Dave Chisnall is set to feature in his fifth major PDC televised final on Saturday night at the World Grand Prix and after a series of near-misses, the St Helens star is bidding to land his elusive first major against his nemesis Michael van Gerwen, writes Josh Gorton.
The debate surrounding the greatest players never to win a major title always causes considerable conjecture, although Chisnall’s name generally tends to feature prominently.
Chisnall is one of the most mercurial talents in the game – his prodigious ability is unquestionable although he’s yet to translate his world-class talent into tangible success, losing in all four of his previous major PDC finals.
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In his defence, he’s succumbed to the two best players on the planet in those respective finals – Phil Taylor and Michael van Gerwen.
However, once again he’s pitted against Van Gerwen on the big occasion and his head-to-head record against ‘The Green Machine’ makes for miserable reading.
Van Gerwen has beaten Chisnall a remarkable 47 times, with the Englishman defeating the world No 1 on just nine occasions.
Furthermore, in an astonishing record dating back to February 2016, the three-time world champion is unbeaten in 26 matches against ‘Chizzy’ – winning 25 of those encounters.
However, this is a new Dave Chisnall. The former Lakeside finalist recently ended his seven-year association with Target Darts and joined rival manufacturer Harrows in his pursuit of major glory, and the early indications are positive.
“It’s a new chapter for me signing for Harrows,” Chisnall told Sky Sports.
“I met up with them and it all went well. They made me new darts and I’ve played with them last weekend and I did well.
“I’ve been practising with these new darts now for two or three months. I’m confident.”
The PDC’s annual pilgrimage to the Emerald Isle is always one of the highlights of the darting calendar and it’s a tournament that has been kind to Chizzy over recent years.
The first of Chisnall’s four major televised finals came at the Citywest Hotel in 2013, as he dumped out defending champion Van Gerwen en route to reaching the tournament’s showpiece.
He was thrashed by an irrepressible Taylor on that occasion, but he’s since reached a semi-final in 2016, before defeating Max Hopp and Raymond van Barneveld to reach last year’s quarter-finals, where he was beaten by MvG.
However, his performances this year have arguably superseded his previous showings. He’s faced four major winners en route to this year’s final – dropping just three sets in the process.
He kicked off his campaign with a sublime comeback win over seventh seed Gerwyn Price – posting the highest average of the first round.
Chisnall eased past Stephen Bunting in straight sets before putting UK Open champion Nathan Aspinall to the sword in convincing fashion, which then led him to dismantle three-time BDO world champion Glen Durrant 4-1 in the semi-finals.
Considering his reputation for being profligate in the finishing department, it’s ironic that Chisnall has enjoyed success in a double-start tournament which places such emphasis on being clinical under pressure.
Chisnall has been coolness personified throughout the week and the World Grand Prix is now the only major tournament in which he has reached multiple major finals.
Nevertheless, until he crosses the finishing line in a televised event, the criticism surrounding his mental fortitude will continue to mount.
“I have had a great year, winning a few tournaments after winning nothing last year. The main thing has been practice and this year I have practiced a lot more than I have in the past.”
Chisnall on his 2019 season…
“I’ve had some good memories, I’ve also had some bad memories, in 2013 when I got beaten 6-0 by Phil Taylor,” he added.
“I really enjoy the tournament, apart from the first round as it’s the best of three and you have to come out fast but when it gets to best of five, seven and nine you have time to relax and that’s what I’ve been able to do.”
Given his impressive record in Dublin, this tournament represents Chisnall’s best opportunity to break his major duck, although he concedes that slow starts have cost him in previous years.
“I believe I can win a major. If I do everything right on the night I can win any tournament,” he said.
“I’ve got to start quicker in finals because I keep giving players big leads. I’ve never played anyone other than Taylor and Michael in a big final, if it’s someone else I might have a chance of winning one!”
Despite his self-effacing riposte, Chisnall’s comments are made with the authority of a man who believes in their ability and he’s got every reason to be optimistic due to his impressive resurgence in 2019.
In an interview earlier this year, Chizzy revealed he wasn’t “in the best place mentally” due to personal issues in 2018 and that was reflected in his underwhelming results.
However, his first Players Championship triumph of the season in February ended his 18-month wait for a title and he’s since added another Players Championship title and the Danish Darts Open to his collection.
He’s also landed three nine-darters as his prolific scoring power has resurfaced and his hat-trick of triumphs this year has taken his haul of ranking titles to 15 – the most of any PDC player without a major televised title to their name.
“I have had a great year, winning a few tournaments after winning nothing last year. The main thing has been practice and this year I have practiced a lot more than I have in the past.
“I have to thank my practice partners who are not as good as me but still turn up and take the beating and go home!”
Chisnall was denied a fourth title of 2019 at the recent Gibraltar Darts Trophy – losing to an inspired Krzysztof Ratajski in the final, despite landing his third perfect-leg of the season against James Wade in the quarter-finals.
The former BDO World Championship finalist currently occupies 11th spot on the PDC Order of Merit but with little to defend in the coming months, Chisnall is targeting a return to the world’s top eight.
The Premier League is another major priority for the St Helens ace. The 2015 semi-finalist has not featured in the roadshow since finishing fifth in 2017 and he insists he’s still got unfinished business in the competition.
“The back end of the year is the best end, this is where you want to win as there is money to be won and we all want to win one of the big ones.
“That’s one of my goals to get back into the Premier League. I just want to get as high as I can on the Order of Merit, I’m capable of doing that. I believe. I always believe,” he said.
Chisnall believes and that’s been evidenced in his performances on the Emerald Isle. He’s thrown with conviction and composure but now the acid test awaits.
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