MICHAEL VAN GERWEN fought back from 4-1 and 8-5 down to win his fourth successive Unibet Masters title with a thrilling 11-9 win over Dutch rival Raymond van Barneveld at Arena MK on Sunday night.

The Dutchman has reigned supreme in the battle of the PDC's top 16 players for the past three years, but saw his mantle come under serious threat as the five-time World Champion lined up his first individual TV title since 2015.

Van Barneveld followed up his wins over Dave Chisnall, Peter Wright and Mensur Suljovic earlier in the tournament by racing into an early 4-1 lead in the final.

The pair shared the opening two legs before Van Barneveld finished 72, 76 to break and a 13-darter as he opened up a 4-1 cushion at the final's first interval.

That lead was extended to 5-2 before Van Gerwen hit back to level, hitting two 177 scores in an 11-darter to break throw before a 137 finish for a 12-dart leg saw the reigning champion square the contest.

Three more legs for Van Barneveld gave him an 8-5 advantage, only for Van Gerwen to hit top gear as he fought to hold onto his title.

A 124 bull finish saw the world number one level in leg 16, before a 12-darter moved him ahead for the first time at 9-8, and though Van Barneveld battled to stay in the game, an 81 finish for a 12-darter saw Van Gerwen seal his fourth straight Masters title.

"I think this is the perfect start to the year," said Van Gerwen. "I played a good tournament and hit some big averages against some great players.

"Everyone wants a good start to the year and I've started well.

"Raymond had a phenomenal tournament, he played well in the final and he didn't give a lot away. When you give him a finger he takes your hand, but I'm glad that I fought back.

"I'm trying my best all the time and I want to win every tournament that I play in, so I'm really glad that I can take this trophy home."

Van Gerwen had lost his World Championship title with an agonising semi-final loss to Rob Cross a month ago, and the Dutchman was delighted to make a winning return to action.

"I had a big disappointment in the World Championship but you need to be strong," he added. "I went on holiday and came back stronger and I'm really proud of myself. I'd like to have more days like this."

Van Gerwen had earlier defeated James Wade 10-2 in the quarter-finals after storming into an 8-0 lead without giving the 2014 champion a dart at a double, while he was an 11-5 winner over Gary Anderson in their semi-final.

Van Barneveld had opened the quarter-finals with a brilliant 10-2 rout of world number two Peter Wright before he battled past Mensur Suljovic 11-7 to set up a repeat of the 2015 Masters final.

The Dutch duo had also teamed up to win the World Cup of Darts last summer, but Van Barneveld had to settle for the £25,000 runner-up prize this time after losing out to his rival.

"I'm really happy to reach the final," said the 50-year-old. "It's good to be in the final, and that has given me confidence.

"I had a hard game against Dave on Friday and today was a really long day for me. I played really well against Peter Wright but against Mensur I never felt great, and the final was alright.

"I played a good game in the final but I had too many scores of 100 instead of 140s, and Michael was awesome tonight. He was firing some top class darts at the end - his 124 turned the game.

"He's the world number one and it's so hard to beat this man. He never has a bad night, not against me, but hopefully one day it will turn my way."

Anderson had seen off Welshman Gerwyn Price 10-6 in their quarter-final, while World Champion Rob Cross suffered defeat for the first time since his Alexandra Palace triumph as he lost out 10-8 to Suljovic.

Following the conclusion of the £200,000 ITV4-televised event at Arena MK in Milton Keynes, the focus now moves to Thursday's opening night of the 2018 Unibet Premier League at the 3Arena in Dublin.

2018 Unibet Masters
Sunday January 28
Afternoon Session
Quarter-Finals

Peter Wright 2-10 Raymond van Barneveld
Mensur Suljovic 10-8 Rob Cross
Gerwyn Price 6-10 Gary Anderson
Michael van Gerwen 10-2 James Wade
Best of 19 legs

Evening Session
Semi-Finals

Raymond van Barneveld 11-7 Mensur Suljovic
Michael van Gerwen 11-5 Gary Anderson
Best of 21 legs

Final
Michael van Gerwen 11-9 Raymond van Barneveld
Best of 21 legs

Michael van Gerwen

Michael van Gerwen (Lawrence Lustig/PDC)

Michael van Gerwen

Michael van Gerwen (Lawrence Lustig/PDC)

Raymond van Barneveld

Raymond van Barneveld (Lawrence Lustig/PDC)

QUARTER-FINALS ROUND-UP
DUTCH duo Michael van Gerwen and Raymond van Barneveld turned on the power with 10-2 wins in the Unibet Masters quarter-finals on Sunday afternoon, as Gary Anderson and Mensur Suljovic also progressed at Arena MK.

Reigning Masters champion Van Gerwen was in irresistible form as he averaged 111.14 against 2014 winner James Wade, who was denied a dart at a double in the tie for eight legs.

A near-unplayable surge from Van Gerwen saw his average peak at 118 as he stormed into an 8-0 lead, landing two 11-darters and one 12-darter alongside six perfect darts, with no leg needing more than 15 darts.

Wade responded superbly to get off the mark in leg nine with a 12-darter, which featured a 180 and a 121 finish, before the left-hander took the next on tops with a 13-darter to pull back to 8-2.

Van Gerwen, though, would not be denied as a pair of 14-dart finishes secured his spot in the semi-finals, where he now meets Anderson in a repeat of last year's decider.

Anderson battled past Gerwyn Price with a 10-6 success despite continuing to struggle against a back problem.

Price hit back from 2-0 down to lead 4-3 with the aid of a 104 finish, but three straight legs saw Anderson regain the edge at 6-4.

Price responded with a 107 combination but was crucially never able to level as Anderson pulled away for the win.

Van Barneveld had opened the quarter-finals in style with an outstanding display as he saw off Peter Wright 10-2, ending with a 103.50 average but peaking at 111 as he left the number two seed reeling.

Three missed doubles in the opening leg from Wright allowed Van Barneveld in for an immediate break, before the Dutchman took the second with a 96 combination and then landed three successive 12-darters.

Two of those legs featured ton-plus checkouts, of 121 and 12, before a 14-dart finish moved the 2015 finalist 6-0 up as he extended his cushion.

Wright took out 91 to finally get off the mark, and traded double eight finishes as he pulled back to 7-2, but van Barneveld finished 116 and 78 as he closed out victory.

Van Barneveld now meets 2017 Champions League of Darts winner Mensur Suljovic in the last four, after the Austrian became the first player to defeat Rob Cross since the Hastings ace claimed World Championship glory.

Cross led 3-1 and 5-3, but Suljovic followed an earlier 121 finish with checkouts of 120 and 112 as he claimed five straight legs to lead 8-5 before taking out 136 to book his semi-final spot.

Raymond van Barneveld

Raymond van Barneveld (PDC)

Peter Wright

Peter Wright (PDC)

Mensur Suljovic

Mensur Suljovic (PDC)

Rob Cross

Rob Cross (PDC)

Gary Anderson

Gary Anderson (PDC)

Gerwyn Price

Gerwyn Price (PDC)

Michael van Gerwen

Michael van Gerwen (PDC)

James Wade

James Wade (PDC)

SEMI-FINALS ROUND-UP
RAYMOND VAN BARNEVELD won through to his second Unibet Masters final in four years with an 11-7 comeback win over Mensur Suljovic.

The Austrian enjoyed an early 2-0 lead, taking out 121 in the second leg, before Van Barneveld won six legs in a row, including a 13-darter and a superb 138 finish.

Suljovic hit back with a brilliant ten-darter and a 12-dart leg to pull back to 6-4, only for Van Barneveld to land a 116 finish of his own in restoring a four-leg lead.

The Austrian also hit back to 9-6, but a 96 checkout settled any nerves from the Dutchman before he punished four missed doubles from his rival to lead 10-7, and an 11-dart leg secured his spot in the decider.

Michael van Gerwen ensured a repeat of the 2015 final as he defeated 2017 runner-up Gary Anderson 11-5 in their last four meeting.

Anderson took out 124 as he shared the opening four legs, before Van Gerwen broke with a brilliant 95 bull finish and then hit tops for a 4-2 cushion.

Anderson finished 66 and double ten to level, but van Gerwen produced two 12-darters as he moved 7-4 up, with the Scot responding but unable to prevent the reigning champion from claiming four more legs and a spot in the final.

Raymond van Barneveld

Raymond van Barneveld (PDC)

Mensur Suljovic

Mensur Suljovic (PDC)

Michael van Gerwen

Michael van Gerwen (PDC)

Gary Anderson

Gary Anderson (PDC)

Photos by Lawrence Lustig