MICHAEL Van Gerwen clinched the Ladbrokes PDC World Championship after beating Scotland’s Peter Wright 7-4 in a dramatic final at the Alexandra Palace in London.
Van Gerwen went into the final the red-hot 1-5 favourite with bookmakers to go one better than last year’s runner-up spot, and underdog Wright - the West Lothian-born player now based in Lowestoft - looked like he would be blown away as the Dutchman started in sensational fashion in front of the usual raucous crowd at Alexandra Palace, winning 11 of the first 12 legs.
However despite finding himself 4-0 down, Wright produced a brave fightback, winning back-to-back sets and coming within one dart of hauling the final back to 4-3.
Van Gerwen was visibly rattled and a succession of errors crept into his play, but after taking that crucial seventh set on double 8 with his third dart, he regained all the composure and deadly accuracy he had displayed in the early stages.
The victory not only gave Van Gerwen his first world title – it also saw him achieve the unthinkable by toppling the seemingly immovable Phil Taylor from his perch as world No 1.
Van Gerwen, having already had experience of contesting a final on the world stage – when he lost 7-4 to Taylor in the 2013 final – started with purpose and took the first two legs of the opening set. Wright then hit his first 180 before converting a two-dart 77 finish.
However, he had a long wait before he claimed another leg.
Van Gerwen simply went into overdrive and took the next two sets to nil, then extended his advantage to 4-0 despite dropping a leg in the fourth set.
However, Wright made a positive start to the fifth set, holding throw twice on double four. Van Gerwen levelled, but Wright proved his confidence had returned when he hit a second 180 before going on to hit double 20, for a 13-darter. Wright then hit another 180 followed by brilliant 130 checkout, on double five, to win the set in style.
But just as he looked poised to battle back to 4-3, Van Gerwen wriggled off the hook and took the pivotal seventh.
He moved within touching distance of victory with a straightforward eighth set triumph before Wright again showed his fighting qualities by taking tense ninth and tenth sets. Wright even had a double chance to take an incredible 11th set, but Van Gerwen finally closed out the match on his favoured double tops to become world champion.