Comment & Analysis
Dimitri Van den Bergh is bidding to become the fourth man in World Matchplay history to retain his title; the Belgian takes on former World Master Krzysztof Ratajski in the semi-finals on Saturday evening, live on Sky Sports Arena from 7pm
Last Updated: 23/07/21 12:07pm
Dimitri Van den Bergh produced a sensational display to defy a dancing Gerwyn Price and keep his title defence alive at the World Matchplay, and he insisted he was unfazed by the Welshman’s mind games after storming into the semi-finals.
It was touted as potentially the match of the tournament – the reigning Matchplay champion against the world champion and the world No 1 – yet it was the brilliant Belgian that ran out a comprehensive winner to advance to the semi-finals.
Having landed a record-breaking 14 maximums in his second-round success against Dave Chisnall, Van den Bergh delivered another sublime scoring display, firing in 10 180s and averaging 102 to close out a 16-9 win.
‘The Dream Maker’ enjoyed a dream start – reeling off five consecutive legs from 2-1 adrift to establish a commanding cushion, only for Price to reduce the arrears by claiming five of the next seven legs.
The world No 1 registered three consecutive 14-darters to close to within a solitary leg of the Belgian at the third interval, and he celebrated by imitating Van den Bergh’s signature dance.
However, the 27-year-old was undeterred and ensured that Price didn’t have much to dance about in the latter stages.
Van den Bergh pulled clear with a run of six straight legs – including three breaks of throw, a 12-darter and a 90 finish on the bull, and although he missed a match dart to triumph 16-8, he made amends by sealing the deal with a 68 kill in the very next leg.
“If you look to what it said on the paper – Dimitri Van den Bergh – reigning World Matchplay champion – versus Gerwyn Price – reigning world champion, world No 1. That is a sexy draw,” he told Sky Sports post-match.
“I just managed to win. The crowd have been so much behind me. I’ve got to say a big and beautiful thanks [to the crowd]. This is big,” added the two-time World Youth champion.
Price has been subjected to a hostile reception throughout this year’s tournament and Van den Bergh was a firm favourite with the crowd inside the Empress Ballroom on Thursday evening.
‘The Iceman’ is a player that thrives on adrenaline and he tried to ignite himself with some huge celebrations, yet Van den Bergh claimed that Price’s mind-games made him ‘smile’.
“That is exactly what he was trying to do with that little dance. It made me smile, it didn’t put me off. These are little things that we call in our business ‘mental games’,” he continued.
“He did that to try and get the crowd on his side, but guys you know what, Gezzy is a nice man. He is not loved, but he is a nice man and I’ve got a lot of respect for Gezzy.
“But if I am here, I am doing my business and I want to beat him and oh my god did I beat him today. Yes!”
Van den Bergh is just two games away from retaining his crown, though he’s already made history, having arrived in Blackpool as the only defending Matchplay champion yet to make his Winter Gardens bow.
The Antwerp ace defeated Gary Anderson in an empty Milton Keynes on debut last year, but having lifted two World Youth titles, featured in a World Series final and two quarter-finals at Alexandra Palace, he possesses no shortage of big-stage pedigree.
“Last year I won the World Matchplay, but I have never experienced a feeling that I am having the last three rounds. Without the crowd, this tournament isn’t what it is.
“My emotions were like a rollercoaster and I am extremely proud.”
Van den Bergh ‘proud’ of sealing Price scalp…
“It is the Phil Taylor Trophy, but without the crowd, it is not even worth to call it that name. Phil, I miss you man. I really miss Phil Taylor.”
The world No 8 is bidding to join Rod Harrington, Taylor and Michael van Gerwen in becoming the fourth man in World Matchplay history to retain the coveted title.
When asked about his prospect of defending his title, the Belgian was buoyant.
“I believe in it [retaining his title], and if I’m believing in it then I have got to say yes. With a crowd like this, my chances are even bigger, so once again – thank you guys, I love you to bits,” he added in an address to the Blackpool crowd.
Van den Bergh will now take on former World Masters champion Krzysztof Ratajski for a place in Sunday’s showpiece, after ‘The Polish Eagle’ swept aside debutant Callan Rydz to seal a spot in his first major PDC semi-final.
“My emotions were like a rollercoaster and I’m extremely proud,” Van den Bergh told the PDC post-match.
“It’s going to be a big battle on Saturday but I know how good Ratajski is and he showed it again today. He’s fantastic and I’ve got to be focused and believe in myself.
“It would be unbelievable to be one of those players who defends this title, but I’ve got to keep my feet on the ground.”
Watch the World Matchplay from the iconic Winter Gardens all the way through until Sunday, July 25. Check out daily Darts news on skysports.com/darts, our app for mobile devices and our Twitter account @skysportsdarts