‘Mighty’ Michael Van Gerwen won his second major of 2019 on February fourth by adding the BetVictor Masters to the Sid Waddell trophy he claimed on New Years Day.
Van Gerwen ran out 11-5 winner, on the Marshall Arena stage, against James Wade to win his fifth consecutive Masters title, leaving the Dutchman twenty games unbeaten in Milton Keynes.
The £60,000 winner’s cheque was the one-hundred and eighteenth of his career, a career in which thirty-four PDC majors have helped him to bag over £7 million in prize money.
This year’s Masters, however, seemingly continued Michael’s peculiar form from the World Championships where, despite winning, he did not look quite up to his brilliant best.
Albeit up against a lacklustre James Wade averaging 87.44 in a final where MvG was not exactly pushed, he did miss chances to end legs sooner than he did. This was similar in the semi-final against Dave Chisnall where rounds of missed darts at doubles allowed ‘Chizzy’ to continually take legs from the world number one.
In his 11-6 semi-final victory, although Michael always looked set to win the match against a man he hasn’t lost to in twenty-three attempts, he did not blow him off the oche as we are so used to see him do.
We did, of course, see flashes of excellence from MvG, including two 170 check-outs, and three 100+ finishes in the final, showing he has not lost his capability for brilliance, but is perhaps falling short of the great standards that he has set for himself.
In the last twelve months, Gary Anderson is the only player who has looked consistently likely to beat the big Dutchman.
Unfortunately, the ‘Flying Scotsman’ had to withdraw from the Masters with a back injury that has also seen him withdraw from the 2019 Premier League schedule.
His games in the latter tournament will be played by nine different players for the first nine evenings, including World Championship semi-finalist Nathan Aspinall.
So, with Anderson on the sidelines for the foreseeable future, who looks likely to be able to match van Gerwen?
James Wade, who hoped to follow up his victories in the 2018 World Series and European Championships, was unable to this time. He stated after the match that “he gave me so many opportunities and I played really poorly.”
‘Bully Boy’ Michael Smith has been tipped for big things this year, including securing his first TV major, after World Championship and Premier League defeats against Van Gerwen in the last twelve months.
However, at the first opportunity since the 1st January, the St Helens man fell in the Quarter Finals 10-6 to Peter Wright, and in truth deserved not to go through on that performance.
Gary Anderson is the only player who has looked consistently likely to beat the big Dutchman
The 2019 Masters also saw the return of Adrian Lewis to the World Top Sixteen as he hopes to resurrect the form that made him a back to back World Champion in 2011 and 2012.
Unfortunately, his first round 10-9 defeat to Wright, although interspersed with moments of brilliance, still showed that he has a very long way to go.
Finally, Rob Cross, world number four, continued his run of games where he has appeared nervy at times, still unable it seems to shake off the pressure of winning the World Championship so early in his career perhaps?
His first-round loss against Joe Cullen saw him struggle with his scoring, the darts consistently hitting below the trebles, a well-known sign of tension in the arm, and although he did enjoy a purple patch in the middle of the game, ultimately he couldn’t sustain this, and crashed out after a 10-6 defeat.
This being said, in a 2019 PDC schedule that will see £14 million in prize money being shared in tournaments across eleven different nations, there will be plenty of opportunity for players to prove themselves against Van Gerwen.
For the time being, however, he will remain on his pedestal as the World Number One, Champion of the World, and five-time back-to-back Darts Masters Champion.
Photograph: Sven Mandal via Wikimedia Commons