Dimitri van den Bergh claimed his first major title in fairy-tale fashion at the 2020 World Matchplay, sweeping aside Gary Anderson 18-10 in the final in Milton Keynes.
The 26-year-old, making his debut in the prestigious tournament, became only its tenth different winner since 1994 and the first Belgian to win a major PDC title.
Van den Bergh claimed the Phil Taylor trophy in emphatic style at the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes, averaging almost 100 and hitting four ton-plus finishes in a dominant final display.
“My dreams have come true, I’m so happy,” said Van den Bergh. “I’m feeling very ecstatic, proud, and I’m feeling that hard work pays off.”
“I have so much respect for Gary, to beat him is showing me how far I have come and now I know I can win, I can’t believe this.
“The world is going through a very difficult time and the PDC, Barry Hearn and Matthew Porter have given me a chance to live my dreams when it hasn’t been possible for other, so thank you to them.”
During lock-down, Van den Bergh spent almost three months living with World Champion Peter Wright as he was unable to return home to Belgium.
He was quick to pay tribute to Wright’s impact both on and off the oche, adding: “I spent a lot of time with Peter over the lock-down and he has taught me so much, I’m so grateful to him and his family for everything they did for me during a difficult time.”
A nervy start to the final saw the pair struggle to find their range, with both averaging just 87 going in to the first break and Van den Bergh leading 3-2.
The quality increased during the second session, and five consecutive holds of throw saw the match level at 5-5, with both players settling in to the occasion.
The 11th and 12th legs saw two moments of magic, as first Anderson pinned double five for a 130 finish to break, before Van den Bergh took out 170 with Anderson stuck on 82 to level at 6-6.
Both players missed darts to break and take control of the match in the following legs but it was Van den Bergh who took an 8-7 lead into the third interval.
The 26-year-old, playing in his first ever televised ranking final, then took control of the match as he won four of the next five legs to open up a four leg advantage on Anderson.
Another incredible session for Van den Bergh saw him pull further clear of the two-time World Champion, starting with a stunning 124 finish on the bull, before another bullseye checkout in the following leg, this time 132.
Anderson was unable to get a foothold in the game and Van den Bergh went on to secure a 18-10 win just a few legs later, pocketing the £150,000 top prize.
The run to the final saw Anderson defend a major chunk of the ranking money he won as champion at the 2018 Betfred World Matchplay, but he conceded his opponent deserved the victory on the night.
“He played well right from the off, I just wasn’t there tonight,” admitted Anderson. “All credit to Dimitri, he is a lovely lad and deserves his win tonight.
“I’ve got a few weeks off now to sort a few things out, I had a few issues with my grip and darts dropping low but no excuses, he deserves it.”
Van den Bergh, who came in to the tournament as world number 26, ends it as world number 12 and is now assured of a place in November’s Grand Slam.
Dimitri van den Bergh believes he can “make history” by picking up his first major title in his debut World Matchplay campaign as he prepares for a show-down with Gary Anderson in Sunday’s final.
The 26-year-old has embarked on a remarkable debut run to his first major final and is within touching distance of becoming only the tenth different player to claim this prestigious title since 1994.
Van den Bergh had previously never been beyond the Quarter-Finals of a ranked PDC major but has produced his blistering best in Milton Keynes this week, defeating Nathan Aspinall, Joe Cullen, Adrian Lewis and Glen Durrant along the way.
The former World Youth Champion is the first World Matchplay debutant to reach the final since James Wade in 2006 and is bidding to become the first Belgian player to win a major PDC title.
“One more game before I can make history and before I can say I am a World Matchplay champion,” Van den Bergh told Live Darts.
“I’m not thinking about losing, even though I’m playing Gary Anderson, I’m only thinking about winning.
“It’s the Phil Taylor Trophy. I’ve seen that man win tournaments in a way that no one else has done before and I want to be that player who has his name on the trophy.
“I’m so proud to be in the final but I want to win it now. I’m in the final for a reason, and if I manage to win it will not be an upset.
“It’s because I’ve worked hard for it and kept digging in and believing in myself. I will need to be on top of it from the start to the end.
“Whatever Gary is thinking or feeling, I’m going to leave him to it and be busy with myself.
“I’ll be ready and I think I have a big chance to be one of those winners who everyone remembers.”
Van den Bergh’s exploits this week have already secured him a place in the world’s top 16 for the first time, and ‘The Dream Maker’ admits the run has already been “life-changing” regardless of Sunday’s result.
He added: “One hundred per cent this is life-changing, because before the start I was 26th, now a few weeks later I am in the top 16.
“These are things I’ve been thinking of but I didn’t think it would happen so fast.
“I’ve always been working hard for it and everything I’m accomplishing here is well deserved.”
This will be only the second competitive meeting between the two players, with Van den Bergh having prevailed 8-7 in the Semi-Finals of the 2018 German Masters World Series event.