Rob Cross ended his two-year wait for a PDC title in Salzburg on Sunday, defeating Michael van Gerwen in the final to win the Cazoo European Championship for a second time.
Cross claimed his fifth televised crown with an 11-8 victory over Van Gerwen in the final at the Salzburgarena, almost two years on from his last TV title win – which came in the same event.
Four-time European Champion Van Gerwen was on the charge for a fifth success in the event after picking up stunning victories over Gerwyn Price and Nathan Aspinall earlier in the day, but was let down by 27 missed double attempts in an edgy final.
Cross was on hand to take his chances and pocket the £120,000 winner’s prize, which sees him move back up to 11th on the PDC Order of Merit, having faced the possibility of dropping out of the world’s top 16 prior to the event.
“It’s nice to win again after the last 18 months, which has probably been the hardest time of my life,” revealed Cross, who also defeated Jose de Sousa and Joe Cullen on Finals Day.
“I have to dedicate this to my family, friends, management and sponsors who have stood by me and been incredibly supportive.
“I love playing in Austria, I’ve got a great record here. I love the people, I’d play here every week if I could.
“Granted, I didn’t play my best tonight, and I’m thankful that Michael wasn’t himself in the final. You have to take chances when they are presented to you.”
The win also secures Cross’ place in November’s Cazoo Grand Slam of Darts, with the 31-year-old looking forward to a busy end to 2021.
Cross added: “I think this is going to be a turning point for me, with the confidence it’s going to give me I know I’m going to get better over the next few months. I would love to win another World Championship.”
Van Gerwen was seeking a first ranking title since November 2020 and a first European Championship success since 2017.
Despite coming up short in the final, the Dutchman showed signs of a return to his best with averages of 107.74 against Price in the quarter-finals and 103.41 against Aspinall in the semi-finals.
“When you play like I did in the final then you deserve to lose,” Van Gerwen declared in an honest assessment.
“You can find a million excuses but I have to say I didn’t show up in the final, it wasn’t good enough and I can only blame myself.
“I am starting to perform a little bit better – except for the final – but I don’t like picking up runner-up trophies. It doesn’t count for anything, I’m a winner.”
A repeat of the 2017 European Championship final saw Cross land the first break of throw with a 123 finish on the bull to move 3-2 up, only for Van Gerwen to land a 138 checkout to hit straight back.
Cross opened up daylight for first time at 5-3, and led 6-4 at the second interval before a 13-dart break of throw saw him move 7-4 in front.
The next two legs also went the way of Cross, before Van Gerwen sparked into life, winning the next three legs to move within touching distance of glory at 9-7.
But after the Dutchman missed five darts at doubles to move within a leg, Cross found double four to break throw and move to the brink of the title.
After Cross missed a match dart at tops for a 107 checkout, Van Gerwen found the same target to break, but his hopes were short-lived as Cross closed out victory in the next leg by checking out 81 in two darts.
Sunday saw the tournament reach its conclusion with the quarter-finals in the afternoon session, before the semi-finals and final in the evening.
Aspinall won through to his first European Championship semi-final after winning a thrilling sudden-death leg against Danny Noppert, and pushed Van Gerwen all the way in the last four after clawing back a 7-1 deficit.
“I played probably the best I’ve played in a tournament for two or three years,” he said. “It’s nice to get to the latter stages and I threw everything at Michael.
“You can’t give one of the best players in the world a 7-1 head start, but I dug deep and I’m proud of myself to take it to the last leg. He had a fantastic last leg but I can take a lot of positives from this weekend.”
Cullen, meanwhile, defeated Austrian crowd favourite Mensur Suljovic 10-7 to reach his second European Championship semi-final in an encouraging run.
“Considering the circumstances, I’d have snapped your hand off to reach the semi-finals but there’s a lot of disappointment there,” admitted Cullen, who went down 11-3 in the last four after Cross won the opening nine legs without reply.
“I played nowhere near my best in the semi-final. Rob punished me and he was the rightful victor. It’s frustrating because I played steady all weekend and did the right things at the right times but got ironed out in the end.”
The next televised PDC event will be the Jack’s World Series of Darts Finals at AFAS Live in Amsterdam from October 29-31. Click here to buy tickets.
2021 Cazoo European Championship
Sunday October 17
Nathan Aspinall 10-9 Danny Noppert
Michael van Gerwen 10-8 Gerwyn Price
Rob Cross 10-5 Jose de Sousa
Joe Cullen 10-7 Mensur Suljovic
Michael van Gerwen 11-10 Nathan Aspinall
Rob Cross 11-3 Joe Cullen
Rob Cross 11-8 Michael van Gerwen