PDC World Championship final: Michael van Gerwen targets No 1 spot against Peter Wright
By Razwan Mirza - Tweet me: @RazMirza. Last Updated: 01/01/14 6:54pm
There will be a new name on the Sid Waddell Trophy on New Year's Day as Michael van Gerwen takes on Peter Wright in the PDC World Championship final.
The Dutch ace, who lost to Phil Taylor in the Alexandra Palace showpiece in 2013, blew away two-time champion Adrian Lewis 6-0 in Monday night's semi-final with a 103.02 average as his opponent struggled to hit his doubles.
The 24-year-old will take on the colourful and charismatic Wright in the north London showpiece after the world No 16 eased past 2010 finalist Simon Whitlock 6-2 with a 100.24 average.
Since the inception of the breakaway PDC event in 1994, there have been five different winners - Dennis Priestley (1994), Phil Taylor (1995-2002; 2004-06; 2009-10; 2013), John Part (2003, 2008), Raymond van Barneveld (2007) and Adrian Lewis (2011-12).
There will be a sixth different name on the trophy on January 1, although the man known as 'Snakebite' goes into the final as the 7/2 underdog with Sky Bet against 'Mighty Mike'.
The Scotsman did not compete in either guise of the World Championship between 1996 and 2009, but could now complete a remarkable career turnaround with victory.
He faces an uphill task against van Gerwen though and his head-to-head record against him does not make comfortable reading.
Since March 2009, Wright has won six out of their 23 meetings (including non-ranking events) but 13 of those meetings have come in 2013 alone.
Snake charmer Wright, 33, will not want to be reminded of their meeting at the World Matchplay in Blackpool when he was crushed 13-3 in the last 16.
The pair have also met twice before at the World Championship, but the 'Green Machine' won both matches - 3-1 in the opening round in 2009 and 4-2 in the last 32 in 2012.
Their most recent meeting came in the last 16 of The Masters in Edinburgh which van Gerwen won 6-2.
However, Wright has made a big improvement in 2013, reaching his first major semi-final at the UK Open six months ago before blazing a trail to the PDC final.
Wright, who is now based in Suffolk, has become a crowd favourite with his flamboyant hair and dress. He will want to get the crowd on his side when he walks on stage to his music by American recording artist Pitbull - 'Don't stop the party'.
He will not be fazed by playing the Dutch whirlwind after knocking out Joe Cullen 3-0 in the first round, before producing his highest televised average of 105.07 to knock out Phil Taylor's conqueror Michael Smith 4-3 to advance to the quarter-finals.
He squeezed past Wes Newton 5-4 and then hammered Whitlock in the last four.
Meanwhile, the Premier League champion overcame Zoran Lerchbacher and Kevin McDine before avoiding a shock exit at the hands of 2011 finalist Gary Anderson.
He rallied to force a deciding set and finally squeezed over the line to win 4-3 to set up a quarter-final against former Lakeside champion Mark Webster.
After racing into a 4-1 lead, he relaxed and although the 26th seed launched a fightback, van Gerwen won the eighth set. And then came the demolition of Lewis in the last four.
If van Gerwen does walk away with the £250,000 first prize, he also faces the prospect of overhauling the reigning champion Taylor as world No 1.
"Peter's a great player who has improved himself in the last year, and also in this tournament with some great averages, but I'm playing better game by game," he said. "My game's good, my confidence is there and I've got everything in me to be World Champion.
"This is another dream to be in the final - but this time I hope I can win!"
Sky Bet have boosted the odds on over 21 180's in the final from 4/5 to evens (1/1). Bet on the PDC World Final here.
Sky Sports darts analyst Rod Harrington feels Wright must impose his game on the Boxtel-born star if he is to stand a chance of causing an upset.
"Dressed like that you've got to have the bottle, but he is a character. Wright was totally focused (against Whitlock)," he said. "There was no movement in his flight head when he was pulling his dart back and that proved a lot to me. If he gets that's focus then he has a chance."
"If Peter Wright can win those opening couple of sets, it's a totally different game.
"When you're leading it's easy, anybody can lead, but when you're chasing it's a lot harder because every single checkout is so important.
"He's got to impose his game on Michael. If he doesn't we could see van Gerwen run away with it."