Darts World Grand Prix: Thornton Shocks MVG to Win
Robert Thornton pulled off one of the biggest shocks in darting history at the weekend, as he saw off world number one Michael van Gerwen to win the Grand Prix of Darts in a massive upset at the Citywest in Dublin.
Thornton, who had odds of only 80/1 to win the tournament before it started, played some fantastic darts, displaying admirable composure in a topsy-turvy final which went all the way to a nine-set decider.
The triumph was only the Scot's second television major as he denied van Gerwen a third Grand Prix title in four years to take home the £100,000 prize, moving up to fifth in the world rankings in the process.
The World Grand Prix is unusual as it is the only televised darts event in which players must commence and finish each leg on a double. This unconventional format certainly played its part in the final's proceedings as van Gerwen hit an astonishing 18 maximums, yet lost the match to Thornton's superior control and composure.
The final started with van Gerwen well on top, taking the first set in double-quick time against the throw, winning three consecutive legs as Thornton wasn’t even afforded a shot at a double. The Dutchman hit an astounding four 180's in a set of complete domination to take the lead after less than 10 minutes as things looked ominous for Thornton.
The Scot soon settled down though, fighting back to win a crucial second-set, taking the first-leg against the throw with his last dart in hand. Van Gerwen clawed his way back to two legs each, but Thornton delivered when it mattered most clinching the second-set decider with a near nine-darter after six perfect darts on the Dutchman's throw.
A peculiar third-set kicked off with four consecutive breaks of throw, before Thornton crucially held to move into the lead. Angry that his superior average had not translated into a score-board advantage, van Gerwen raced through the fourth-set in impressive fashion, concluding with a 110 checkout.
The fifth-set proved the point where things started to unravel for van Gerwen however, as he began to struggle on his doubles. The Dutchman threw a staggering eight missed doubles in the fourth leg, which Thornton duly punished hitting tops to wrap up the set and regain the lead, 3-2.
Van Gerwen replied with 13 and 15-dart legs to seal the sixth, and two more maximums to move into a 2-0 lead in the seventh. He allowed Thornton back into it though as the Scot went on to checkout 118 to draw level at 2-2. Van Gerwen then missed two darts at double ten and double five which would have taken the set, before Thornton hit a 74 checkout to move 4-3 ahead.
Once again the world number one replied in breath-taking fashion, hitting his 17th maximum of the night as well as a 177, clinching the set on double-nine to take the final to a decider.
Thornton took the first leg with a 90 finish after van Gerwen had registered yet another 180, before the Dutchman levelled it up after a 13-darter. Van Gerwen then missed three pivotal darts at doubles allowing Thornton to check out 48 and move ahead 2-1, one leg away from glory.
When the world number one missed yet another double in the following leg, Thornton took out tops to clinch a surprise victory after a scintillating night of darts."My wife says that I’m a little pitbull with the heart of a lion; I never give in and I keep fighting to the end.”
Speaking afterwards, 'The Thorn' revealed his joy at securing just his second major title (after the 2012 UK Open), as well as the fact that Scotland now have three players in the world’s top five for the very first time: Gary Anderson, Peter Wright and Thornton.
"It’s unbelievable, absolutely awesome. If you’re going to win a tournament, this is the way to do it, and Michael showed why he’s the world number one at the moment," he said.
"Going into the last set I thought to myself that if I could hold my own throw then I could do this. My wife says that I’m a little pitbull with the heart of a lion; I never give in and I keep fighting to the end."
Thornton added: "It's an amazing feeling to have three players in the world's top five. Not only that, but John Henderson is also playing well and in big tournaments. It's a great period of time for Scotland."
Van Gerwen by contrast could not hide his disappointment at the end of what was his fifth major final in 2015 as he was left to rue missed doubles, but was magnanimous in defeat praising Thornton for his dogged spirit:
"I think it was a fantastic final for everyone to watch, but I didn’t win and I’m gutted.
"I missed too many doubles and I gave him too many chances, especially in the last set, and you can’t do that at this stage of the tournament.
"Robert is a fighter and he never gives up. Fair play to him, every chance he got, he took it and deserved to win this but I’ll be back stronger in the next tournament."
The 2015 Darts Grand Prix proved a tournament of big shocks, with 16-time world champion and 11 time Grand Prix winner Phil Taylor exiting in the first-round at the hands of Vincent van der Voort; James Wade succumbing to the exciting and somewhat unorthodox Austrian Mensur Suljovic after the first-round; and second-round exits for current world champion Gary Anderson who lost to Ian White, and Adrian Lewis who went out in straight sets to Mark Webster.
The biggest shock of all was reserved for the final however, as Thornton overcame the overwhelming favourite in van Gerwen who, it must be noted, also played some outstanding darts; a further testament to the success of Thornton.
The next major tournament on the circuit is in November, as players from both the PDC and BDO will battle for the Grand Slam of Darts.