MICHAEL VAN GERWEN was crowned as the Cash Converters Players Championship Finals winner for a second time as his incredible run of form continued with a fourth successive televised title during November.
The Dutchman has dominated the past month with some brilliant displays as he won the European Championship, Grand Slam of Darts and World Series of Darts Finals titles, and scooped the £65,000 winner's prize at the Butlins Minehead Resort to add to that list.
Van Gerwen was simply unstoppable throughout the weekend, seeing off Keegan Brown and Vincent van der Voort to reach Sunday's third day before powering past Dave Chisnall 10-7 and then overcoming Daryl Gurney 11-2 in the semi-finals.
He then proved too strong for his great rival Lewis in the final to win back the title he previously claimed in 2013 by seeing off another Stoke superstar, Phil Taylor.
On that day van Gerwen had to hit back from behind for victory, but after twice putting together a run of three successive legs to pull clear of his opponent the Dutchman was never in a similar position.
Lewis did lead by taking the final's opening leg, but van Gerwen hit a 180 in an 11-darter to level and finished double 16 to break throw for a 2-1 lead.
Lewis responded with a superb 118 finish, but van Gerwen landed a 180 in taking the next for another break, before punishing one miss from the Stoke ace in each of the next two legs as a brace of double ten finishes moved him 5-2 up.
Lewis capitalised on three misses at double 16 from van Gerwen to take the eighth leg on double 12 before landing tops to pull back to 5-4 but he missed tops for a 119 finish to level as van Gerwen hit double ten to edge away.
Finishes of double nine and double six in the next two legs saw van Gerwen pull out to 8-4, with Lewis' 102 finish - after the pair traded 180s - being followed by a 117 checkout from his rival as the world number one took a 9-5 lead.
Van Gerwen added another 180 and double 12 to move to the brink of victory, with Lewis stepping in to punish two missed match darts by finishing a brilliant 147 checkout, but three misses in the next allowed the Dutchman in on double six for the win.
The triumph is van Gerwen's second of the year at the Butlins Minehead Resort in Somerset, following March's UK Open triumph, and his 18th in a PDC event during an imperious 2015.
"I'm really glad to have this title back, absolutely over the moon," said van Gerwen. "It was difficult to get the win but I'm really glad I did.
"Adrian's a fantastic player but I was the better player in this game and I just want to keep this form going now because I'm playing really well.
"It's amazing. I've been on an incredible run, not just in this tournament but also in the tournaments before, but they've been perfect for me.
"It gives me so much confidence, but I need to relax and prepare for the World Championship. I'll be fresh and fit and ready to win another really big major."
Lewis had been denied by Gary Anderson in the Players Championship Finals decider 12 months ago, and despite hitting three ton-plus checkouts in the final was left to rue another loss, saying: "It was one of those nights.
"I missed a couple of doubles early doors and let Michael in a few times. The 147 to save the match was a massive shot to save the match but then I kicked in with 42 to start the next leg.
"I've got to reflect on a good weekend because it's the first final I've reached in the ranking majors this year."
Lewis had raced past Austria's Mensur Suljovic 11-1 in his semi-final, taking the opening eight legs without reply and finishes of 116 and 103 on his way to the decider.
He had also defeated Simon Whitlock 10-7 in Sunday afternoon's quarter-finals, and took home £35,000 as the runner-up to consolidate his position as number five in the world rankings.
While Suljovic's inspired quarter-final win over Ian White saw him reach his second major semi-final in the space of two months - following his run at October's World Grand Prix - Gurney was appearing in the last four on TV for the first time.
The Northern Irish ace had seen off 2012 runner-up Kim Huybrechts and reigning champion Gary Anderson to progress to Sunday's final stages, and overcame Dutch youngster Benito van de Pas 10-5 in the quarter-finals.
Cash Converters Players Championship Finals
Saturday November 28
Michael Smith 3-10 Mensur Suljovic
Adrian Lewis 10-3 Alan Norris
James Wade 3-10 Benito van de Pas
Dave Chisnall 10-8 Jamie Lewis
Ian White 10-9 Gerwyn Price
Peter Wright 9-10 Simon Whitlock
Daryl Gurney 10-4 Gary Anderson
Michael van Gerwen 10-6 Vincent van der Voort
Sunday November 29
Mensur Suljovic 10-6 Ian White
Adrian Lewis 10-7 Simon Whitlock
Michael van Gerwen 10-7 Dave Chisnall
Daryl Gurney 10-5 Benito van de Pas
Best of 19 legs
Mensur Suljovic 1-11 Adrian Lewis
Michael van Gerwen 11-2 Daryl Gurney
Best of 21 legs
Michael van Gerwen 11-6 Adrian Lewis
Best of 21 legs
Adrian Lewis raced past Mensur Suljovic to reach the final, dropping only one leg in an 11-1 rout of the Austrian ace, who was unable to repeat the form which had taken him to his second major semi-final in the space of two months.
The tone for the game was set when Suljovic missed three darts at doubles in the opening leg and two in the second, with Lewis capitalising thanks to checkouts of 78 and 75, both on double 12, to take immediate command.
Lewis then broke again on double ten and landed double eight before punishing two further misses from Suljovic to win a fifth successive leg.
Lewis, last year's runner-up in Minehead, took out 116 as he continued his march, and though Suljovic hit a 180 in the seventh, another two misses at tops allowed the Stoke ace in to finish 62 on double 16.
Lewis hit a 180 and double ten to win his eighth leg and landed two maximums in the next, only to be punished for his own missed doubles as Suljovic produced a fine 96 checkout to get off the mark on double 14.
Lewis, though, restored his cushion with a superb 103 checkout in the tenth leg, after the pair traded 180s, before he landed a maximum and an 85 finish for a 12-darter and tops to wrap up the win.
Michael van Gerwen's charge towards a second Cash Converters Players Championship Finals triumph continued with an 11-2 semi-final win over Daryl Gurney, which the top seed capped with a 170 checkout.
Northern Ireland's Gurney hit back from an early 2-0 deficit to level, landing three 180s in the opening four legs and finishing 80 and a 14-darter to stay in touch with the world number one.
Van Gerwen landed a 180 in a 14-darter to edge back ahead, and took out 84 on the bull and 74 to take charge, despite two further 180s from Gurney, at 5-2.
Van Gerwen hit 180s in the next two legs as tops and double 18 moved him 7-2 up, before three missed doubles from Gurney proved costly as double eight gave him a six-leg lead.
Gurney landed a 180 in the 11th leg, but double nine moved van Gerwen into a 9-2 lead, before he punished a missed bull from the Northern Irish ace to win a tenth leg, and the killer blow came with a spectacular 170 checkout to seal the win.
Michael van Gerwen turned on the style as he won a high-scoring quarter-final with a 10-7 win over Dave Chisnall, as he continues his bid to reclaim the Cash Converters Players Championship Finals title.
Van Gerwen averaged over 107 following a superb display, hitting eight 180s, three 177 scores and a 174, while Chisnall landed seven 180s, a brilliant 132 finish and averaged 105.51 in reply but ultimately paid for missed doubles.
The heavy scoring began in the opening leg as van Gerwen fired in a 177 before Chisnall hit a 180, and the Englishman punished three missed doubles to finish double eight to lead.
Van Gerwen levelled, following a pair of mises at double eight by Chisnall, before the pair traded checkouts of 76 and 87 - as the Dutchman hit the bull - to remain locked at two-all.
Van Gerwen then hit his second 180 before capitalising when Chisnall was unable to finish 139, as an 81 finish saw him break before he took out 80 for a two-leg lead at 4-2.
Chisnall took two of the next three to stay in touch, but van Gerwen hit scores of 177 and 180 as he finished a 12-darter to regain his two-leg cushion.
The pair then hit three maximums in a key 11th leg, with Chisnall providing two only to miss three darts at doubles as van Gerwen broke on double eight for a 7-4 lead.
Chisnall responded by taking out a crowd-pleasing 132 finish with two bullseyes and double 16, only to miss darts at double 16 and eight in the next - after the pair traded 180s - as van Gerwen hit double ten to regain his lead.
Double 18 saw Chisnall punish four misses from van Gerwen in the next as he hit back on double 18, but a trio of misses from the Premier League semi-finalist cost him as the Dutchman hit the same bed to move 9-6 up.
Chisnall took out 81 to punish a missed match dart from van Gerwen in the next, but when he was unable to take out 110 in the 17th leg, the world number one hit double 18 to seal victory.
Daryl Gurney won through to his first major televised semi-final with a 10-5 defeat of Benito van de Pas, as he followed up Saturday's memorable defeat of reigning champion Gary Anderson with another fine display.
Van de Pas has also impressed in reaching his first quarter-final, but saw Gurney's mid-game surge of four successive legs prove crucial in turning the game around.
After van de Pas took the opening leg on double 18, Gurney capitalised on a missed double ten to level before moving 2-1 up, only for the Dutchman to hit 180s in the next two as he edged 3-2 ahead.
Gurney landed a 180 in a 14-darter to level, and bounced back from five misses in leg seven by hitting 180 and 140 to open the next as a 13-darter levelled at four-all.
Gurney then finished double four, a two-dart 96 finish and double six to extend his run to four straight legs as he moved 7-4 up, and after van de Pas hit back on tops he added another 13-darter to move 8-5 up.
Double eight extended the lead to four legs, and Gurney then sealed his semi-final spot against van Gerwen on double nine.
Mensur Suljovic won through to his second major semi-final - both within the space of two months - with a superb 10-6 defeat of Ian White to continue the Austrian's bid for a maiden major title.
Suljovic continued his fine finishing as he took an early 3-1 lead and moved 8-4 up before closing out the win to deny White a spot in the last four.
Tops in the opening leg saw White lead, but that would be the only time he would hold the advantage as Suljovic punished missed doubles in the next two to finish 72 and double 18 to break as he moved 2-1 up.
A brilliant 139 checkout, hitting treble 20, treble 19 and double 11 in a tricky combination, saw him move two legs clear, with White repying on double 12 before seeing his opponent finish 117 on double top to move 4-2 up.
White hit double 16 and tops to win two of the next three as he cut the gap to 5-4, but Suljovic landed a 180 as he took the tenth leg before finishing a key 116 to break before posting double 16 as he moved 8-4 up.
White again won two out of three legs as he stayed in the hunt at 9-6, but another clinical double 16 finish saw Suljovic seal the win and his semi-final place.
Adrian Lewis overcome some dodgy doubling to secure a semi-final tie with Suljovic with a 10-7 defeat of Simon Whitlock, whose best run in a ranking major for 18 months was ended at the hands of the Stoke ace.
Whitlock shared the game's first ten legs - and led 5-4 at one stage - but saw Lewis' more clinical finishing in the latter stages prove crucial.
Although Lewis took out early legs of 13, 14 and 13 darts he only led 3-2 after Whitlock capitalised on missed doubles, and the Australian followed a 180 with double ten in leg six before the pair traded checkouts of 70 to remain locked at four-all.
Whitlock added another 180 in the ninth leg, and capitalised on four further misses from Lewis to break throw on tops and move 5-4 up, leading for the second time in the game.
Lewis took out 100 with two double tops to hit back, landed double two to move back in front and 64 on double 16 for another break to open up a 7-5 lead,
Whitlock's 112 checkout saw him respond and the Australian then fired in another maximum as he looked for to level, but five misses allowed Lewis in for an 8-6 lead.
Lewis then hit a 180 and took out 64 on tops to move 9-6 up, and though Whitlock responded by finishing 82, double eight saw the Stoke ace seal victory and a last four place.
Second Round Round-Up (Saturday)
In-form Peter Wright and reigning champion Gary Anderson crashed out of the Cash Converters Players Championship Finals on Saturday evening as Simon Whitlock and Daryl Gurney claimed shock victories at the Butlins Minehead Resort.
Whitlock reached his first major quarter-final for 18 months after winning the most dramatic match of the second round 10-9 against world number four Wright.
Both players missed four match-darts in a tense last-leg decider, which went Whitlock’s way as he fought off Wright’s 102 average to set up a last eight clash with Adrian Lewis.
Wright stormed into a 3-0 lead, hitting three 180s in the process, including back-to-back maximums to start the third leg, and fired in another 180 in the fourth leg before Whitlock stopped the surge by taking out 100.
Wright replied with a 66 finish before Whitlock’s first 180 helped him win the sixth leg. The next leg went with the throw before the Australian broke with an 82 checkout on the bull - only to see his opponent hit back immediately by bedding tops to lead 6-4.
Whitlock secured another break of throw by finishing 68 but Wright again replied in kind with an 11-darter. The world number four then pegged double four to move within two legs of victory but Whitlock kept his hopes alive by landing double three.
He then took out 96 to win a leg against the throw for the third time and this time he followed it up by holding with a 92 finish on the bull as he squared up at eight legs apiece.
Wright broke back again though, forcing a last leg decider and he looked to have ended Whitlock’s hopes when he hit a 180 to set up 61.
Whitlock then missed the bull for a 170 finish and both players squandered further match darts before the former European Champion landed double nine to progress.
“That meant the world to me,” said an emotional Whitlock. “I’ve been in the doldrums for 18 months now and it means everything to get a win like that against a player as good as Peter Wright.
“I thought I was in trouble at the end but I stayed positive and got a bit of luck and managed to hit double nine.
“I’ve been working hard on my game and there’s no reason I can’t go on and win this.”
Northern Ireland's Gurney, meanwhile, claimed a second big scalp in as many days as he followed up Friday's first round defeat of Kim Huybrechts by knocking out defending champion Gary Anderson to reach his first TV quarter-final.
Debutant Gurney won the last six legs without reply to claim a 10-6 victory against the World Champion and world number two, who failed to reach his usual high standards as his defence of the title ended just 24 hours after his opening win over Phil Taylor.
The first nine legs went with the throw before Gurney grabbed the first break by bedding double 18 and he never looked back, reeling off finishes of 52, 70 and 32 before completing the win on double 16.
“Neither of us played our best game but I’m happy to be through,” said Gurney, who had defeated Kim Huybrechts in the first round.
“I was lucky that Gary didn’t play like he normally does but I did what I had to and tomorrow I hope to play like I did against Kim because if I do that I can go a long way in this tournament.”
There were no such problems for number one seed van Gerwen, who averaged over 103 in a 10-6 success against his good friend Vincent van der Voort.
Van der Voort won the first two legs thanks to a 74 checkout to break in the first before pegging tops to double his lead. Van Gerwen won the next three, though, landing double top and double eight either side of a 94 finish against the throw.
Van der Voort’s second 180 helped him pull level but van Gerwen responded by hitting his second maximum and pinning double eight.
A 68 checkout from former UK Open finalist van der Voort restored parity at four legs apiece but van Gerwen edged back ahead with the aid of another 180 before breaking his opponent’s throw to lead 6-4.
The world number one also won the next leg before van der Voort produced a brilliant 130 checkout.
Van Gerwen started the 13th leg with back-to-back 180s and found two further trebles on his next visit but missed double 12 for a nine-darter, although he returned to land double six for a ten-dart finish.
Van der Voort grabbed the next leg but van Gerwen took the next two to seal a 10-6 win.
“There are no friends on the oche but it is always very difficult to play Vincent,” said van Gerwen, the 2013 winner at Minehead.
“That’s not just because he is my friend and was best man at my wedding but also because he is a very good player.
“I had to remain focused and get the job done. We’d seen a lot of the favourites go out already and I didn’t want to join that list. I’ve made every final since the World Championship on TV and I’m determined to keep that going.”
Ian White edged out Gerwyn Price to reach the quarter-finals with a 10-9 victory to set up a clash with in-form Mensur Suljovic.
Price had looked set to progress when he broke White’s throw in the 17th leg but the number seven seed fired in a vital 180 followed by an 81 checkout to level before winning the deciding leg.
The pair both held their throws in the first two legs before 180s in each of the next two saw White go 3-1 in front. Price broke back straight away and levelled up at three apiece after both players struggled to close out the sixth leg.
The next eight legs were shared to leave the match finely poised at 7-7 and they continued to win their own throws as White took out 65 and Price replied with a 95 finish with his opponent waiting on a double.
Price then grabbed a seemingly crucial break with a 74 checkout but White hit a timely seventh 180 to set up 81 and completed the finish to force a last-leg decider. The world number nine then held his nerve to pin double ten and move into the last eight.
“I’m just pleased to win tonight,” said White, who is looking to reach his first PDC major semi-final. “I thought I’d blown it when I was 9-8 down. I hit the score I had to to give myself a chance.
“Hopefully I can get to the semi-final as once I get over that line, I know I can go on and make finals.”
In Saturday's afternoon session, Benito van de Pas and Mensur Suljovic shocked James Wade and Michael Smith to reach the quarter-finals of the as Adrian Lewis and Dave Chisnall also progressed at the Butlins Minehead Resort.
Van de Pas reached his first PDC major quarter-final after a stunning display to defeat Wade in which he averaged over 105.
The most impressive aspect of the Dutchman’s performance was his ruthless finishing as eight checkouts of between 72 and 100 proved the key to a dominant victory.
Van de Pas started sensationally, winning the first four legs with checkouts of 72, 79, 72 and 96 to pile the pressure on number four seed Wade.
The left-hander responded by taking out 102 but van de Pas continued his relentless finishing as he added 85, 90 and 100 to his incredible collection of combination checkouts as he moved 7-1 in front.
The Dutch youngster then pinned double ten and Wade replied in kind before van de Pas landed double top for his fifth break of throw, moving him within one leg of victory.
Wade kicked off the next leg with back-to-back 180s as he got a third leg on the scoresheet but it proved to be his last as two scores of 177 and a clinical 90 finish completed a landmark victory for the two-time Development Tour winner.
“That was my best game ever on television,” said van de Pas, who now faces Daryl Gurney in the last eight.
“My floor game is finally coming to the big stage now and it’s a great win for me. I took nearly all of my chances and that is what you need to do.
“Hopefully I can continue to play like this and who knows what can happen.”
Number two seed Smith was also dumped out of the tournament as Suljovic reached his fourth major quarter-final of 2015 with a 10-3 success.
Last month’s World Grand Prix semi-finalist Suljovic twice won five consecutive legs to see off a below-par Smith in the opening game of round two.
Smith was punished for missing doubles in three of the first five legs as Suljovic raced into a 5-0 lead, taking out a 96 finish in the process.
The Austrian ace then missed a dart to win each of the next three legs with Smith capitalising to move within two of his opponent. A scrappy end to the ninth leg saw Suljovic eventually land double four after the pair both missed a string of shots at doubles.
He then pinned his favourite double 14 to break and open up a four-leg lead before moving 8-3 ahead by taking out 64 despite miscounting and bursting his score in the previous visit to the board.
Suljovic then finished the job in style, brilliantly checking out 137 to move within a leg of victory which was completed with a ten-darter after missing double 18 for a perfect leg.
Adrian Lewis booked his place in the quarter-finals with a 10-3 triumph against Alan Norris thanks to five 180s and a 99.84 average.
The world number five pegged double nine to break his opponent’s throw in the opening leg before pegging double five to double his advantage.
Norris pulled a leg back before Lewis produced a fabulous 121 finish on the bull and he won the following leg on double 15 to lead 4-1.
Norris then missed double 15 for a 150 checkout, allowing Lewis to bed tops to move four legs clear. The pair both kicked off the seventh leg with maximums, with Norris cleaning up 46 but he was unable to find a break of throw to leave Lewis 7-3 up at the second interval.
The two-time World Champion then took out 96 and 81 to complete back-to-back 11 dart-legs, hitting three 180s on the way. A fifth maximum of the match for Lewis helped him wrap up the win as he landed double top to move into the last eight.
“I think we both started to kick in towards the end of the match,” said Lewis, who will face either Peter Wright or Simon Whitlock in round two.
“I’ve settled into the tournament now and I can rest and prepare for tomorrow. I know I’ll be playing a good player next but there is a lot more to come from me.”
Dave Chisnall came out on top in the closest contest of the afternoon as he saw off Jamie Lewis in a high quality encounter. The pair shared 13 180s as Chisnall moved into the last eight for the first time on the Minehead stage.
A 180 helped Lewis take the opening leg but another in the second leg couldn’t stop Chisnall levelling.
The Welsh youngster’s third maximum was also in vain as Chisnall took out 68 to break but Lewis responded magnificently with consecutive finishes of 113 and 142, which he set up with yet another 180 - his fourth in the first five legs.
The pair exchanged maximums at the beginning of the sixth leg which Chisnall won with a spectacular 164 checkout. The 2015 Premier League semi-finalist edged ahead by pinning double five but Lewis broke back immediately by taking out 58.
The next two legs went with the throw to leave the pair tied at five legs apiece before Lewis finished 98. Chisnall hit double 16 to restore parity once again but Lewis took out 70 and then landed double eight to break and move into an 8-6 lead.
Chisnall then took the next three legs to leave himself throwing for the match and when Lewis missed three darts to force a decider, the number eight seed took out 76 to complete the win.
TEENAGER HOPP CROWNED AS PDC UNICORN WORLD YOUTH CHAMPION
MAX HOPP was crowned as the 2015 PDC Unicorn World Youth Champion after defeating Nathan Aspinall 6-5 in a thrilling final at the Butlins Minehead Resort on Sunday night.
German teenager Hopp picked up the £10,000 first prize to succeed Keegan Brown as champion and secured his spot in the 2016 World Championship and Grand Slam of Darts - although he did it the hard way in a tight contest.
Hopp never led until he landed the winning double, after the game's opening ten legs all went with the throw.
The 19-year-old had missed a chance to break throw in the game's opening leg, being unable to land tops for a 125 finish, as Aspinall followed a 180 with double eight to lead.
Aspinall then missed a chance to break in leg two as Hopp levelled, and after the 24-year-old moved 2-1 up, a 66 checkout from the German was cancelled out by a 62 finish from his rival.
Aspinall added another 180 in the sixth leg, but Hopp left 40 with a 138 score before finishing tops for a 14-darter to square the contest again.
Aspinall's double top was cancelled out by double 12 from Hopp to leave the scores tied at four-all, with the German ace then hitting a 150 score to lave 32 only to see his opponent finish a brilliant 90 on the bullseye to move 5-4 up.
Double 12 saw Hopp level to send the final into a deciding leg, and the 19-year-old landed his first 180 of the game to be the first player to a finish.
He initially missed three match darts at double top, ten and five, but when Aspinall missed double 16 to finish 101 for the title, Hopp returned on double five to seal the title.
"I'm so happy," said Hopp. "It was close, like I expected, and I'm really glad I hit that double five and won the title.
"This title was so important for me. I've played for three years now and I wanted a title, I've got it now and I hope it will give me confidence to show what I am capable of."
The pair had won through October's early rounds from the Last 64 down to the semi-finals in Wigan, with Hopp overcoming Stephen Rosney, Berry van Peer, Kenny Neyens, Jeffrey De Zwaan and Dean Reynolds.
The PDC Unicorn Development Tour, open to players aged 16-23, will return in 2016 with five weekends of action, each of which will feature four tournaments each worth £10,000 in prize money.
The PDC Unicorn World Youth Championship will then follow at the end of the season, based on the top 48 players from the final Development Tour Order of Merit and a series of International Qualifiers.
PDC Unicorn World Youth Championship Final
Max Hopp v Nathan Aspinall
0-1 - Hopp misses tops for a 125 finish, and Aspinall follows a nerve-settling 180 with double eight.
1-1 - Aspinall misses his chance to move two legs up, and Hopp steps in on double ten to level.
1-2 - Aspinall takes out 43 to edge back ahead.
2-2 - Hopp finishes 66 on double 18 to hit back again.
2-3 - A 62 finish sees Aspinall regain the lead.
3-3 - Aspinall hits a 180, but Hopp scores 138 to leave tops before completing a 14-darter to square the game once more.
3-4 - Stockport's Aspinall finishes 60 on tops to regain the edge.
4-4 - Hopp lands double 12 to hold throw and level.
4-5 - Hopp scores 150 to leave 32, but can only watch on as Aspinall finishes 90 on the bull to brilliantly move a leg away from the title.
5-5 - Hopp misses double 12 to finish 144, but returns to hit the bed at the second time of asking to send the game into a deciding leg.
6-5 - Hopp hits his first 180 of the game before landing a 140 to leave tops - but misses double top ten and five, only to see Aspinall miss double 16 to finish 101 for the title as the German returns to land double five for the victory.