World Matchplay 2021: Dimitri Van den Bergh says the ‘apprentice’ will be back after defeat to Peter Wright in final

Dimitri Van den Bergh hailed Peter Wright as the “master” but insisted the “apprentice” will be back as he surrendered his World Matchplay crown after an admirable title defence upon his Winter Gardens bow. 

The ‘couldn’t have lost to a better man’ sentiments needn’t be said aloud on the night, an emotional Van den Bergh and Wright capping the week with a touching post-match embrace on stage having famously lived together on the latter’s farm for three months during the height of lockdown.

It had been while lodging with Snakebite that Van den Bergh clinched 2020 Matchplay honours behind-closed-doors in Milton Keynes, and though he may not have retained the Phil Taylor Trophy a year later, he did succeed in reaffirming his talent and elite credentials before the eyes of 2,000 fans in one of darts’ most iconic venues.

“Without a doubt [proud of title defence],” he said. “From the first round until now I’ve fought, I’ve never given in and you know what today I was runner up but I think a lot of players would love to be winner first year and runner-up in the next year.

“Tonight Peter Wright was unstoppable. The way the commentary would say it ‘Dimitri Van den Bergh asks the question, and every time Peter Wright had the answer’. I was chasing the game the whole time but I never gave up, I said to myself ‘never back down, always fight back’ and even though that’s what I was thinking it wasn’t enough, he’s more than just a winner, Peter Wright is the master.”

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It was only too fitting that the pair would meet in Sunday’s showpiece, electric crowd receptions during both walk-ons reflective of the brilliance showcased by both throughout the tournament.

Ultimately, Wright wouldn’t be denied taking a step towards fulfilling his promise of winning both the World Matchplay and World Championship this year, averaging upwards of 100 for the fourth time in the competition and hitting 58.06 per cent of doubles to ice a phenomenal catalogue of performances at the Empress Ballroom.

A nervy start to Van den Bergh’s finishing left him staring at a 4-1 deficit after the first session and meant he was always playing catch-up, though if his rivals have come to learn anything about the Belgian it’s that he will never simply fade away. That being the case once again.

“I never gave in, I never stopped believing in my own ability and here and there I put him under pressure,” he said. “I don’t think he even missed the number 80, it was treble 20, double 10 or single, single tops and that’s what he did today, the 80 today he never missed it.

“I was waiting on like 64 in the one leg, I was waiting on 40 another leg but I was believing that if he misses I can step in. That’s what happened in some legs, I remember one leg he missed five or six darts at the double and I missed the bullseye in the first shot and then finished 38 in the next shot and I’m like ‘come on’, I even showed it to the crowd like ‘I am here’.

“I’m believing in myself but today Peter Wright was outstanding a deserved winner and I already said to him him ‘you’re the master today, but the apprentice will be back’, I will.”

Van den Bergh’s road to the Matchplay final

A refusal to write Van den Bergh off even while trailing 12-7 had been fortified by his ability to come from 4-1 and 6-2 down to win his semi-final against Krzysztof Ratajski, the Dreammaker erupting for eight straight legs to snatch control of the game away from a man who had looked unflappable all tournament.

He departs Blackpool having garnered enormous respect for a stellar defence of his title, which also included a blockbuster duel of grit and skill with Gerwyn Price. Van den Bergh now also finds himself less than £10,000 shy of leap-frogging James Wade into number four on the PDC Order of Merit.

Such has been his lasting impression on the darting world over the past two years that the 27-year-old was tipped by Wright to go on and win a World Championship.

“In this tournament, I know who I had to play and know which wins I managed to achieve, which was Krzysztof Ratajski in the semi-final and the last three games we played I lost them all and I played beautiful against him but lost them and then we played in front of a crowd and managed to win,” he added.

“But then Gezzy Price, world number one, world champion and I managed to get past him 16-9, something I didn’t expect but it happened and it’s only because I showed a lot of mental strength.

“The round before Gezzy I played Dave Chisnall, I played a great game against him at last year’s World Championship, I played a good game against him at the European championship but I couldn’t get past him, and this year I passed him and even broke his record in 180s.

“So there are so many things I can say ‘Dimi, you’re doing the right things, you’re working hard and hard work pays off’. I may not be the winner today, I’m number two at the World Matchplay, I have tears but I’m still very very proud.”

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