- World Darts Championship
Van Gerwen hits nine-darter to set up Taylor showdown
Michael van Gerwen set Alexandra Palace alight as he hit a nine-dart finish on his way to defeating James Wade to reach the final of the World Darts Championship.
The Dutchman came agonisingly close to becoming the first man in history to hit back-to-back nine-darters as he secured a 6-4 victory to set up a showdown with 15-time world champion Phil Taylor, who denied Raymond van Barneveld a dramatic comeback victory.
Van Gerwen beat Taylor at the Grand Slam of Darts in November, but said this week that he would have to play at 110 per cent to beat the Brit.
Having dumped out two-time defending champion Adrian Lewis in a breathtaking encounter on Saturday night, Van Gerwen made a sluggish start as Wade roared to an early lead. Once again Van Gerwen's failure to land the doubles threatened to cost him, but his superior shooting helped him over the line to reach the final for the first time.
After missing 11 consecutive attempts at the double to lose the second leg, Van Gerwen hit back to level at 2-2, but Wade grabbed the opening set with a 105 checkout. But Van Gerwen soon hit his stride, winning nine legs on the trot to take a 3-1 lead, a stunning 90 checkout on the bullseye a highlight early in the third set.
Wade stopped the rot to win the opening two legs of the fifth set, and despite 17 perfect darts from Van Gerwen - he missed a double 12 for an historic double nine-dart finish - it was the Brit who took the set to keep himself in the contest.
Wade, who had never lost to Van Gerwen in televised matches, produced his best set of the match to level at 3-3, but the Dutchman, who hit fourteen 180s to his opponent's one, streaked away once again to lead 5-3.
On the brink of victory, Van Gerwen was guilty of taking his eye off the ball, and missed 52 to reach the final, allowing Wade to claw the score back to 5-4. However, the setback seemed to focus Van Gerwen, and he raced through the final set to clinch the victory, while Wade fell at the semi-final stage for the third time in five years.
"It was a very difficult game for me because I haven't beaten him before on TV and it was great to do it in a tournament like this," Van Gerwen told Sky Sports. "It's not about nine-darters, it's about winning games and I'm delighted to do that."
Van Gerwen will meet Phil Taylor in Tuesday's final after the top seed fended off a determined fightback by Raymond van Barneveld to reach the final with a 6-4 victory.
Taylor had been in ruthless form and was one dart away from winning the match at 5-1, only for his opponent to launch a late charge, winning three sets on the bounce before Taylor held his nerve to see out victory.
The top seed raced out of the blocks against the Dutchman, winning the first five legs as the 2007 world champion looked to be heading out with a whimper.
Taylor, looking to regain the title for the first time since 2010, looked in imperious form as he cruised to a two-set lead with a sublime 107 checkout. Van Barneveld hit back to win the third set without reply, but his body language suggested that of a beaten man.
His chances of clawing his way back into the contest were shattered by a blistering 111 checkout from Taylor after the Dutchman had hit his second 180 of the match. That seemed to crush his confidence, and Taylor, having won the psychological battle early on, streaked away to a 5-1 lead.
But two missed darts to seal the match allowed Van Barneveld to keep the contest alive, and the momentum swung violently in the Dutchman's favour as he roared back to 5-4, a stunning 125 checkout (25-bull-bull) the highlight after Taylor had failed to see out 50.
In an edgy tenth set, Taylor produced a 12-dart finish to lead 2-1 before staggering over the line to reach the PDC final for a 17th time in 20 years.
"None of us wanted to lose that," Taylor said. "Barney coming back at me, it was brilliant. He just dropped his head and I was taking the finishes out and then the crowd seemed to get behind him a bit - they wanted wanted another Michael van Gerwen-James Wade match. The crowd were getting behind him and his confidence came back again… It was hard work. I am full of cold, I've got a temperature and I'm shattered."