Darts has gone from being a pub game to one of the most entertaining, if a tad silly, sports in the world.
Despite its lowly status, it’s become a real money-spinner for the TV companies as well as its organisers and is today one of the most-watched sports on the telly with millions of people around the world tuning in every week to watch.
Darts is also one of the most bet on sports in the UK and globally too and, increasingly, we are seeing more and more participants from a growing number of different countries.
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But how did we get here?
Well, for one thing, it is a great laugh, but otherwise to answer that, here, in no particular order, is our collection of the top five darts matches of all time.
Phil Taylor vs Raymond van Barneveld (2007)
Ask most darts fans what they believe is the greatest darts match in history and they will probably say the 2007 PDC World Championship final between Phil Taylor and Raymond van Barneveld.
Not only was it an epic, but it was also the last year the Circus Tavern hosted the World Championships before proceedings relocated to the Alexandra Palace where they famously remain today.
Here, Barney was playing in his first PDC final after moving over from the BDO, where he had been a four-time champion.
His opponent, Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor was already a 13-time world champion, and it was Taylor, looking to continue a 21 match winning streak at the Circus Tavern, that was to race into a three-set lead.
Taylor had held the trophy since 2004, racking up a 21-match unbeaten run prior to this match but, with a whitewash looking increasingly on the cards, van Barneveld turned the match on its head starting with his, and the tourney’s, first 170 checkout.
Barney went on to take the next three sets to bring the match to 6-6, forcing a deciding set in the process.
The drama didn’t end there. With Barney missing three match darts, the first 10 legs of the decider went with throw before van Barneveld once again failed to take his chance.
Even then, Taylor couldn’t take advantage leaving Barney to eventually hit tops for the title and secure a debut PDC World Championship victory.
Adrian Lewis vs Phil Taylor (2013)
At the 2013 Grand Slam of Darts, we were treated to one of the most exciting matchups in living darts memory.
The reason that it has gone down in legend is that there aren’t many matches that manage to contain a stunning 32 maximums thrown inside of 25 legs.
It’s hard to recall now because his drop-off has been so considerable, but there was a time when Adrian ‘Jackpot’ Lewis was a true king of the darting world.
He is a two-time, back-to-back world champion after all, banking the big one in both 2011 and 2012.
In his 2013 Grand Slam clash with fellow Potter Phil Taylor, who has claimed this was the best he ever played, Lewis finished the match with a 110.99 average with his opponent posting 109.46.
In a sign of things to come, Taylor opened with 180 with his first three darts of the match and would go on to finish the game with a 16-9 triumph over his own darting protégé.
By the end of the match, the triple 20 was completely destroyed such was the quality the two Stoke chuckers showed on the night.
To this day, there has never been more 180s hit in a PDC match and never has anyone with such a high average as Jackpot posted that night finished on the losing side.
Michael van Gerwen v Rob Cross (2018)
Going into the 2018 World Championships, no one had really heard of Rob Cross.
Only a year earlier, Voltage, as the former electrician is known, was watching the event on TV like the rest of us while he was still a member of the Challenge Tour.
Having been encouraged by his uncle to have one last shot at pro darts, Cross set off on his first season with the PDC, where he cashed over £300,000 in prize money and banked four tournament wins.
Nothing could prepare him for what was to follow, though.
Making it to the Alexandra Palace, Cross went more than deep, reaching the semi-finals, where he was to face the world number one, Michael van Gerwen.
While this was supposed to be a banker for MVG, Cross stayed with his man, helped admittedly by Mighty Mike missing un unlikely 58 doubles during the match.
Unfortunately for the world number one at the time, five of his missed doubles came in the deciding set with the match at 5-4.
With the match firmly in the balance in the sudden-death leg, Cross missed a double 16 for what would have been a 140 checkout.
MVG then repeated the trick which allowed Cross to finally keep his composure and land double eight for the match and complete a remarkable victory.
Even more remarkably, a retiring Phil Taylor awaited in the final for a fairy tale finish to a glittering career only to be upstaged by Cross, who would finish his first year on the tour as the world champion.
Raymond van Barneveld v Michael van Gerwen (2016)
Although Taylor was still playing in 2016, and in fact still had another Ally Pally final in him, darts was by now under new command.
Its new number one was the Green Machine, Mighty Michael van Gerwen.
In the season building up to that year’s World Championships, MVG had taken down The Masters, the UK Open, the World Darts Matchplay, the Grand Slam of Darts, the European Championship and the Players Championship.
On top of this, he was also unbeaten in more than two months and in 25 televised darts matches overall.
In short, van Gerwen was the heavy favourite going into the 2016 PDC Darts World Championships.
However, he was to meet a compatriot in the third round where that year’s title challenge would come unstuck.
That compatriot was, of course, Raymond van Barneveld, who boasted 11 defeats in 14 meetings with fellow Dutchman MVG.
And yet, van Barneveld won 4-3 in sets, despite Mighty Mike boasting an average of 105.78 on the night.
The turning point came in the fifth set when MVG, on whose throw it was, landed a 180 on his way to, what he hoped would be, a cruise into a 3-2 lead in sets.
At this point, van Barneveld needed 304 and somehow duly dug out a maximum, followed by a 124 finish on double 11 to turn the set, and eventually the tie, in his favour and bring an end to van Gerwen’s unbeaten run.
Phil Taylor v Eric Bristow (1997)
Two of the most famous darters of all time went head to head in 97 when the master took on his apprentice.
True their eras of dominance never really collided, and everything pointed to the young Taylor, then coming into his peak years, comfortably seeing off the challenge of his former mentor, who was, by then, some way past his own prime.
As loved as The Power was, and is, the sporting romantics couldn’t help but hope for one last show from the veteran Crafty Cockney.
Think along the lines of Tiger’s Masters win in 2018 but considerably more low-key.
Sometime earlier in the 90’s Bristow had been diagnosed with Dartitis, a repetitive strain injury that had left his game compromised, hence Taylor going into the game as the heavy favourite in the darts betting that year.
As a little background, it was Bristow who had discovered the young Taylor back in Stoke, seeing in him instantly the raw talent that would later see The Power unquestionably go on to become the greatest darts player of all time.
The setting was the Circus Tavern in Essex, which back then hosted the World Championships and we’re at the semi-final stage.
And, while Taylor did lead for most of the game, the former protégée was unable to shake off the threat from his close friend in a first to five format match.
Things looked like they were going the way of The Power as he moved ahead 4-3 in sets and 2-1 up in legs.
Requiring only one more leg for victory, Taylor’s visit left a double four hanging, and with Bristow on 141, up stepped The Crafty Cockney to work his way down to 24, where he pinned the double 12 to take things to a deciding set.
Although Taylor would later end up winning the match – despite missing three darts at 32 – it was one last show of defiance from the legendary Bristow, without whom not only would we not have Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor but who was also behind the reinvention of darts as we know it today.
Of course, come the final, Taylor would become world champion once again.Read More