Michael van Gerwen edges out Gerwyn Price in thriller to claim Players Championship glory
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By Josh Gorton
Last Updated: 25/11/19 4:34pm
Michael van Gerwen defeated Gerwyn Price 11-9 to clinch his fifth Players Championship Finals title in a dramatic finale at Butlin's Minehead Resort on Sunday.
Top seed Price defeated Van Gerwen for the first time in 20 attempts en route to retaining his Grand Slam crown last weekend, but the Welshman was unable to repeat the feat on this occasion.
Van Gerwen displayed some fragility in the doubling department but he produced the goods when it mattered to claim the £100,000 top prize and secure a remarkable 50th individual PDC televised title.
The Dutchman was beaten in last year's final by Daryl Gurney and Price threatened an unlikely comeback as he eyed a second successive major triumph, although 'Mighty Mike' kept his cool to prevail with a 97.92 average.
The contest began in extraordinary circumstances, as the pair missed an astonishing 17 darts at double between them before Van Gerwen eventually drew first blood on double two.
The Dutchman doubled his lead via double 12 and Price appeared visibly frustrated in the opening exchanges.
However, the Grand Slam champion converted crucial 70 and 64 combinations on throw to reduce the arrears at the first interval, after MVG had missed two darts for a 4-1 cushion.
Van Gerwen was finding the red bit with unrelenting precision after the break, but Price's trusted tops kept him within touching distance in a gripping second session.
The Welshman produced a classy 104 kill on tops to cut the gap to 4-3, only for Van Gerwen to restore his two-leg buffer courtesy of a 64 outshot.
The world No 1 retained his advantage as the pair traded classy holds of throw, although the pendulum swung after Van Gerwen's double trouble resurfaced.
The world champion was alarmingly wayward as he eyed double 12 for a 141 finish, before he fluffed three clear darts at double in the following leg.
He was punished on both occasions as Price capitalised on his reprieve and 'The Iceman' then sank double six to register his third straight leg and secure the lead for the first time.
Van Gerwen regained the range on the outer ring to level proceedings via double 16 but a buoyant Price crashed in his third maximum en route to an 11-dart hold and a slender 8-7 advantage, roared on by the partisan 5,000 crowd.
Nevertheless, the third and final break appeared to quash Price's momentum and Van Gerwen reeled off three consecutive legs in 15, 14 and 14 darts to move to the cusp of victory.
The Welshman kept his hopes alive with a classy 13-darter on tops before an incredible finale ensued.
Price wired tops for a roof-raising 137 checkout which would have forced a decider, although he was given another opportunity to break after Van Gerwen spurned two darts at double 10 for the title.
Despite this, the world No 3 was unable to capitalise, squandering three more at a double to force a sudden-death shootout.
Van Gerwen missed 31 darts at double throughout proceedings but he kept his cool when it mattered most, nailing double five with his last dart in hand to spark jubilant scenes of celebration.
"It was tough, especially today. I had to work really hard. Gerwyn is a really respected player in the PDC and to beat him always feels good," reflected the Dutchman.
"I couldn't put him away. I was slightly better in this game. He is a phenomenal player and you have to play your absolute best to beat him."
It's the perfect preparation for Van Gerwen ahead of next month's World Championship, where he'll be bidding to land a fourth title on New Year's Day in 2020.
Van Gerwen, who landed a sublime nine-darter against Adrian Lewis en route to reaching the last eight - kicked off Sunday's action with a second Minehead meeting of 2019 against Mervyn King.
King stunned MVG at this year's UK Open in March but there was to be no repeat, as Van Gerwen won a scrappy affair 10-6, with the visibly unhappy Dutchman launching a scathing attack on the former finalist's attitude in his post-match interview.
The world No 1 then faced Ian White in the last four, after 'The Diamond' finally overcome his quarter-final hoodoo to reach his first PDC televised semi-final courtesy of a dramatic 10-9 success against World Cup finalist William O'Connor.
White threw everything at Van Gerwen in a high-quality semi-final tussle but the Dutchman came out on top, defying a near 103 average from the Stoke star to wrap up an 11-8 victory with a 103.61 average and finishes of 112, 123 and 130.
Price just fell short of winning a third major PDC crown but the Welshman's remarkable rise continues, having now featured in three major finals in the space of four events.
He boasted a tournament average in excess of 100 heading into the final and the support he received from the capacity crowd illustrates how his performances have completely changed the public's perception of him.
"From my point of view Michael probably dominated the game. I got my head in front but he was the better player today. I wish I could have got it to a last-leg decider to push him all the way, but the better man won.
"I'm just happy to be up here playing the likes of Michael. Six or seven years ago I was playing Rugby, now I'm playing the best players in the world."
Fresh from retaining his Grand Slam crown last weekend, Price had dropped just seven legs en route to the quarter-finals, defeating Mickey Mansell 6-3, whitewashing Keegan Brown before brushing aside Mensur Suljovic 10-4.
He faced a resurgent Stephen Bunting in the last eight - who was boasting a tournament average in excess of 100 but 'The Bullet' was blown away by the Welshman, who averaged 108.75 and converted 63% of his doubles to close out a 10-3 success.
He faced Raymond van Barneveld's conqueror Chris Dobey in the semi-finals and 'Hollywood' raced into an early 3-0 lead courtesy of some clinical combination finishing. However, Price fought back superbly with a blistering mid-game surge to prevail 11-8 with a 100.24 average.
2019 Ladbrokes Players Championship Finals
Sunday November 24
Afternoon Session (1245 GMT)
Gerwyn Price 10-3 Stephen Bunting
Chris Dobey 10-2 Raymond van Barneveld
Michael van Gerwen 10-6 Mervyn King
Ian White 10-9 William O'Connor
Best of 19 legs
Evening Session (1900 GMT)
Gerwyn Price 11-8 Chris Dobey
Michael van Gerwen 11-8 Ian White
Best of 21 legs
Michael van Gerwen 11-9 Gerwyn Price
Best of 21 legs
Check out daily Darts news on skysports.com/darts, our app for mobile devices and our Twitter account @skysportsdarts - the action is back on your Sky Sports screens in December with the World Championship from Alexandra Palace. It all gets underway on Friday, December 13.