The Best Ever?
In a recent interview on the Sky Sports website the current world number one Michael van Gerwen when speaking about Phil Taylor was quoted as saying “He is the greatest of all time, but I am the best of all time”.
(Below is the link to the article)
It is no real surprise to hear van Gerwen speak with such confidence having racked up an impressive 23 tournament wins during 2016 alone, including claiming the winners cheques in all of the big TV ranking tournaments so far this season (UK Open, World Matchplay, World Grand Prix and European Championship). Overall van Gerwen has won 9 of the 11 TV ranking tournaments played since losing in the World Championship semi-finals to Gary Anderson in early 2015.
Despite all of his success van Gerwen has just one world title to his name, and in the Sky Sports interview he admitted he will not match Taylor’s haul of 16 world titles. “No, it’s not possible to win more, or become the greatest ever, because I cannot [win] 16 world titles. I will be retired before”.
It is truly hard to fully judge how Michael van Gerwen compares to Phil Taylor as the span of their careers are very different with Phil Taylor having won his first world title when van Gerwen wasn’t even a year old. Added to the fact that it’s only within the last four years that van Gerwen has turned into the winning machine he currently is, having struggled for form over a number of years after switching to the PDC from the BDO where he won the World Masters as a 17 year-old.
To try and make some comparison between the standard of darts produced by Taylor and van Gerwen I decided to take their best average per round in the latter stages in PDC TV ranking tournaments (the rounds used for the data are quarter-finals, semi-finals and finals).
The TV ranking tournaments I have taken into account are the World Championship, UK Open, World Matchplay, European Championship, Grand Slam, Players Championship Finals and World Grand Prix. The Grand Slam only became a ranking event in 2015 but I added the data for previous years as the tournament format was the same, I also included the World Grand Prix but note the averages are lower for this because of the double start format.
Here is the comparison. The averages are listed by tournament and by round.
In the first row for example I have listed the highest average both players have produced in quarter-finals, semi-finals and finals at the World Championships. This shows that Taylor’s highest average in a World Championship quarter-final match was 108.8 in 2009, whilst van Gerwen’s highest average in a World Championship quarter-final match was 105.26 in 2015. The next row shows the highest average both players have produced in World Championship semi-final matches and so on.
As you will see on the chart, I have highlighted which player has posted the higher average per round per tournament. This shows that overall Taylor has produced higher averages than van Gerwen in 17 of the 21 latter stage (QF/SF/F) rounds in TV ranking tournaments.
Do these numbers suggest van Gerwen has a little way to go before he can be considered the best ever? Recently he has been sweeping aside all before him as did Taylor for a number of years. The level of competition is without doubt getting higher all the time which makes van Gerwen’s current domination all the more impressive, but also it can’t be forgotten the level of darts that Taylor has produced over the years, especially in the latter stages of big tournaments regardless of level of opposition.
The debate over who is the greatest will no doubt rumble on and on. Is it premature to call van Gerwen the best of all time? The high averages produced by Taylor in the later stages of big tournaments eclipse what van Gerwen has produced so far.
Yes van Gerwen holds the world record TV average of 123.4 (in a short format Premier League match). Higher averages have been achieved in non-televised matches on the tour by other players. I feel a comparison of averages over a longer format and in TV knockout matches makes for good analysis.
Averages obviously don’t win matches though and are only a guide, but this comparison of their performances in the final stages of big tournaments makes for interesting reading.