Sensational Smith lands nine-darter and claims back-to-back Players Championship titles

Michael Smith produced a series of sublime performances to clinch back-to-back Pro Tour titles with success at Players Championship 15 in Wigan on Wednesday.

The world No 4 fired in a spectacular nine-darter during his quarter-final tussle against Florian Hempel, before averaging 109.95 in an 8-3 win over Callan Rydz in the afternoon’s showpiece.

That was one of four ton-plus averages recorded by Smith at the Robin Park Tennis Centre, and he also crashed in a remarkable 32 maximums to claim the £12,000 top prize.

Smith and Rydz exchanged holds to kick off the final, before ‘Bully Boy’ converted a brace of 81 finishes for back-to-back 12-darters. ‘The Riot’ replied with a brilliant 128 kill, only for Smith to restore his two-leg buffer with a 13-dart hold.

Rydz reduced the arrears to 4-3 with a 15-darter, but Smith stormed to victory with a sequence of four consecutive legs – including a magnificent 161 checkout in leg nine – sealing the deal with a 73% checkout success rate.

Smith battled past Glen Durrant in a scrappy opener before sweeping aside John Michael to set up a board final against Ritchie Edhouse, which saw ‘Bully Boy’ rally from 5-3 down to prevail with a 107 average.

The two-time World Championship runner-up then came through another thrilling decider against Belgium’s Mario Vandenbogaerde; firing in nine 180s and registering legs of 10, 11 and 12 darts to triumph with a 104 average.

However, Smith saved his best performance of the day for his quarter-final showdown against Hempel. ‘Bully Boy’ achieved perfection in leg four and posted a staggering 114.90 average, featuring legs of 14, 13, 9, 12, 12 and 13 darts.

Smith then denied Alan Soutar a place in his first PDC ranking final in the semi-finals, closing out an emphatic 7-3 victory over the Scot. Soutar defeated Ian White, Jose Justicia, Mickey Mansell, Steve West and Josh Rock en route to the last four, but he was unable to recover from a sluggish start against the St Helen’s star.

Meanwhile, Rydz produced ton-plus averages in five of his six matches, including a 104.13 in the final, as he reached his first PDC ranking final since October.

Elsewhere, young Scottish star Nathan Girvan struck perfection in his first-round tie against two-time world champion Adrian Lewis, while Australian No 1 Damon Heta posted a career-best 115.97 average in a second-round win over Jim Williams.

Image Credit: PDC

2022 Players Championship 15
Wednesday May 11
Last 16

Alan Soutar 6-4 Steve West
Josh Rock 6-4 Martijn Kleermaker
Michael Smith 6-5 Mario Vandenbogaerde
Florian Hempel 6-1 Jamie Hughes
Callan Rydz 6-1 Rob Cross
Dirk van Duijvenbode 6-1 Robert Owen
Damon Heta 6-2 Adrian Lewis
Ryan Joyce 6-5 Stephen Bunting

Quarter-Finals
Alan Soutar 6-4 Josh Rock
Michael Smith 6-2 Florian Hempel
Callan Rydz 6-4 Dirk van Duijvenbode
Ryan Joyce 6-4 Damon Heta

Semi-Finals
Michael Smith 7-3 Alan Soutar
Callan Rydz 7-1 Ryan Joyce

Final
Michael Smith 8-3 Callan Rydz

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