Michael van Gerwen recovered from 3-1 down and survived two match darts to edge a sudden death epic over Joe…
Michael van Gerwen recovered from 3-1 down and survived two match darts to edge a sudden death epic over Joe Cullen in the Last 16 of the World Championship on Tuesday.
Three-time World Champion Van Gerwen was staring defeat in the face but dug deep to deny Cullen a famous victory and move into the Quarter-Finals at Alexandra Palace.
A distraught Cullen landed 19 maximums, a joint record for a Fourth Round match at the William Hill World Championship, but was left to rue two missed chances to close out the tie.
The world number one averaged over 100.4 in a pulsating contest which included 37 scores above 170, as an opening 180 in the final leg proved to be pivotal when Cullen failed to find a treble.
“I knew I needed to open big in the last leg and that was very important,” said Van Gerwen. “That was a brilliant game and the adrenaline was pumping.
“Joe had the chance to beat me and his scoring power was phenomenal. I had to keep up with it, which wasn’t easy so I’m really glad I’m through.
“It was one of my toughest games in the World Championship ever. It’s a big relief off my shoulders.
“It’s horrible for Joe but I have been in that position so many times and it makes you stronger.
“I wish him all the best because he is a phenomenal guy and a phenomenal player but I am so glad I won this one.”
Cullen punished his opponent for two missed darts in the fifth leg of set one to grab an early advantage, before missing a dart to double his lead as Van Gerwen capitalised to level.
The Yorkshireman continued to pile in the maximums and went back in front by taking the third set, again in a fifth-leg decider.
He then landed a sublime 123 checkout on the bull which set him on his way to opening up a two-set lead as he took out 85 after Van Gerwen had squandered three darts for parity.
Van Gerwen clawed a set back before surviving a match dart when Cullen narrowly missed the bullseye for a 90 checkout, allowing MVG to force a seventh set show-down.
The Dutchman wired tops for a 120 checkout to lead 2-1 in the decider but Cullen landed double eight to again move within a leg of glory.
He missed a second dart at the bull for the match – this time at the end of 164 combination – and Van Gerwen pinned double eight to take it to a sudden-death leg.
Van Gerwen open with a 180 and Cullen failed to find a treble in the leg, which the world number one won on double eight with a 14-darter.
Elsewhere, Krzysztof Ratajski also prevailed in a nail-biting sudden death leg as he edged out Germany’s Gabriel Clemens in a tale of missed doubles.
A marathon battle went the distance after Ratajski missed two darts at double 16 to win the final set 3-1.
With the match tied at three sets and two legs apiece, both players missed seven match darts in the deciding leg before Ratajski landed double one to win a tense tie.
“It was so emotional. I don’t remember ever having a match like this before,” admitted Ratajski.
“The last leg was terrible. It was crazy. I usually lose close matches but today I was lucky.”
Stephen Bunting was one of four players to reach the Last 16 earlier in the day as he recovered from two sets behind to seal a 4-2 success against James Wade – who landed his third televised nine-darter in the process.
Wade edged the opening set 3-2 with a clinical 62 checkout after Bunting had missed two darts to lead.
Three-time semi-finalist Wade punished his opponent for more missed doubles as he pinned double top twice to take out 80 for the second set.
Bunting bounced back by taking the third set 3-1, before sealing the fourth by the same margin with an 81 finish to level up the tie.
Wade’s nine-darter came in the second leg of set five, as he landed back-to-back 180s and a 141 checkout to make it one apiece – becoming the first player since Gary Anderson in 2015/16 to achieve perfection – but he went on to lose the set as Bunting hit the front once again.
Bunting went on to seal victory by winning the sixth set in a deciding leg to earn a place in the Last 16 – where he will take on Ryan Searle.
“I can’t believe it – I’ve worked so hard over the last few months. Everybody knows I’ve had Covid but I’ve put that behind me now,” said Bunting.
“When he hit the nine-darter it was probably one of the rare moments where it was better for me that the fans weren’t here as they would’ve all been buzzing after that and supporting James.
“I miss the fans dearly though and we all want them back. I feel like I’m playing the best darts of my life and I’m looking forward to the game against Ryan.”
Reflecting on the defeat, a disappointed Wade said: “It’s a great achievement to hit the nine-darter but ultimately it’s only one leg.
“It’s a nice moment but obviously to go on and lose the match is a massive disappointment for me.”
Dave Chisnall recovered from dropping the first two sets against Danny Noppert by winning the next four to advance to the Last 16.
Noppert won the first six legs of the match in a dominant start, opening up a two-set lead with back-to-back 120 checkouts.
Chisnall began his comeback by winning the third set in three legs before taking each of the following two sets 3-1, as Noppert landed a 160 finish in vain.
World number eight Chisnall then raced through set six without reply to set up a fourth round meeting with World Matchplay champion Dimitri Van den Bergh.
“I wasn’t worried after the first two sets. I can be a slow starter at times,” admitted Chisnall. “I lost the first six legs but it was only two sets. I knew I could come back and I did.
“I know I have got the game but if I give Dimitri a head start, he’ll punish me. He’s playing well and having big averages but I’ll be ready for it.”
Daryl Gurney progressed to Round Four after an impressive 4-1 victory over Chris Dobey, in which the former World Grand Prix and Players Championship Finals winner averaged 101.4.
The first set went with the throw as Gurney edged ahead, before breaking with a brilliant 11-darter to take the second set 3-1.
It soon became 3-0 but a 97 checkout helped Dobey pull a set back, only for Gurney take out 78 twice in the fifth set to complete a comfortable success.
“The real Daryl Gurney turned up,” said Gurney, who will meet Vincent van der Voort on Wednesday. “Chris played well but I stuck in there.
“I broke him at a great time in the second set and played well enough to win the game. I’m full of belief now – I’ve been practicing so well but in previous tournaments I’ve been letting myself down.
“I was rubbish throughout this year but I knew I could turn it around at the biggest tournament of the year. From being absolutely rubbish, this could turn into a decent year.
“Vincent beat me in the World Matchplay, it’s time for revenge.”
Devon Petersen set up an exciting encounter with Gary Anderson after pulling off a 4-0 whitewash of debutant Jason Lowe.
Petersen landed nine 180s in a clinical display, which included a 160 checkout as he punished Lowe for missed darts to win the second and fourth sets.
“My performance was better than the first round and my finishing pushed me through,” said Petersen.
“I’ve worked a lot on the technical side of my game but also on the mental side. I have people like Wayne Mardle, Colin Lloyd and Phil Taylor in my corner and they have helped me massively. Wayne has been influential in improving my technique.
“I’m looking forward to playing Gary. I’m hoping to up my performance and I feel quite confident.”
William Hill World Darts Championship 2020/21 Results
Tuesday December 29
James Wade 2-4 Stephen Bunting – *Wade hits a nine-darter*
Daryl Gurney 4-1 Chris Dobey
Jason Lowe 0-4 Devon Petersen
Dave Chisnall 4-2 Danny Noppert (RD3)
Gabriel Clemens 3-4 Krzysztof Ratajski (RD4)
Michael van Gerwen 4-3 Joe Cullen (RD4)