry about polishing the coffee pot trophies he won in 2013 and 2014.
They can just be replaced in pride of place back at his home in the Netherlands by the shiny new one he won this weekend instead.
“I don’t know where I am going to put them,” Van Gerwen said. “Because they are silver, they are starting to go a little brown, so I need to polish them.
“I have got a new one now, so I can just put this one in the kitchen.”
Holding an 8-6 lead, Taylor needed just three more legs to win his first Dubai title. He never won another, though, as Van Gerwen hit the sort of purple run of form he is famed for.
Even at his most mundane, the Dutchman is wildly expressive. When he levelled the match at 8-8, he spun to his left, contorted his face and froze on the spot. Taylor, who had had two shots at double to win the leg, did not recover.
“This was the hardest year for me to win,” Van Gerwen said. “To beat Phil in the final is always the most powerful thing you can do.”
Having not won a match on his past two visits to the UAE, Taylor was upbeat just to have reached the final.
“I am happy, I have been practicising well and this is a step forward,” Taylor said.
As soon as he arrived on finals night, it had been clear Taylor was focused on breaking his Dubai duck.
His first three darts of the evening totalled 180, and he barely let up on Gary Anderson, his semi-final opponent, thereafter.
Anderson, the world champion, was completely out of sorts. He was making his debut in the unique outdoor playing conditions of Dubai, and he suggested Taylor had the edge when wind blew across the oche as he uses heavier darts.
“I think the breeze helped him,” Anderson said. “I have played him the last two times with a straight board, no breeze, and he has lost.
“That is probably the best darts he has played for a while. He did a job.”
It was a raucous Friday night in Garhoud, with the largest crowd assembled at any of the three Masters tournaments to date.
The world champion was visibly affected by the congregation. Both players opted to pause at one point, after being distracted by a comment from the crowd, and Anderson labelled the culprit an “idiot”.
“I don’t mind getting booed, but when they shout something personal, it gets on my nerves,” Anderson said. “Darts is a great game, and all it takes is one idiot. That’s what the bloke is.”
Adrian Lewis, the two-time world champion, also cited the fact he throws lighter darts as a mitigating factor in his semi-final loss to Van Gerwen.
“I took out double-top to go 4-1 up and my dart went in on such an angle it was comical,” Lewis said.
“He started to get the hump and I started laughing. That is probably the windiest we have ever played up there, but I thought I handled myself well.”
Phil Taylor 11-3 Gary Anderson
Michael Van Gerwen 11-9 Adrian Lewis
Michael Van Gerwen 11-8 Phil Taylor
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