James Wade survived five match darts as he edged out Michael Smith in a gripping deciding-leg clash to secure World Series Finals glory in Vienna on Sunday evening.
‘The Machine’ defeated Simon Whitlock in the European Championship Final last week to secure his first major title since 2014, and he clinched his second televised crown in the space of just seven days after edging out ‘Bully Boy’ in an enthralling contest.
Smith averaged 99.09, crashed in five maximums and converted 37% of his attempts at a double, but he squandered five match darts in a dramatic decider, which would have seen him clinch a maiden televised crown.
Wade made a blistering start to the contest; drawing first-blood with a 13-dart break of throw, before converting clinical 80 and 96 finishes to extend his lead to 3-0. Smith opened his account with a majestic 140 outshot, before halving the deficit with a 14-darter via D18, but Wade regained his two-leg advantage with a 16-dart hold.
The pair exchanged comfortable holds as the left-hander moved 5-3 ahead, but Smith fired in two superb legs to draw level at the interval. He converted a two-dart 86 combination to complete a 14-darter, before following up his second maximum with an effortless 100 checkout for an 11-dart break.
Wade responded brilliantly after the break; producing 12 and 13-darters in successive legs to re-establish control, but Smith battled back valiantly, following up a comfortable 16-dart hold with an incredible 170 finish to send the Austrian crowd into raptures.
It was a moment of magic that even merited Wade’s acknowledgement, but Smith was unable to secure the lead for the first time, as the world number six converted a nerveless 112 finish on tops for an instant break back.
However, Smith had shown impressive resolve throughout the final and that pattern continued. The Premier League finalist restored parity at eight apiece with a 14-dart break, before following up his fourth 180 with a brilliant 87 outshot for a 12-dart hold.
Smith finally had the lead for the very first time, but he soon relinquished that advantage. Wade pegged D10 for a 16-dart hold, before capitalising on two missed darts from ‘Bully Boy’ to pin the same target with his last dart in hand, to move within a leg of victory.
However, the closing moments of Sunday’s final were simply extraordinary. The St Helen’s star appeared desolate and Wade was in cruise control of the 20th leg, but inexplicably he bust 121, hitting the single 17 with 11 required.
‘The Machine’ still had two darts for the title, but he was unable to find tops and tens, which enabled Smith to sink D20 and force a deciding leg, in which he would have the advantage of throw.
Wade was unable to find a treble with his first eight darts of the leg, while Smith crashed in his fifth maximum to move to the brink of a water-shed triumph. Nevertheless, the 28-year-old spurned five clear darts as the pressure told, which afforded Wade the opportunity to triumph on D18, and he made no mistake on this occasion.
Wade becomes only the fifth player in PDC history to secure back-to-back televised titles and he couldn’t have done it in more dramatic fashion. Despite the late drama, it was a contest littered with quality, with Wade averaging 97, registering five maximums and boasting an impressive 52% checkout conversion rate.
‘The Machine’ had dumped out home favourite Mensur Suljovic in round-two, having eased past Ross Smith in the opening-round. He continued his fine form to defeat Jamie Lewis 10-5 in the quarter-finals, but his most impressive performance came in the semis.
Wade faced five-time world champion Raymond van Barneveld, who had dumped out world number one Michael van Gerwen in the last eight. However, ‘The Machine’ was in relentless mood; averaging 99.37, taking out three ton-plus finishes and converting 64% of his doubles to record an emphatic 11-2 win over the legendary Dutchman.
Smith followed up his convincing 10-5 win over fellow St Helen’s star Dave Chisnall by beating Gerwyn Price 11-8 in a hard-fought semi-final tussle, averaging 98 and firing in six maxiums en route. He was cruelly denied in an epic finale, but his time will certainly come; of that there is little doubt.
Photo Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC
2018 bwin World Series of Darts Finals
Schedule of Play
Sunday November 4
Afternoon Session (1345 Local Time 1245 UK Time)
Gerwyn Price 10-7 Simon Whitlock
Michael Smith 10-5 Dave Chisnall
James Wade 10-5 Jamie Lewis
Raymond van Barneveld 10-8 Michael van Gerwen
Evening Session (2000 Local Time 1900 UK Time)
Michael Smith 11-8 Gerwyn Price
James Wade 11-2 Raymond van Barneveld
James Wade 11-10 Michael Smith