Michael Smith secured his first PDC title in over two years with an 8-6 victory over Jermaine Wattimena on the opening day of the PDC Winter Series in Coventry on Tuesday afternoon.
Fresh from featuring in Sunday’s World Cup of Darts final, the world No 4 ended a run of ten consecutive final defeats by overcoming Wattimena in a quick-fire contest to scoop the £10,000 top prize and secure the early initiative at the top of the Winter Series Order of Merit.
The St Helen’s star was visibly emotional as he captured his first crown since July 2018, and he’s hoping that this success can catapult him to further glory ahead of what promises to be a hectic conclusion to the campaign.
“It means everything to me to win this. I said to Ian White ‘I’m winning one of these titles this week no matter what’ and I’ve done it on Day One,” Smith told the PDC’s Dan Dawson.
“It’s been nearly three years but I don’t give a monkeys. I don’t give up. I believe in myself 100 per cent and anyone that is watching at home – that’s what you can do if you keep believing. I never give up, I never threw in the towel.
“I have 100 per cent belief in myself. I’ve got the perfect family, the perfect friends and I’ve finally got a title back. I know there’s no trophy or anything but it’s the prestige that comes with it again.”
“The best thing for me was the World Cup. That World Cup I had to dig deep, I had to fight and give it everything I’ve got. Not just for me, not just for Rob [Cross], but for all the darts fans in England.
“I thought you know what, I can do it if I need to. I showed it again today. When I needed it I pulled it out of the bag and I finally got a win,” added the former World Youth champion.
Smith made a blistering start at the Ricoh Arena, posting ton-plus averages in wins over Callan Rydz, Ryan Murray and Joe Cullen, with a victory over Boris Krcmar sandwiched in between. His win over Cullen was particularly eye-catching, as ‘The Rockstar’ averaged nearly 109 in defeat.
The 30-year-old then breezed past Conan Whitehead in the quarter-finals, before recovering from 3-1 down to defeat the enigmatic Jose De Sousa in the last four, after ‘The Special One’ had posted a 108 average to account for world champion Peter Wright in the previous round.
This set up a clash against Wattimena for Tuesday’s title, after ‘The Machine Gun’ produced a series of explosive performances to secure a spot in his third PDC ranking final, boasting an impressive tournament average of over 97 in the process.
The Dutchman defied the odds to progress through his opener against Ian White – recovering from 4-0 adrift to sink ‘The Diamond’, which he followed up by dumping out Jelle Klaasen, Luke Humphries and Simon Stevenson to reach the last eight.
Wattimena turned on the style to defeat his fellow countryman Vincent van der Voort with a 104.50 average, only to up the ante in his semi-final clash against Brendan Dolan – averaging a staggering 112.20 over ten legs, rendering Dolan virtually helpless.
Nevertheless, the Dutchman didn’t enjoy the ideal start in Tuesday’s showpiece, as Smith piled in a majestic 170 checkout in leg one to break throw in spectacular style. ‘Bully Boy’ soon doubled his lead inside 15 darts, only for Wattimena to convert a two-dart 96 kill which halved the deficit.
‘The Machine Gun’ levelled via double one following a scrappy conclusion to leg four and whilst Smith responded with a clinical 108 kill to regain the lead, Wattimena fired straight back following a sloppy scoring leg from the World Cup finalist.
Smith’s assured finishing throughout the afternoon was integral to his success and he produced timely 90 and 72 combinations in consecutive legs to establish a two-leg buffer for the first time, before Wattimena stopped the rot courtesy of a classy 106 checkout.
However, the tenth leg proved decisive, as Wattimena twice squandered glorious opportunities to restore parity at five apiece, first busting double eight by drifting into the single 16, before over-compensating and pinning double 11 on his return.
Smith restored his cushion and traded holds to move to within a leg of victory at 7-5, but Wattimena refused to relent and fired in a 13-darter to reduce the arrears to the solitary leg. Yet it was to no avail, as Smith kept his cool in leg 14 – closing out a 13-dart hold of his own to clinch the title.
It was a victory that meant so much for the St Helen’s star. He’s a consistent challenger in the latter stages of major tournaments but by his own admission he had forgotten how to win. This latest triumph dispels that concern, which makes him a major threat for the events on the horizon.
Elsewhere in Coventry, Michael van Gerwen was absent as he recovers from a recurring back injury that almost forced him to withdraw from the latter stages of the World Cup of Darts, although it is believed that the world No 1 intends to return for the final few days of the Winter Series.
Newly crowned Premier League champion Glen Durrant was beaten by Jan Dekker as he made his return following a positive COVID-19 test three weeks ago, whilst former world champions Gary Anderson and Adrian Lewis joined Dave Chisnall and Ian White in suffering first round exits.
Fresh from his World Cup triumph for Wales on Sunday, Gerwyn Price succumbed to an inspired Martin Schindler in round two, whilst Nathan Aspinall and Daryl Gurney exited at the same stage, with Gurney perishing at the expense of a sensational 111 average from Dimitri Van den Bergh.
Smith’s World Cup partner Rob Cross bowed out in the third round at the hands of eventual semi-finalist Brendan Dolan, whilst European Championship finalist James Wade also departed at the last 32 stage, with Spain’s Toni Alcinas inflicting a 6-2 defeat on ‘The Machine’.
The PDC Winter Series continues with Day Two on Wednesday, as 128 players once again battle it out for the title. You can watch action from two streams live throughout the day, exclusively on PDCTV.
Image Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC
PDC Winter Series Day Day
Tuesday November 10
Vincent van der Voort 6-5 Jim Williams
Jermaine Wattimena 6-1 Simon Stevenson
Brendan Dolan 6-1 Toni Alcinas
Damon Heta 6-1 Ron Meulenkamp
Peter Wright 6-4 Dimitri Van den Bergh
Jose De Sousa 6-3 Danny Noppert
Conan Whitehead 6-2 William Borland
Michael Smith 6-4 Joe Cullen
Jermaine Wattimena 6-3 Vincent van der Voort
Brendan Dolan 6-0 Damon Heta
Jose De Sousa 6-3 Peter Wright
Michael Smith 6-2 Conan Whitehead
Jermaine Wattimena 7-3 Brendan Dolan
Michael Smith 7-5 Jose De Sousa
Michael Smith 8-6 Jermaine Wattimena