Greatness fading or simply off colour?

When Ken Doherty beat Stephen Hendry in the 1997 World Snooker Championship final, this corner wasn’t all that shocked. The Ranelagh man had been steadily ascending the WPBSA rankings in the preceding period. Conversely, the Scot’s once all consuming grip on the carpeted tables was waning by then.

The Scot made a comeback of sorts earlier this year but it would appear his attempts to recapture old glories would validate the oft preached line that they – sporting stars, be they human or equine, very seldom come back as good as they once were to their area of expertise if they have been away from it for any length of time.

Michael Van Gerwen hasn’t been away from the world of darts. In fact, he has been a dominant Goliath lording it over the entire sport for the better part of a decade. In that time, Stephen Hawking’s calculator would even do well to tot up all the numbers, titles and records the Dutch darting dynamo has amassed over the years.

However, as has been commented upon in this space on several occasions in the not too distant past, there has been a notable diminishment in Mighty Mike’s output in more recent years. That is not for a moment to infer that he has become a bad player or anything like it. Anyone who was even considering entertaining such thoughts summarily got their answer in his World Grand Prix match last night against his Dutch compatriot Danny Noppert.

What I think was 13 years ago, MVG went within inches of hitting 9-dart-finishes in consecutive legs during a match at the World Championships. A moment immortalised by the wonderful Andrew ‘Freddie’ Flintoff being on commentary at the time. One can only ponder what the charismatic former cricketer might have made of the good part of his game last night.

That is to say when the former World No. 1 went even closer to another 9-darter than he did a second one all those years ago. Not only that, but, he was only inches from achieving the Holy Grail of the sport via a 170 out shot.

Danny Noppert knocked out his highly fancied compatriot

On the night though, I don’t think it would’ve made any difference if Van Gerwen had embodied William Tell on the night. The contest was all about Noppert. Like most if not all the players from the Netherlands, Noppert is more than capable of lying up with the best of them and produce moments of brilliance. An inconsistency in doing so is all which has held him back from even further advancement.

Last night it all came together. It must surely now be acknowledged that Van Gerwen is not the terrifying tungsten tornado he once was. The question, mind you, is whether it’s a case of his greatness fading or simply being a little off colour. Either way, the expulsion of the great man will be boon enough for the rest of the field, but on Monday night it got even better for them.

By the time the second evening’s action had concluded, two more former winners of the Sid Waddell Trophy were departing the city of the Foxes. With the greatest of respect, Gary Anderson allowed himself get dragged into a scrap with Ian White and then blew chances to extricate himself from it as ‘Diamond’ hung on for a deserved win after a polished performance.

On the other hand, the consistent if not always spectacular Peter Wright simply had the misfortune of getting a high Voltage blast from a resurgent Rob Cross. It has become fairly widely accepted – even by the player himself – that all the baggage appended to being World Champion was a bit overwhelming for him.

Rob Cross is back on form

Over time, he has worked his way back to form and while reigning World Champion and current number one Gerwyn Price is understandably and deservedly favourite to retain the title he won last year in Dublin. It would be no surprise to me, though, if the tempestuous Welsh man has to be fully charged to avoid a few volts of trouble.

More to follow…

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