Michael Smith revealed his frustration at being omitted from this year’s Premier League, after landing his first title of 2021 with an 8-5 victory over Ross Smith in Sunday’s Players Championship 10, as PDC Super Series 3 continued in Niedernhausen.
The five-time major finalist claimed back-to-back Players Championship titles last November, and he boasted an impressive 98.71 tournament average to land the £10,000 top prize in Germany – the 13th PDC ranking title of his career.
The world No 8 safely progressed to round four with three consecutive 6-3 wins over Geert Nentjes, Luke Woodhouse and William O’Connor, before he fired in a magnificent 114.5 average to thrash World Matchplay Dimitri Van den Bergh 6-2 to progress to the last eight.
The 30-year-old produced a sparkling 105 average to dispatch Martin Schindler in the quarter-finals, before battling past Aaron Beeney 7-4 in the semi-finals, which set up a showpiece against his namesake Ross. However, experience paid dividends for the St Helen’s star, who prevailed in the final by the same three-leg margin.
The opening ten legs of Sunday’s final went with throw, but the decisive juncture came in leg 11. Ross missed one dart at tops to break throw, and the former world finalist converted a stunning 130 kill on double five to hold. Michael then extended his buffer with a classy 12-dart break, before sealing the deal via double 10.
The highlight of Smith’s afternoon was his scintillating display against Van den Bergh – the joint leader in this year’s Premier League. However, following from his omission from this year’s event, ‘Bully Boy’ admits he had additional motivation for his clash against the Belgian.
“I said no disrespect to Dimitri, but I felt as a player, I should be in the Premier League. That’s my feeling. I should be in the Premier League. No disrespect to the ten players who are in, but I felt like I should be in over them and that was a point to myself that I’m still good enough,” Smith reflected.
“Being dropped from anything in life is hard to take and being dropped from the Premier League – I’d done nothing wrong. I think I made three major finals that year and I had one bad tournament which was the Worlds. My head got the better of me and then I got dropped for it.”
Ross Smith was denied a maiden PDC ranking title, but it was a terrific day for the 32-year-old, who was featuring in his first senior PDC final, having made four quarter-final appearances on the Pro Tour circuit in 2020.
‘Smudger’ averaged 105 in a 6-1 demolition of Danny Noppert, while he also averaged over 98 in the quarter-finals and semi-finals, where he accounted for Jose De Sousa and Berry van Peer respectively.
De Sousa was unable to land back-to-back Pro Tour titles, but it was another memorable day for ‘The Special One’. He landed his second nine-darter of April during his sensational whitewash of Jermaine Wattimena in the last 16, where he averaged an astonishing 117.1.
Stephen Bunting also achieved perfection in Niedernhausen, landing the nine-dart finish to complete a 6-0 whitewash of Ron Meulenkamp in the second round. Nevertheless, ‘The Bullet’ was unceremoniously stopped in his tracks in round three, losing out 6-1 to Premier League table-topper Nathan Aspinall.
It was a memorable day for both Aaron Beeney and Berry van Peer, who performed superbly to reach the semi-finals of a Players Championship event for the first time in their careers.
Beeney enjoyed a fairy-tale run to the last four in Germany, defeating former world champions Rob Cross and Raymond van Barneveld to maintain his remarkable progress in 2021. The prison officer only scooped £2,000 in prize money throughout the entirety of 2020, but he currently finds himself in a provisional World Championship spot.
Having fought a well-documented battle with dartitis, Van Peer produced his best performance on the main circuit since September 2016 to reach the last four, defeating World Youth champion Bradley Brooks, former Premier League participants Jelle Klaasen and Dave Chisnall, as well as whitewashing Rusty-Jake Rodriguez.
Elsewhere, Van Barneveld kept alive his hopes of World Matchplay qualification with an impressive run to the quarter-finals. The 54-year-old followed up a 6-1 thrashing of Martijn Kleermaker with dramatic deciding leg wins over Jamie Hughes, Brendan Dolan and Aspinall.
However, the five-time world champion was denied a second Players Championship success of 2021, succumbing to Beeney following a sub-par last eight display, as he departed at the same stage as De Sousa, World Cup finalist Steve Lennon and newly crowned PDC Europe Super League winner Schindler.
Ian White, Krzysztof Ratajski, Daryl Gurney and Simon Whitlock were among the first-round casualties on day two in Germany, while Michael van Gerwen’s 32nd birthday culminated in a second round exit at the hands of an inspired William Borland, who averaged 104 to sweep aside ‘The Green Machine’.
Image: Lawrence Lustig/PDC
2021 Players Championship Ten – PDC Super Series 3 Day Two
Sunday April 25, H+ Hotel, Niedernhausen
Jose de Sousa 6-0 Jermaine Wattimena
Ross Smith 6-1 Rowby-John Rodriguez
Berry van Peer 6-0 Rusty-Jake Rodriguez
Steve Lennon 6-3 Maik Kuivenhoven
Aaron Beeney 6-5 William Borland
Raymond van Barneveld 6-5 Nathan Aspinall
Michael Smith 6-2 Dimitri Van den Bergh
Martin Schindler 6-4 Jose Justicia
Ross Smith 6-3 Jose de Sousa
Berry van Peer 6-3 Steve Lennon
Aaron Beeney 6-2 Raymond van Barneveld
Michael Smith 6-3 Martin Schindler
Ross Smith 7-2 Berry van Peer
Michael Smith 7-4 Aaron Beeney
Michael Smith 8-5 Ross Smith