Michael Smith secured his maiden Gibraltar Darts Trophy title with a thrilling 6-4 victory over second seed Mensur Suljovic at the Victoria Stadium on Sunday evening. The St Helen’s ace reeled off three successive legs from 4-3 down to scoop the £25,000 winner’s prize; sealing the fourth European Tour title of his career.
Suljovic battled valiantly to recover from an early deficit, but he was cruelly denied his second European Tour title. The Austrian ace averaged 99 and registered three maximums, but was ruthlessly punished for missing 13 darts at double, as Smith triumphed with a 96.33 average and an impressive 50% checkout conversion rate.
Smith drew first blood in a bizarre opening leg which Suljovic dominated. The Austrian kicked off the contest with three consecutive 140’s, leaving ‘Bully-Boy’ languishing in the mid 300’s. However, Smith fired in a maximum and capitalised on seven missed darts from Suljovic to snatch the opening leg with a clutch 74 outshot via D18.
The former World-Youth champion then executed a clinical 108 checkout on tops for a 15-dart hold to double his lead, before continuing his flawless finishing with a brilliant two-dart 80 kill to secure a double-break of throw. ‘The Gentle’ was facing the prospect of a whitewash defeat, but responded magnificently to turn the contest on its head.
Smith’s 100% checkout ratio came to an abrupt halt in leg four, as he spurned two darts for a 4-0 advantage. Suljovic capitalised to open his account via D10, before reducing the arrears to 3-2 with a nerveless 76 kill via tops, after Smith had squandered a further three darts at the same target.
The Austrian was growing in confidence, whilst Smith was becoming visibly frustrated having surrendered a handsome advantage. Suljovic levelled up proceedings with a 14-dart break via D16, before following up his second maximum with a spectacular 11-darter; to register his fourth consecutive leg.
‘The Gentle’ then fired in his third maximum in as many legs to leave 32 after just 12 darts; heaping the pressure on Smith. Nevertheless, Smith was up to the task. He restored parity at four apiece with a fine two-dart 81 outshot, before piling in a magnificent 132 checkout on the bullseye (25, T19, Bull) to move to within a leg of victory.
In the tenth leg, both players missed darts at double to register ton-plus checkouts. Smith missed tops for a match-winning 116 checkout, whilst Suljovic wired D15 for a 110 kill, which would have forced a decider. However, this afforded Smith the opportunity to return and clinch the title; an opportunity he duly seized by pinning D10.
Smith was thrilled to have secured the fourth European Tour title of his career- his first PDC title since September 2015, admitting: “I forgot how it felt to win. It feels like I’ve won my very first title. Fair play to Mensur, he’s a great sport. Mensur let me off in the first leg. The 132 won me the game and from there it was just a case of keeping my nerve.”
Nevertheless, Smith’s route to his first PDC title for 18 months was far from serene. The St Helen’s star defeated Christian Kist in an eleven-leg thriller in his opening tie on Saturday afternoon, before coming through three further dramatic deciding-legs on finals day.
‘Bully Boy’ kicked off Sunday’s proceedings with a thrilling victory 6-5 over Belgian hotshot Dimitri van den Bergh, who had defeated James Wade in his opening match on Saturday. The Belgian averaged 98, but Smith crashed in a 14-darter to break throw in the deciding leg and triumph with a 94.32 average and four maximums.
In the last eight, Smith faced Rob Cross, who defeated Dave Chisnall to reach his third straight European Tour quarter-final. Cross overcame Smith in the recent German Darts Open, but the world number twelve gained his revenge; averaging 99.46, landing five maximums and converting 46% of his doubles to prevail in another last-leg decider.
This set up a semi-final clash against top seed Peter Wright, who was vying for his fourth European Tour title of the year. Snakebite kicked off Sunday’s action with a whitewash win over an under-par Stephen Bunting, before surviving three ton-plus finishes from Darren Johnson to edge through a dramatic decider with a 101 average.
Nevertheless, Smith came through his fourth successive last-leg decider of the weekend to reach the final; ending Wright’s hopes of securing a fourth European Tour title in five events. The pair squandered 36 darts at double between them, but Smith held his nerve to triumph with a 14-darter in the decider; having averaged 93.84 and posted four 180’s.
On the other side of the draw, Suljovic’s progress wasn’t quite as dramatic, but he still survived a major fright to reach his first ranking final of 2017. ‘The Gentle’ followed up his impressive first-round win against Alan Tabern with a convincing win over Spanish star Cristo Reyes; averaging 93.39 and dispatching 55% of his attempts at double.
In the quarter-finals, Suljovic faced Swedish veteran Magnus Caris, who had defeated the Dutch duo of Jelle Klaasen and Benito van de Pas to reach his maiden European Tour quarter-final. However, he was unable to overcome the Austrian, as Suljovic averaged 93.11 and converted 38% of his doubles to record his second 6-3 win of the afternoon.
However, Suljovic then survived a huge scare in his last four clash with Daryl Gurney. The Northern Irishman had defeated Simon Whitlock and his stablemate James Wilson earlier in the day, but he was denied a place in his second European Tour final after suffering a gut-wrenching deciding-leg defeat.
Suljovic led 4-2 early on, before Gurney reeled off three straight legs to seize control. Despite this, Suljovic pegged D16 to force a decider, before ‘Super-Chin’ squandered four match darts in the final leg. The Austrian gratefully capitalised; edging through after averaging 94.11, landing three maximums and boasting a 50% checkout success rate.
Photo Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC
2017 Gibraltar Darts Trophy
Sunday May 14
Peter Wright 6-0 Stephen Bunting
Darren Johnson 6-3 Alan Norris
Michael Smith 6-5 Dimitri Van den Bergh
Rob Cross 6-2 Dave Chisnall
Mensur Suljovic 6-3 Cristo Reyes
Magnus Caris 6-2 Benito van de Pas
James Wilson 6-3 Ian White
Daryl Gurney 6-4 Simon Whitlock
Evening Session (7pm-11pm local time, 6pm-10pm BST)
Peter Wright 6-5 Darren Johnson
Michael Smith 6-5 Rob Cross
Mensur Suljovic 6-3 Magnus Caris
Daryl Gurney 6-3 James Wilson
Michael Smith 6-5 Peter Wright
Mensur Suljovic 6-5 Daryl Gurney
Michael Smith 6-4 Mensur Suljovic
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