The 21st competitive meeting between Michael van Gerwen and Gerwyn Price did not disappoint. The duo, widely considered the best two players in the world right now, contested the finale of the Players Championship Finals, in Minehead last night.
Van Gerwen came through an 11-9 winner to win a record fifth Players Championship Finals title, while Price, who was appearing in his third consecutive television ranking final, just fell short, missing darts in the 20th leg to force a deciding leg.
The record between the two reads: van Gerwen 19, Price 1, and one draw from the Premier League earlier this year. It is a very one-sided record in favour of the long-standing world number one, but the record does not say everything.
Only eight days ago Price broke his hoodoo against van Gerwen, beating him 16-12 in the Grand Slam semi-finals in Wolverhampton. At the 20th attempt, the Welsh world number three had beaten his man for the very first time.
A few hours later he returned to the Aldersley Leisure Village stage and fired in his highest ever average on television. A 107.86 three-dart average helped him crush Peter Wright 16-6 in the final to retain his Grand Slam crown and double his major tally.
That personal best TV average was broken yesterday. A 108.75 in a 10-3 crushing of Stephen Bunting in the quarter-finals. Price topped the 100 mark in four of his six games in Minehead, and he was very close to making it back-to-back major titles and joining the more condensed list of players with three PDC major titles on their CV.
But what of the rivalry? Van Gerwen, despite being at the forefront of his sport, does not mince his words. He was very honest in his own disappointment at how Mervyn King performed against him in the quarter-finals yesterday. But he is an admirer of Price.
He has said that in interviews during the last few months. He views Price as a real contender to his throne, and the two have provided darts fans with some of the most memorable games in 2019.
The two are animated on stage. Whether it’s a big 180 or 177, or a big out shot. They will make sure their opponent knows about it. And it makes for captivating viewing, as the two go toe-to-toe, and throw everything they can at one another.
Price is now up to world number three, and is provisionally number two heading into 2020. These are the two best in the world right now. Could this be a rivalry that blossoms over the next few years? Yes, it could.
Darts is missing that big rivalry. Phil Taylor v Raymond van Barneveld, and then Phil Taylor v Michael van Gerwen, engaged in plenty of classic matches. Once Taylor retired, Rob Cross threatened to become van Gerwen’s main rival, winning that World Championship semi-final epic, before going flat in 2018 and then rediscovering that maiden year form this season.
Gary Anderson was next to lock horns with van Gerwen, but injuries this year have restricted his playing time this year, and it is unclear yet as to whether he will increase his schedule in 2020.
Price is on a hot streak right now. But you look at his improvement over the last 12-18 months, and his rise has not stopped. He feels there is still more to come. Now he has that first win over van Gerwen, and has shown he can stand up to the world number one in a big final, this could become the next rivalry to savour during the next few years.
Picture: Lawrence Lustig/PDC