In a remarkable game in which 2021 champion Gerwyn Price resorted to ear defenders for a set, Gabriel Clemens became the first German player to reach a PDC World Championship semi-final after routing the Welshman 5-1.
Just days after he became the first German to reach a quarter-finalist, Clemens continued his history making tilt in an incredible display. A ‘German Giant’ victory did not look the most likely outcome pre-match nor after Price stormed to a one-set lead in just 42 darts with two ton-plus checkouts on his way.
After a steady opening leg on the throw to settle his nerves, Clemens clinched the second set 3-1 to level proceedings. In the first leg of the third set, Price got two-thirds of the way into a perfect leg before sealing the deal in 14 darts. However, nerves began to reveal themselves in the next leg when Gerwyn missed darts to break the Clemens throw. Steady scoring turned it into a set which the German was fully in control of, eventually winning 3-1 to take the lead.
Throughout the tournament, Gerwyn Price had always looked slightly in second gear, never quite hitting his best even if never needing to do so. And as the fourth set got underway, the realisation of the enormity of his achievements did not hit Clemens as opening offerings of 180 and 140 did the work in the opening leg. Although Price cleaned up in 14 darts, a 136 out in the following leg from Clemens ensured the match remained firmly in his grasp.
It was after the next leg that the pantomine theatrics began as Price donned a pair of ear defenders much to the amusument and bemusement of the Alexandra Palace crowd and TV viewers. The Welshman had indicated that he had been practicing in ear plugs, but those plugs were not the headline act, masked behind the much bulkier defenders. It also served to ensure that whatever the eventual outcome, that bizarre image and not any scenes of victory would fill newspaper inches.
No Price victory was however to be forthcoming. Another set lost; ear defenders out. Being all somewhat missed or at least overshadowed by all of this was the nerve of the German Clemens, who continued to plug away at victory and finished that set with an 11 dart flourish.
Nothing Price could muster would avert a stunning 5-1 victory after Clemens once again gathered concentration to complete victory in the sixth set. After 43 darts, he faced down a double 4 and pinned it with remarkable ease. Cue the celebrations: there was to be a German semi-finalist for the first time.
Following the match, Price’s post-match social media reaction also attracted attention. Avoiding direct comment on the ear defenders, he pondered that he might not ‘ever play in this event again’, clearly frustrated at the crowd. It isn’t the first time Gerwyn has responded to darts audiences in that way, but his remarks hint at a continuing lack of enjoyment and unceasing disappointment with the way he is received. Heat of the moment, or a sign of things to come? Time will tell, and the immediate fire and fury of defeat is no place for Price to revise his terms for darts star status. But I wouldn’t expect this discussion to end.
Supreme MvG remains on course
There could not have been a stronger contrast to Price’s performance than that of Michael van Gerwen. In a 5-0 blitz of quarter-final debutant Chris Dobey, he barely broke a sweat and squandered just three legs.
Regrettably for Dobey, who in reaching the last 8 has capped off an excellent season, he was shades off his best as MvG lunged to victory. It was not the Dutchman’s star-studded best, but it simply did not have to be. 140s and a lack of checkout headache did the job for the ‘Green Machine’. In a night when the attention was inevitably on oche-based antics of a very different kind, he delivered exactly what he needed: a steady and unflinching performance.
Ebullient and brash in conversation with Sky Sports’s Polly James after the match, he demonstrated little anxiety over the prospects of Dimitri van den Bergh, who he will now face in the semi-final. In this championship, he has been as relaxed on the oche as off it, and remains the favourite.
Van den Bergh and Smith complete last 4
Since making his incredible comeback from 3-1 down against Martin Schindler in the last 32, Michael Smith has looked largely untroubled. That being said, he was aided in his quarter-final with Stephen Bunting by his opponent’s 44 missed doubles.
For however much Bunting has impressed in this championship, and made a strong defence of the 2021 prize money about to disappear from his world ranking, he was not to advance with such a poor return, and Smith was there to clear up. Although Gabriel Clemens looks unlikely to be caught in the headlights, Smith is a strong favourite to make a second World final and fifth televised PDC final of the season (including the US Masters).
A second MvG-Smith World final, which had long looked a tangible prospect, is now the probable outcome. Though the Belgian Dimitri van den Bergh, like van Gerwen and Smith, has rarely looked off the boil in this event.
Remarkably making only his first World semi-final, he proved too much for Jonny Clayton, impressing with a florid display sealed with a confident address to the baying Ally Pally crowds. Entertainment is never far away with Dimitri, whether it be his dance moves or gift of the gab. But with a baker’s dozen 180s and a largely unflustered doubles game, he may well prove a match for MvG too.
The semi-final action gets underway at 7.30pm GMT, with Clemens and Smith opening proceedings before van Gerwen-Van den Bergh.
Images courtesy of PDC