Nathan Aspinall enjoyed a dream World Series debut in Las Vegas by claiming glory in the US Darts Masters at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino on Friday, defeating Michael Smith 8-4 in a thrilling showpiece.
Aspinall has established himself in the world’s top 16 after enjoying a stunning rise to prominence over the past six months. He followed up a run to the World Championship semi-finals by clinching UK Open glory in March, but this latest triumph once again underlines his credentials.
‘The Asp’ showed no signs of nerves on his World Series debut and produced a series of quality displays to scoop the £20,000 title to become the third different winner of this event.
The 27-year-old kicked off his campaign with a routine win over North American qualifier Shawn Brenneman on Thursday, which he followed up with an impressive 8-5 victory over world number two Rob Cross in the quarter-finals.
It was a repeat of their UK Open clash in Minehead and once again Aspinall came out on top, averaging 100.37, firing in three maximums and converting 33% of his attempts at double, as he reeled off the final three legs without reply.
The Stockport ace then edged out Peter Wright in a pulsating last-leg decider to reach the final. ‘Snakebite’ led from the outset but Aspinall conjured up finishes of 161 and 126, before he survived a missed match dart from the Scot in the deciding leg to prevail with a 104.21 average.
This marked Aspinall’s highest televised average of his career, but he usurped that less than an hour later, producing a devastating display to defeat World Championship finalist Smith 8-4 in one of the best finals ever seen on the World Series circuit.
Aspinall kicked off proceedings with a stunning 10-dart leg which included a bounce-out, before firing in six perfect darts to begin leg two. However, Smith levelled with a classy 130 kill, before Aspinall converted finishes of 70 and 120 in consecutive legs to lead 4-2 at the interval with a 111 average.
Smith took out 118 and 87 to level at four apiece, but ‘The Asp’ regained the initiative via double 16, before converting nerveless 95 and 80 checkouts to move to the brink of victory at 7-4.
‘Bully Boy’ continued to battle but Aspinall showed no signs of finishing line nerves and sealed a sensational win with a 13-dart hold on tops, averaging 106.70, landing five maximums and boasting a remarkable 73% checkout success rate.
“It’s absolutely fantastic for me,” said Aspinall. “I played really well in the semis but the way I started in the final was superb. I’ve never had a performance like that on stage and to do it in the final, I’m a very happy man.
“Growing up you want to play in front of the biggest crowds in the biggest arenas in the best countries. The UK Open was massive for me and I wanted to make a good show of myself coming to Las Vegas – it was the top seven players in the world and me!
“To come out on top and win the whole thing is brilliant. I’m enjoying life, loving my darts and reaping the rewards for the hard work I’ve been putting in.
“I’ve had an incredible time in Vegas. The crowd were on my side from the start and gave me brilliant support – and hopefully I’ll be here next year to defend my title,” he added.
Smith was thwarted in his bid for a second World Series crown but there was little he could do to halt an inspired Aspinall. Nevertheless, the St Helen’s star dumped out World No 1 Michael van Gerwen 8-6 in the quarter-finals, before averaging over 102 to defeat Gerwyn Price 8-4 in the last four.
“It’s nice to have reached the final but Nathan was too good there,” said Smith. “I was chasing it from the start. Nathan played really well but I got myself back into it at four-all and that was my chance. Then my first dart started dropping low and I was chasing trebles.
“I played well against Gerwyn Price in the semi-finals and it was nice to get the win there. I’ve reached the World Championship final, the semi-finals of the UK Open and the final in Las Vegas, so it’s not too bad.”
Price had booked his semi-final spot after defeating reigning US Darts Masters champion Gary Anderson 8-6, as the pair met for the first time since their infamous Grand Slam showdown. Elsewhere, Peter Wright came from 5-2 down to defeat Daryl Gurney as all four seeds bowed out in the quarter-finals.
The World Series of Darts will continue next weekend with the year’s second international event, as the German Darts Masters takes place at the Lanxess Arena in Cologne.
Photo Credit: Lucas Peltier/PDC
Dafabet US Darts Masters
Friday July 5
Michael Smith 8-6 Michael van Gerwen
Gerwyn Price 8-6 Gary Anderson
Nathan Aspinall 8-5 Rob Cross
Peter Wright 8-6 Daryl Gurney
Michael Smith 8-4 Gerwyn Price
Nathan Aspinall 8-7 Peter Wright
Nathan Aspinall 8-4 Michael Smith
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