Written by Toby Foster (@TobyFost)
Bransgore darts ace Scott Mitchell was narrowly defeated by 10 legs to 8 at the hands of Michael Van Gerwen on Friday evening in a captivating contest at the UK Open.
Mitchell, who won the BDO World Championship in 2015, hit five 150s and averaged 95.05 in a superb performance which saw him lead 8-7, but reigning champion Van Gerwen found an extra gear in the closing stages of the nip-and-tuck match to clinch victory.
Having won his PDC professional tour card at ‘Q-School’ just two weeks ago, Mitchell was rated a 300/1 rank outsider to win the UK Open – often dubbed the ‘FA Cup of Darts’ – with his ranking of World Number 113.
But the Dorset-born farmer, nicknamed ‘Scotty Dog’, notched up victories against teenage hotshot Lewy Williams and veteran thrower Andrew Gilding to set up a televised clash with World Number Two Van Gerwen in the Last 32 stage of the prestigious major tournament.
Mitchell began the match in superb style by winning the opening leg and then hitting an impressive 117 checkout to break the Van Gerwen throw and take a 2-0 lead.
‘The Green Machine’, who appeared unsettled by his opponent’s methodical pace, fought back to level the scoreline but Mitchell then popped in a 102 finish to edge ahead 3-2 at the first break in play.
Van Gerwen was a man on a mission as play resumed, winning four consecutive legs including one in just 11 darts to lead 6-3.
The contest appeared to be getting away from Mitchell but he rallied superbly to nail a crucial 76 checkout and reduce Van Gerwen’s advantage to just two legs.
‘MvG’ then suffered a blip in his power-scoring as Mitchell rattled in back-to-back ice-cool finishes on Double 20 and Double two to level the match at 6-6.
The two former World Champions exchanged holds of throw before Mitchell slammed in his third ton-plus checkout of the match, finishing 101 on Double 16 to go 8-7 ahead in the race to ten legs.
An almighty upset appeared to be on the cards, but Van Gerwen battled back tenaciously to outscore ‘Scotty Dog’ in the final three legs and emerge narrowly victorious.
Van Gerwen, who now faces former Champions League of Darts winner Mensur Suljovic in the Round of 16, complemented Mitchell’s performance in his post-match interview.
“You know what he’s capable of, and you know what he can do, and I think he played well in the beginning of the game”, Van Gerwen said.
“Everyone could see I was struggling here and there, and when you’re in that position, it’s hard work”, he added.
Michael Van Gerwen – Scott Mitchell
10 Legs won 8
99.06 3-Dart Match Average 95.05
6 180s 5
50% Doubles Success 50%
92 Highest Checkout 117
In a recent interview with Nerve Sport’s Ultimate Sports Podcast, Scott Mitchell described how he had considered retiring from professional darts if his switch from BDO events to PDC tournaments did not go well.
He described the oddness of “walk[ing] into a room in the PDC, and everybody knowing you, but you haven’t proven anything to them”, and how critics had said “’he won’t be good enough’”.
But it is fair to say that this impressive performance on the Main Stage at the UK Open will have silenced Mitchell’s critics and dispelled any silly suggestions that he was just making up the numbers in the PDC.
For large parts of their high-quality encounter, Michael Van Gerwen appeared out-of-sorts and struggled to cope with the power-scoring and cool finishing of ‘Scotty Dog’, who looked the superior player until coming unstuck in the final three legs of the contest.
Van Gerwen went into the match as heavy favourite but his backers would have been decidedly jittery when Mitchell nailed a 101 finish to go within two legs of victory.
The Dorset farmer’s methodical playing style is unusual in the game but gives him a helpful advantage of being able to keep a steady rhythm while faster opponents struggle to get into a scoring groove against him.
And slower-throwing is no barrier to success in darts, as 2020 World Champion Peter Wright and 2017 Champions League winner Mensur Suljovic can testify.
Mitchell’s strong performance against Van Gerwen will have earned the respect of his fellow PDC professionals.
He has put down a marker already in his debut season in the PDC, and will be considered a threat in tournaments to come.