The Dutchman has long been seen as the heir apparent to Phil Taylor at the head of the sport but was showing signs of choking never seen by “The Power” in his PDC World Darts Championship final with the flamboyant Peter Wright.
From four sets up and apparently cruising to victory, “Mighty Mike”, 24, suddenly found his ability to nail crucial doubles desert him and “Snakebite” Wright, 43, capitalised with a performance which exuded a steely coolness to battle his way back. Rated as a no-hoper before the final even began, the Scot surely figured he had nothing to lose and he took numerous chances when they were presented to him on a plate.
Onlookers thought it was just a matter of time before Van Gerwen won his decisive seventh set, but little by little the idea of an amazing comeback by Wright came closer and closer to fruition with the score narrowing to 6-4.
Somehow the man from the southern Dutch town of Boxtel pulled himself together, though, to land a double-top against the throw and take the title 7-4 in the showbiz cauldron of Alexandra Palace. It was a great advert for the game of darts.
“I got nervous after going 4-0 up but it doesn’t matter how you win a final as long as you win,” said Van Gerwen. And now, with the ‘next big thing’ monkey off his back, he is keen to win more titles. “It’s the biggest moment of my life. This is a dream come true to be world champion and also No 1 in the world. I hope I can win loads more tournaments and I’ll be aiming for that now,” he said.
Wright, with his colourful outfits, extravagant haircuts and with a snake painted on his face, won over the floating support and even the PDC who, on the back of his displays, offered him a wildcard for the prestigious Premier League which starts next month.
“If it’s anything like this crowd, then having 10,000 people screaming my name will be amazing. I can focus on the Premier League and get ready for that and the next tournaments on the circuit,” Wright said.
“I’ve proved a point in the last year by going from 26th in the world to No 7, so anyone can do it. I’m up to seventh now and there’s another six people above me, so I’ll be pushing after their places and they should watch out.”
Van Gerwen will open the Premier League season with a clash against Taylor, who remains the man to beat despite losing his world crown.
With 16 titles to his name he is some way ahead of Van Gerwen, but some bookmakers are offering odds of 50-1 that the “Green Machine” will eventually catch him.
“I have achieved my dream and it just feels unbelievable right now,” said Van Gerwen. “I’ve got a lot more in me I hope, but you never know with Phil Taylor. He’s won the most majors ever.”