Dave Chisnall stunned onlookers at the Alexandra Palace yesterday evening as he ousted world number 1 Michael van Gerwen from the 2021 World Championship with a 5-0 rout.
For those who believed that the dawn of a new year would bring to an end the freakish and bizarre events we had witnessed in 2020, both on and off the oche, Dave Chisnall’s fairly faultless performance against the three-times PDC world champion would have came as a sharp jolt into reality. As he raced into a 1-0 set lead and then a 2-0 lead with 7 180s under his belt and the world number 1 well and truly on the ropes, many would have been let off for thinking a comeback from MvG was inevitable. After all, their head-to-head is heavily in MvG’s favour – with the Green Machine taking 48 and Chisnall winning 9. But Chisnall continued to power on and reduced MvG’s chances to chisel away at his lead in impressive fashion.
MvG may well have felt his World Championship drama had hit its peak in his fourth round meeting with Joe Cullen, where his opponent missed match darts to oust the Dutchman from the competition. However, Chisnall took the third set on a deciding leg and then nailed a double 6 in the fourth leg of the fourth set to put him on the verge of an incredible victory. A 12 dart leg from the St Helens man followed in the first leg of the fifth set before MvG levelled at 1-1, but visits of 134, 140 and 140, before a checkout of 87 in three darts put Chizzy on the cusp of an upset. He sealed the deal in the next leg, to send the world number 1 out of the competition and to leave him in danger of losing his long-running hold at the top of world darts.
Bemusement for van Gerwen
Following the conclusion of their quarter-final encounter, the Sky Sports team best encapsulated the events of the evening by suggesting that it was the scoreline, not the overall outcome, which was the shocker. Had such a game occurred on the Worlds stage three or four years ago, it would have stunned crowds. But two very obvious and interrelated things have happened since then: MvG has not continued what was an imperious and untouchable run of form that characterised 2016-17, and the rest of the field have gradually got more bullish about their chances against him. Chisnall could arguably be the poster boy for a player who has demonstrated his darting excellence on many an occasion in his career but had often fell to MvG when it mattered, for example in three of the five PDC major finals of his career to date. But it felt, right throughout this championship, that MvG never hit the level that would be needed to dismiss the field and never had the confidence that has tore apart the rest of the tour in years gone by. It was as if there was going to be someone who would hit van Gerwen at the right moment, and that man was Dave Chisnall.
Bunting’s big day
Stephen Bunting made his big impact on the darts circuit in the earlier part of the last decade, as he followed up a reign of dominance in the BDO which included a Lakeside crown and two World Masters wins with a great start to his PDC career, capped off by a brilliant quarter-final game with Raymond van Barneveld at the 2015 PDC World Championship. However, what he might not have expected is that he would beat his Worlds best at this championship. He has quietly and steadily gone about his business this year, defeating Andy Boulton, James Wade, Ryan Searle and then Krzysztof Ratajski. The Pole was hoping to make more history for his country of birth but Bunting had his own ideas as he established a 3-0 lead early on. Ratajski had to dig deep to win the fourth set but was staring defeat in the face by the end of the fifth as Bunting went one set away from victory in a set which included the big fish, 170. He showed some of the spirit which had got him through some tough encounters, including his nailbiter against Gabriel Clemens in the last 16, to bring the game to 4-3, but despite having the darts, it was Bunting who seized and took out the match with 12, 14 and 15 dart legs.
Gerwyn Price was seen as a strong contender when the competition began, and he has already admitted that the potential of becoming world number 1, which will become a reality if he wins the title, has been on his mind. But he will be wary as he enters the final stages of the competition after a tricky competition. In three of his five matches so far, there has been a deciding set, and he has had to show steel to get to this stage. But on 2020 form, you can’t really not back Price for the title. The Worlds crown is the obvious next step for a man who continues to improve year on year. Daryl Gurney will be bitterly disappointed he couldn’t overcome Price in their tight quarters clash, after clawing back from an early 2-0 deficit and then after taking the game to a decider after going 4-2 down. However, it is champions who can get through close game after close game, and Price will begin his last 4 game with Stephen Bunting as the favourite.
A rattled Anderson steamrolls to semis
Few would have thought that a table and some gamesmanship could spur on Gary Anderson to reach the sixth PDC World semi-final of his career, but no one would challenge his claim to the world crown. As a two-time former world champion, he knows what it takes to get his hands on the Sid Waddell Trophy, and will be hoping that Dave Chisnall can be caught out after his dazzling performance against MvG. Former world champions have come through a somewhat decimated field in years gone by, for example John Part in 2008, and if he is on his game it could well happen again. Dirk van Duijvenbode, one of the stars of the championship, had no response to his solid darts, as Anderson averaged 101 and hit 50% of his doubles. A couple of wins and Anderson could well sneak ahead of Jocky Wilson’s two world titles to become the most successful Scotsman at the world championship, and you certainly can’t write it off.
Image Credits: Sky Sports