Mensur Mania reigns in Cardiff

I won’t feed you any PDC propaganda about Mensur Suljovic winning a “major”, because he hasn’t. But as far as exhibitions go, this BBC gig, the Champions League as its called, is just about the best of them. And if anyone was going to become the first new TV winner in a full-strength field since Michael van Gerwen scooped the 2012 World Grand Prix (not including World Series events or Peter Wright’s 2017 UK Open – a tournament without van Gerwen and Taylor), who better than Big Mensur?

One could say that Suljovic was at an advantage over his rivals, in that he likely didn’t give a damn that this tournament was on the BBC — unlike Peter Wright, who frittered away eight match darts against Gary Anderson in their group-stage decider.

Taylor stitches up van Gerwen once again

What to make of van Gerwen, who has now suffered consecutive humiliations on telly to Taylor? There’s no doubt he’s back in Phil’s pocket, who, in what he promises is his final year, has craftily orchestrated the crowd to ensure they give the Dutchman hell. Imbued from his 16–6 dismantling of MvG at the World Matchplay, Taylor felt confident enough to break out the Green Machine’s double fist pump celebration as he dumped him out in the group.

I don’t buy the line that Phil is on a free roll on his last lap of the circuit — his bratty antics in losing to Corey Cadby in Melbourne last month reek of a sorer loser than ever. He cares alright, and after van Gerwen’s dominance over him in recent years — a sustained run Phil had never experienced in his career — he’s revelling in landing a few blows of his own.

Just desserts for van Gerwen, one could argue, having been so overconfident at the Matchplay to text fellow Dutchie Vincent van der Voort during the interval of his second round match against Simon Whitlock to say that he’d already beaten him. Not that we can glean too much from Taylor’s word salad interviews nowadays, but it was clear that had riled him, as he made sure to mention it in his post-match spiel after beating the world number one in Blackpool.

He mused again in Cardiff on how van Gerwen was a bad loser. Hypocritical, but that doesn’t stop it being true.

After storming to his second world title in January, the Dutchman has found himself facing some unlikely adversity. He’s going to keep getting it in the neck against Phil, and right now, he can’t hack it. Frustrating, really, that the PDC’s greatest, most intriguing and genuine rivalry will be no more after January. They really do not like each other.

Taylor has opted out of next month’s Grand Prix, denying us of a showdown there, but we’ll hopefully see them go at it in Wolverhampton for the Grand Slam of Darts or at the World Championship.

Darts in capable hands on the BBC

Unlike the BDO, the PDC has given the BBC something to work with, and they did a capable job once again. Jason Mohammad fronted the coverage well, while Paul Nicholson and Mark Webster proved good sidekicks.

The only real downers were the showings from Adrian Lewis and Dave Chisnall, who both failed to record a win. That and a boring Taylor-van Barneveld match, which flatters to deceive more often than not now — even their quarter-final at the World Championships felt flat for the majority. Taylor won this one 10–6, for the record. ‘El Dartico’ or ‘darts’ El Clasico’ is rather generous.

It was a far superior event to last year, which was dulled by far too many one-sided contests. Mensur, whose personality we’re starting to become more acclimatised too, was the highlight throughout — his ballsy 160 match-winning checkout in the semis versus Raymond van Barneveld really was a cracker. And he held his nerve well in the final against Anderson, rallying superbly in the latter stages to finish the job, since he looked tetchy after being pegged back to 6–6.

Suljovic winning with a sub-88 average — that was more than 10 points inferior to Anderson’s — was also a delight. It won’t deter those drunk on statistics; we’re sure to keep seeing “leg averages” and being told “you can’t win with anything less than 100 average”. But it’s nice to know darts remains a game of checking out 501 more quickly than your opponent, with each leg being independent from the other.

More darts on the BBC? Yes please. More Mensur Mania? Yes please. More El Darticos? No thanks.

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