Christopher Kempf, the statistical analyst of the PDC, takes a look at how Daryl Gurney could secure a fourth consecutive televised win against Michael van Gerwen.
Daryl Gurney has achieved something that none of the other active World Champions have managed to do: win three consecutive televised matches against world number one Michael van Gerwen.
Though two of those matches were Premier League league phase encounters (and failed to impede MvG in his quest to finish top for the seventh straight year), these defeats are sure to have rankled Van Gerwen, who has otherwise won nearly 80% of his matches against the Northern Irish number one.
But when we look at the statistics from those three matches, we find that Van Gerwen, playing below his usual standard, was nonetheless able to record higher averages, higher doubles percentages and almost identical treble percentages to Gurney, yet came away the loser each time from all three of those duels.
Gurney's 96.41 average and 11 180s (0.24 per leg) represent a very respectable effort from one of the world's top players, but nowhere near the astronomical standard which one would expect to need to produce in order to contend with Van Gerwen in front of TV cameras and an enormous crowd.
So how was Gurney able to accomplish one of the most remarkable winning streaks in darts on these mediocre (by his standard) statistics?
One of the clues to Gurney's success is his very high doubles percentage in these three matches - 47.3%, even though this was slightly lower than Van Gerwen's.
Discounting the missed doubles which marked or facilitated a subsequent checkout, this percentage rises to a world-class 56.5%.
Gurney's struggles on the bullseye in the 2019 Premier League (no successful checkouts on 15 attempts) notwithstanding (the Northern Irishman hit a bullseye to win the 2018 Players Championship finals), his 64% effective checkout rate on non-bullseye doubles will challenge and punish any player who allows him to attempt any checkout under 100.
Indeed, the most obvious advantage of Gurney's play has been has ability to punish Van Gerwen when he fails to complete a smaller combination checkout.
Van Gerwen's ten checkouts on 21 attempts of potential two-dart finishes is notable not for his 47.6% checkout rate, but for what happened after Van Gerwen missed those 11.
After six of those, Gurney did not allow MvG to return to the board by completing a checkout of his own. In contrast, Gurney was punished on only one of the occasions on which he missed a combination checkout (it happened to be 60), giving Gurney a margin of five legs in which he seized the initiative.
Given that Van Gerwen lost the three matches by a combined margin of seven legs, Gurney's timing can account for the majority of his win streak over the world number one.
Similarly, despite the near two-point deficit in averages by which Gurney trails MvG in those three matches, consider how well the players score and strategise when setting up easier finishes and doubles.
Gurney's superior record on smaller combination checkouts follows on from his ability of hit more (and less common) trebles when attempting to get down to a sub-100 score, and allows him to attempt nearly twice as many checkouts in which he has three darts at a double.
Even though Van Gerwen's record in these situations is a perfect 100% (7/7), to have secured for himself only seven attempts in 45 legs represents a missed opportunity.
Moreover, rather than wilting under the pressure of a difficult fight with MvG, Gurney has managed to raise his averages substantially in the final legs of those three matches, to 98.36 in the final five legs of each match from 95.47 beforehand.
While other players have been notable for succumbing to a huge deficit in a match with Van Gerwen, or failing to finish the job after attempting match darts, Gurney seems to have no anxieties associated with the need to perform in such a high-pressure situation.
One thing is clear: MvG, the best player in the world, has a top gear which when shifted into is just about unbeatable. If Van Gerwen manages to reach the heights he attained in last year's Premier League final, Gurney will likely have no option but to sit back and watch the show.
Gurney has averaged over 105 on television only twice in his career, while MvG's count of 110+ averages numbers in the dozens.
Yet Gurney should have less to fear than in previous years; MvG had a lower average in this year's Premier League than in any of the previous four.
Gurney has amply demonstrated that he can capitalise on Van Gerwen's minor mistakes and win by the smallest of margins. It is a dangerous game, and one which MvG, who is used to blowing away competitors with his talent, is not accustomed to playing, much to his disadvantage.
Follow Christopher Kempf on Twitter @Ochepedia
Gurney is rated a 7/2 shot with official sponsor Unibet to make it four successive TV victories against Van Gerwen.
Semi-Finals Match Odds
1/5 Michael Van Gerwen v Daryl Gurney 7/2
8/13 Rob Cross v James Wade 13/10
Unibet Premier League of Darts – Outright
Michael Van Gerwen - 1/2
Rob Cross - 4/1
James Wade - 7/1
Daryl Gurney - 12/1