VAN’S YER MAN AFTER A LAST LEG THRILLER

VAN DEN BERGH TOPPLES HUMPHRIES TO CLAIM UK OPEN GLORY

Dimitri Van den Bergh survived a valiant fightback from Luke Humphries to triumph in a pulsating last-leg shoot-out in Sunday’s Ladbrokes UK Open final in Minehead.

Van den Bergh – a World Matchplay champion in 2020 – stormed 7-2 ahead at one stage, only to squander six match darts in a dramatic conclusion as Humphries battled back from the brink.

However, Van den Bergh survived two match darts of his own in a breathless final leg, before regaining his composure to scoop the £110,000 top prize and clinch his second televised ranking crown.

“Luke showed again why he is a World Champion,” reflected an emotional Van den Bergh, who moves up to world number seven following his success at Butlin’s Minehead Resort.

“I lost my composure. I knew Luke wasn’t going to make it easy, but you have to dig deep, and all of a sudden it turned around.

“My Grandad passed away two years ago, and that’s my first major win since then, so it’s a really special moment for me.”

Van den Bergh endured a disappointing 2023 campaign which culminated in a second round defeat at the World Championship, and he believes sports psychology has played a crucial role in his return to winning ways.

“I’ve always been a bit uncertain when it comes to sports psychology,” admitted the Antwerp ace.

“I wasn’t sure if it was the right thing to do for me.

“I thought it was probably my last choice if I wanted to get stronger, but I thought let’s give it a go, and right here right now, I really feel that I made the right choice.”

The Belgian number one opened his campaign with victory over Brendan Dolan on Friday, before overcoming 2007 runner-up Vincent van der Voort and Welsh star Jonny Clayton to reach the last eight.

Van den Bergh then saw off Martin Lukeman and Damon Heta on Finals Day, winning nine of the last 11 legs to set up a showdown against Humphries.

The Belgian raced into a 4-1 lead with a 103 average at the first interval, with a clinical 124 finish on the bull in leg two helping him to establish early daylight.

The 29-year-old stretched his advantage to 7-2 after maintaining his ruthlessness on the outer ring, although Humphries responded with back-to-back legs to threaten a fightback.

Van den Bergh restored his four-leg buffer with a brilliant 130 checkout in leg 12, defying six perfect darts from the world number one to move 8-4 ahead.

Humphries looked to be staring down the barrel, but he came back off the canvas with a run of four straight legs to level proceedings, aided by a clutch 116 combination in leg 15.

The pendulum swung once more as Van den Bergh converted clinical 97 and 76 finishes to move to the cusp of victory at 10-8, although the drama didn’t end there.

The Belgian frittered away six match darts across the next two legs as Humphries profited to force a 21st and deciding leg, before carving out two championship darts of his own.

However, the World Champion was unable to complete the fightback, and Van den Bergh capitalised, producing a nerveless two-dart 64 combination to secure his fourth PDC ranking title.

Humphries, meanwhile, fell agonisingly short in his bid for a maiden UK Open success, which brought an end to his remarkable 24-match winning run in televised ranking events.

The 2021 runner-up conceded just 18 legs in advancing to Sunday’s showpiece, producing a trio of ton-topping averages in the process.

The world number one defied ten 180s from Dirk van Duijvenbode to triumph in a high-quality fourth round tie, and he continued his progress with emphatic wins over Benjamin Drue Reus and Mervyn King on Saturday.

Humphries then stormed past Stephen Bunting and Ricky Evans on Finals Day, averaging 102 to demolish Masters champion Bunting, before sweeping aside Evans 11-2 in the semi-finals.

“I didn’t play well in the final, but I gave everything,” reflected the Newbury ace, who walked away with the £50,000 runner-up prize.

“I was very fortunate to get two match darts at the end there, and obviously I am gutted, but Dimitri played a good game and hit a couple of big shots at the right time.

“The crowd were amazing towards me, so I owed it to them to give it everything, and I’m really proud of the way I played again this weekend.”

Earlier in the day, Heta prevailed in one of the greatest matches ever seen on the UK Open stage, celebrating a memorable 10-8 success against teenage sensation Luke Littler.

An astonishing start to proceedings saw Heta trailing 4-3 with a 122 average, but the Australian’s relentless brilliance eventually powered him through to a maiden televised ranking semi-final.

Evans also broke new ground in Minehead, claiming the scalp of 2018 World Champion Rob Cross in the quarter-finals to advance to his first big stage semi-final, which catapults him towards the cusp of the world’s top 40.

2024 Ladbrokes UK Open

Sunday March 3

Afternoon Session

Quarter-Finals

Luke Humphries 10-2 Stephen Bunting

Ricky Evans 10-7 Rob Cross

Damon Heta 10-8 Luke Littler

Dimitri Van den Bergh 10-5 Martin Lukeman

Evening Session

Semi-Finals

Dimitri Van den Bergh 11-6 Damon Heta

Luke Humphries 11-2 Ricky Evans

Final

Dimitri Van den Bergh 11-10 Luke Humphries

Photos credit PDC

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