Dimitri van den Bergh aims to become only the fourth player in history to retain the World Matchplay title when…
Dimitri van den Bergh aims to become only the fourth player in history to retain the World Matchplay title when he faces world number two Peter Wright in the final on Sunday.
Van den Bergh claimed the title on his debut behind closed doors in Milton Keynes 12 months ago and has extended his incredible unbeaten record in the event to nine matches.
The Belgian sensation is bidding to join the elite trio of Phil Taylor, Rod Harrington and Michael van Gerwen in successfully defending this prestigious title.
Standing in the way of Van den Bergh and glory is the man whose family he shared a home with for three months during lockdown in 2020 and attributed much of his success to in the subsequent months.
Wright nurtured Van den Bergh into growing a winning mentality on both floor and stage, but now aims to ruthlessly end the youngster’s title defence and add this missing piece to his trophy collection.
Van den Bergh’s opening salvo at the Winter Gardens saw him record a comfortable 10-5 win over debutant Devon Petersen before averaging 103.7 and hitting a Second Round record of fourteen 180s in a pulsating 11-8 victory over Dave Chisnall.
The 27-year-old then pulled off a 16-9 victory over world number one Gerwyn Price in the Quarter-Finals with a 102.2 average, dominating a enthralling match which saw antics from both players.
From 6-2 down, Van den Bergh powered his way to a 17-9 success over Krzysztof Ratajski in Saturday’s Semi-Finals, taking his tournament average to 99.95 and his tally of 180s to 38.
Van den Bergh has already climbed three places in the PDC Order of Merit thanks to his exploits this week and would become world number four if he can retain the title.
Wright has stormed into a second Betfred World Matchplay final and is looking to go one better than his runner-up spot in 2017, when Phil Taylor denied him glory in a one-sided affair.
The flamboyant Scot warmed up for his latest trip to the Winter Gardens in perfect fashion by winning Players Championship 20 a fortnight ago and has picked up from where he left off.
The number two seed has dropped just 24 legs in his four wins en route to the final, thrashing Danny Noppert 10-2 with a 99.7 average before cruising past Joe Cullen 11-5 with a 105.4 average.
He then swept aside 2019 finalist Michael Smith 16-7 before producing one of the best performances of his career to thrash rival Michael van Gerwen 17-10 with a staggering 110.37 average – the seventh highest in Matchplay history.
An emotionally-charged Wright is bidding for his fifth major title, having won his last three consecutive finals, including the 2020 World Championship.
Snakebite has dominated the head-to-heads between the two players, winning nine of their eleven previous meetings, including an 8-5 victory in the recent Premier League despite a 107 average from the Belgian.
The final gets under way from 8.30pm BST and will be contested over the best of 35 legs.
The match must be won by two clear legs and will be extended if necessary for a maximum of six extra legs before a sudden death leg is required.
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Wright vs Van den Bergh – Player’s View:
Wright: “I’ve dreamed about winning this and picking up that trophy, and now I’m one game away from achieving that dream.”
“Dimi has turned into a man now, he’s learned a lot, not just from staying at mine, he already had the talent there anyway, you’re not double World Youth Champion for no reason at all.
“I’ll need all the magical secret stuff that I didn’t give to him to try and beat him!
“He’s got to play the master.
“I won’t even be playing Dimitri, I’ll just be playing the board and he’ll be playing the board as well.
“It’ll be two sportsmen battling it out and smashing each other to bits with loads of 180s and we should be able to do the nine [darter] between us!”
Van den Bergh: “It would be a dream come true to be the back-to-back World Matchplay champion.
“I’ve done it before with the World Youth Championship and to have the chance to win this in front of a crowd is a dream.
“I want to give the crowd a fantastic game, and I would love to lift the trophy again.
“I’ve learned a lot from Peter Wright, I’ve been accepted by the whole family as like their adopted son.
“I stayed with him for three months and they took care of me, then all of a sudden I get into the World Matchplay and manage to win it on my debut.
“I have used what I learned from Peter to win the title, now I have the chance to defend it against him, it would be incredible.”