Michael van Gerwen ended 12 months without glory on the PDC European Tour with a superb triumph in the 2023 Blåkläder Belgian Darts Open on Sunday night, defeating Luke Humphries 8-6 in the final.
The Dutchman has dominated the European Tour stage in the past decade with 35 tournament wins, but had seen the last of those come in May 2022.
However, he made amends in style to scoop the £30,000 top prize in front of a sell-out Belgian crowd at the Oktoberhallen.
A significant Sunday night saw Van Gerwen avenge his recent semi-final whitewash to Josh Rock at the Austrian Darts Open with a brilliant 7-3 win when they met once more in the last four.
Van Gerwen also saw off Martin Schindler in a dramatic third round contest on Sunday afternoon which went to a deciding leg, before powering past Gary Anderson in the quarter-finals.
The final saw Van Gerwen surge to victory from 5-4 down with three successive legs to take command before pinning double 16 to ensure a memorable success.
“It means a lot to me,” said Van Gerwen, who also returns to second place on the PDC Order of Merit above Peter Wright.
“You have to defeat really good dart players – Gary Anderson, Josh Rock and in the final someone who is always good on the Euro Tour, Luke Humphries.
“I knew that if I won today I’d be above Peter Wright in the world rankings and of course that’s really important.
“You always have to give 100% and that’s what I do all the time. Sometimes it doesn’t go your way, but I’m a fighter and I never give up, and I keep fighting until the end.
“That’s what I did today and that’s why I won, and it’s really good for myself.”
The final’s opening ten legs all went with throw, with Humphries twice missing chances to break and also agonisingly missing double 12 for a nine-darter in leg six – returning to take that leg in ten darts.
Van Gerwen followed up a 129 checkout in leg ten with the first break in the next, stepping in on double 16 after Humphries missed double six.
Two further misses from Humphries were punished as Van Gerwen moved 7-5 up, and though a missed match dart allowed the world number six to keep the tie alive, his rival closed out victory on double 16.
The defeat for Humphries was his third in a European Tour final this year, having lost out twice previously to Dave Chisnall.
He edged out Belgium’s Andy Baetens in a thrilling third round tie to open Sunday’s action, and after seeing off Nathan Aspinall in the quarter-finals he survived a missed match dart from Dirk van Duijvenbode in a high-quality semi-final.
“I don’t feel disappointed, I think I played well,” said Humphries. “I played an A+ Michael van Gerwen and you can’t make a mistake. I did in a couple of legs, I missed a dart here and there and I got punished.
“I thought I played a good game but a couple of mistakes cost me and if I’d took those finishes out I probably would have won.
“It was a closely-contested game, it was nip and tuck and he pulled out the good legs at the end. I was proud of myself the way I played, but the better player won in the end.
“Obviously, it’s always disappointing to lose but I’ll get that title this year soon, I’m sure. I’ve run into three brilliant performances in the final, but it’s coming.”
Van Duijvenbode was denied a spot in his second European Tour final of the year in agonising fashion, missing one match dart for a 7-5 win before Humphries took out 81 on the bull in the deciding leg.
The Dutchman had proven too clinical for Canada’s Matt Campbell and Wales’ Jonny Clayton earlier in the day as he secured a spot in a third semi-final of the 2023 European Tour.
Rock performed superbly in his wins over reigning champion Chisnall and World Champion Michael Smith to book his spot in a second European Tour semi-final of the year, only for Van Gerwen to avenge his loss a fortnight ago.
Scottish star Anderson was a quarter-finalist in his second event after returning to the European Tour, defeating Rob Cross in round three before losing out to Van Gerwen.
Chisnall’s title defence was ended by Rock as he succumbed to a 104 average from the Northern Irish youngster in Sunday afternoon’s third round, shattering the Englishman’s hopes of a third European Tour win of 2023.
The PDC European Tour continues next weekend with the Gambrinus Czech Darts Open in Prague, where 48 players will be taking part in the year’s eighth event.
The tournament will be broadcast live on Viaplay, DAZN and PDCTV (excluding Germany, Austria and Switzerland) and through bookmakers’ websites worldwide.