Column #JB39 Gary Anderson – Champion of the World
Thursday, January 8, 2015
Gary Anderson – Champion of the World
Gary Anderson is the new PDC World Champion! He can no longer be referred to as the best person never to win the World Championship after a stunning tournament and a scintillating final. On Sunday the 4th January, Anderson flew into the record books as the first Scotsman since Jocky Wilson in 1989 to win the prestigious price. It was a very popular result.
Cast your mind back to last year’s Premier League and if you remember, I wasn’t very successful with my predictions! However, if there’s one thing to learn from this last year it’s if at first you don’t succeed, then try and try again! That’s what I did. In September, I picked Gary Anderson as a Player to Watch and predicted: “I am very confident that Anderson will continue his form and he is definitely capable of a huge major success.” I also picked Stephen Bunting as a Player to Watch and after reaching the Quarter Finals, he has now been included for this year’s Premier League. My final success comes from my World Championship Preview when I said that “if I was a betting man, I would probably put my money on the in form Gary Anderson”.
Enough of my boasting now and let’s rewind all the way back to the 18th of December when Keegan Brown kicked off the World Championship with a victory over three times world champion John Part. As I’ve already written a ‘First Round Round Up,’ I won’t go into the opening games again but they were filled with shocks as Simon Whitlock, Justin Pipe and Wes Newton all exited the competition.
Into the second round Prince Harry attended the event as the surprises continued. Benito Van De Pas and Cristo Reyes, both unseeded players, knocked out the 8th seed Dave Chisnall and former World Championship finalist Kevin Painter respectively. Van De Pas described the victory as the best win of his life and Reyes became the first Spaniard ever in the Last 16 as he came from 1:3 to knock out ‘The Artist.’ Meanwhile, another notable match was when Raymond Van Barneveld scraped past (4:3) Jamie Caven, who must be one of the unluckiest players in darts! This result was also a repeat of when the players met in the same round the year before. Other dramatic contests included Kim Huybrechts defeating Ian White 4:3 and Stephen Bunting thrashing James Wade 4:1. However, neither of these matches are memorable by their darts as by the drama that our sport now brings. Huybrechts’ wild celebrations throughout the game caused debate which led to Phil Taylor warning him that “He isn’t going to jump around the stage against me. If he does then there will be trouble.” It was the opposite case in the other match as the losing player, James Wade, caused controversy with his somewhat pathetic post match handshake and his post match interview in which he referred to Bunting as an “okay darts player” who he made “look very good.” In fairness to Wade however, the interview was taken immediately after a disappointing loss and he has since apologised, calling his outburst due to “sour grapes.” Finally in this round, the to be World Champion Gary Anderson overcame a major scare against former BDO World Champion Jelle Klaasen. Both players averaged over 100 in the match but despite being two sets down after the fourth set, Anderson showed his mental strength and class to overcome the Dutchman and win 4:3.
As the tournament continued the shocks dried up but this was not to the expense of the entertainment. Michael Van Gerwen overcame a potentially tricky encounter 4:1 against Terry Jenkins and Robert Thornton won his third match in a row without losing a set as he beat Benito Van De Pas 4:0. In the eagerly anticipated clash between Kim Huybrechts and Phil Taylor, Huybrechts led three times before Taylor fought back to earn a place in the quarter finals with a 4:3 win. Huybrechts ignored Taylor’s advice of toning down the celebrations during the match which probably worked to his disadvantage. Taylor’s stare when Huybrechts celebrated was deafening and we all know that you don’t want to play Taylor when he’s angry! However, we all know this match wasn’t the highlight of the round. Instead the highlight was the match between Adrian Lewis and Raymond Van Barneveld which I stated in my ‘First Round Round Up’ would ‘be the greatest third round game ever seen if both players recreate their first round form.’ In a match which Lewis appeared to dominate, Van Barneveld showed resistance we rarely see from him to hang in the match and eventually take it 4:3. The highlight of the match and arguably the tournament was Lewis’ 9-darter which ended up being the only perfect finish in the tournament. As like all 9 darters it was incredible to watch as the crowd went wild with the final double 12. I watched it live on SkySports with my mother whose favourite player is Lewis. When he hit the double we immediately joined in with the ‘Oh Adrian Lewis!’ chant before the commentator stated that “if you’re not on the edge of your seat, you have slipped down the sofa and spilt your coffee!”. This was ironic as in the midst of our celebrations, Mum got red wine on our white sofa! This really was one of the greatest third round game ever seen.
Reigning World Champion Michael Van Gerwen then kicked off the quarter finals with a 5:2 win over the in form Robert Thornton. Van Gerwen stormed into a 3:0 lead in the game before Thornton threw some of the best darts of his life to bring the game back to 3:2. But in the end Van Gerwen proved too strong for the Scot as he triumphed with a 105 average against Thornton’s 101. Next up was an all Scottish tie between Peter Wright and Gary Anderson and the most impressive thing Wright did in this match was getting the cheerleaders involved in his walk on! Anderson eased past Wright 5:1 with a 102 average. On the second night of the quarter finals, Phil Taylor looked like he was going to ease past Dutchman Vincent Van Der Voort when he went 2:0 ahead but after Van Der Voort upped his game massively, he turned the tables to go 3:2 ahead. Then in the sixth set, when Van Der Voort was unable to finish 96, Taylor was able to level the match at 3:3. The 16 time World Champion then won the last two sets to win the match 5:3. Finally, arguably the best match of the quarter finals was between Stephen Bunting and Raymond Van Barneveld. In a match where the players were never separated by more than 1 set, it was finally won by Van Barneved on double 20. Despite the loss, Bunting’s performance and his first year in the PDC have been a major success and this was summed up by Van Barneveld’s incredible post match interview which brought tears to the Liverpudlian’s eyes!
These results meant the semi final line up was identical to earlier this year in the Premier League but this time there were opposite winners. I was lucky enough to be in the Ally Pally for these matches (see ‘My Day at the Darts’ post) and the best match was clearly between Michael Van Gerwen and Gary Anderson. Anderson was ruthless on his doubles throughout, especially the double 20, and despite Van Gerwen fighting back to 3:3 midway through the contest, it wasn’t enough to keep up with The Flying Scotsman who glided into his second ever World Championship Final with a 6:3 victory. The other semi final contained one of the greatest rivalries the sport has ever produced. The beginning of the match was tight and cagey but after winning four sets on the bounce and hitting seven perfect darts on two separate occasions, Taylor won the match 6:2. This meant Taylor still has his unbelievable run intact, that he has never lost a World Championship semi final.
Going into the final, predictably Taylor was the slight favourite but Anderson thrived off being the underdog as the pair competed in what was probably the best World Championship final since 2007. It certainly wasn’t the best quality final we have ever seen with Anderson ‘only’ averaging 97 but it was highly dramatic and it came down to a test of bottle as Taylor was made to pay for missed doubles. To start the match, both players traded sets before Anderson won two sets to lead 3:1. But then similarly to in his semi final, he proceeded this by losing the next two as Taylor won 6 legs in a row. Taylor then went ahead in the match 4:3 before Anderson leveled to set up a best of 5 sets shootout. The ninth set then provided the main talking point from the game when incredibly Anderson hit two treble 20’s with his first two darts before the third one joined them and knocked them all out! This only intensified the criticism the darts boards have received throughout the tournament. However, Anderson did not let this or shout-outs from the crowd affect him as he came from two legs down in the set to take it 3:2. As he then won the next set also, he thought the finish line was in sight but Taylor again fought back and left the game on a knife edge at 6:6. A nervy final set was anticipated but Anderson looked calm throughout as he won the set 3:0 and hit the double 12 to become the new PDC World Champion. He then picked up the Sid Waddell trophy and £250,000 in prize money.
Looking back on the whole tournament has been fascinating and I think it has only substantiated my beliefs that this was the best World Championships we have ever seen! Over 50,000 people attended the Ally Pally throughout the tournament and over 1.7 million people watched the final on Sky Sports. Sky Sports figures represented a 25% increase on last year as record viewing figures were also recorded in Netherlands and Germany. It really has been incredible and before the tournament started, Anderson stated his belief that “every dog has its day and hopefully mine is soon.”
It was Gary Anderson’s day. It was his tournament. It was his time.