HE bulldozed opponents aside on an unstoppable charge through to the final and began the biggest match of his life as the bookies’ favourite to be crowned darts champion of the world. But in a thrilling climax to the PDC World Championship at the Alexandra Palace in London, Eyemouth’s Gary Anderson ran out of steam.
In front of a large, partisan London crowd whipped into a frenzy, the Berwickshire man who turned 40 three days before Christmas came from behind twice before eventually going down 7-5 to 25-year-old Adrian Lewis from Stoke in a dramatic final that lasted more than two hours. Anderson fought back from 3-1 and 6-3 down to stay in contention but ultimately paid the price for failing to make doubles when it mattered.
“Double ten killed me off,” Anderson reflected. “I reckon I missed more darts at double ten than I did at the treble. It was a long tournament and I’m an old man.”
Anderson had produced five ton-plus averages in winning through to the final, but fell just short of claiming glory in the biggest game of his career. “I was tired to be honest, and it was possibly one match too far for me,” said the Scot, who is based in Somerset. “Adrian played absolutely brilliant and his scoring power really killed me.”
With 15-time champion Phil Taylor knocked out in the quarter-finals, a £200,000 first prize up for grabs and the chance to become world No 2, Monday’s final represented a rare and golden opportunity. Instead, Anderson had to settle for the consolation prize, a runners-up cheque for £100,000 and a guaranteed place in this year’s lucrative Premier League series.
“I can’t wait until these boys play in Scotland because, trust me, this is nothing,” said Anderson, who was cheered on by fiancee Rachel and tennis mum Judy Murray in a crowd mostly favouring Lewis. “It will come back round.”
Anderson, who used to practise relentlessly in the King’s Head in Berwick, was aiming to become the third Scottish world champion after Jocky Wilson and Les Wallace. He was also looking to become only the second player after Taylor to win the title with an average of over 100 in each match.
Having peppered the treble 20 all week, he was a man on fire. Critics may have questioned his bottle on the big stage, but apart from a slight wobble against Dennis Priestley and a first-set surrender against Raymond van Barneveld he had proved himself well worthy of the favourite tag.
But he was also used to setting the pace and leading from the front, and this final didn’t follow the usual script. In an explosive start, Anderson was knocked for six by his opponent’s blistering opening, the Englishman making history in the third leg by landing the first nine-dart finish in a world championship final to storm ahead.
“Now I know what it feels like to be hit with 180s,” said Anderson. “Adrian played absolutely brilliantly, spot on.”
Anderson fought back with a 164 checkout to level at 3-3 before losing the next three sets. Again, he fought back to 6-5 and one bold punter even had enough confidence in Anderson to put £55,000 on him to win at 8/11. It proved to be money badly spent.
“I feel a little bit disappointed for Gary,” said Taylor, last year’s champion. “I’ve been where he stands. I said to him, ‘Gary I’ve been where you are’ and I’ve won it 15 times. It’s not a disgrace to lose in a final like that. It was a great final. I can’t say enough about the pair of them. They are a great advertisement for the game.”
That, of course, will come as little consolation. Neither will the knowledge that he reached the final for the first time.
Anderson put on a royal show in front of Prince Harry to beat Terry Jenkins 6-2 in Sunday’s semi-final after blitzing Raymond van Barneveld 5-1 in the quarters on Saturday. After being demolished 4-0 by Ronnie Baxter in the second round last year, he has at least proved to himself what he is capable of.
“I’ve made it to the final and spent probably ten years getting beaten in the first and second rounds, so it’s been nice to get this far,” he said.