At the World Darts Championship last year, Michael van Gerwen experienced something he hadn’t experienced in seven years – defeat in a World Darts Championship final. But throughout the tournament, it had always looked as though Peter Wright’s name was on the trophy, with the Scot eventually downing van Gerwen 7-3 in the final to win his maiden world title.
There’s no doubt that the defeat will have hurt van Gerwen. After all, he was the reigning world champion at the time and was seen as the dominant force in darts. To lose to Wright in such a convincing manner was not what most people expected from the Dutchman, and so the disappointment was understandable.
“Of course, I’m very disappointed,” van Gerwen said in the aftermath. “Everything I missed he took out, his finishing was phenomenal and I can only blame myself. “I had six darts to break throw in the fifth set and if you don’t take chances like that against a player like Peter Wright you don’t win, simple as that.”
But as we prepare for the next instalment of the PDC World Darts Championship, van Gerwen has a chance to put right the failings of 12 months ago. He enters the tournament as the bookies’ favourite in the PDC World Championship odds, and it’s hardly a surprise given his pedigree in the event over the years, with three world titles to the 31-year-old’s name.
In many ways, van Gerwen has a point to prove at Alexandra Palace this year, after last year’s slip-up in the final. While he may still be the favourite, he has a duty to live up to that tag and deliver his fourth world crown, and that will require an improved performance across the board.
Anyone can lose a world final, and it’s fair to say that Wright’s name appeared to be on the trophy very early on in last year’s tournament, but van Gerwen will still be reeling at the way he crumbled under pressure in the final, a characteristic not usually associated with the talented Dutchman.
It’s been a decent 2020 for him, with two titles to his name this year, having secured victory at the UK Open and the Players Championship Finals. Both were close-run affairs, with van Gerwen besting Gerwyn Price 11-9 in the final of the UK Open, before inching past Mervyn King in the Players Championship by 11 sets to 10.
While they were narrow victories, the fact that van Gerwyn got over the line in both shows that he still has that inner steel that defined all his best victories in the past, including his World Championship triumphs. If he can carry the belief and confidence gained from those wins, then he could well make amends for his sub-par performance against Wright last year.
Darts is very much a confidence game, and it was clear that van Gerwen lost a lot of his confidence in last year’s world final. But with a solid 2020 behind him, and a chance to reassert his dominance in the sport just days away, he’ll be rubbing his hands at the prospect of another world title.