Following his amazing tie-break win over Jonny Clayton on a spectacular night at the World Darts Championship, Michael Smith thinks that self-belief was the key.
Clayton’s hopes of winning a fifth televised title in 2021 were dashed when Smith defied a 102.48 average and 14 maximums from ‘The Ferret’ to reach the quarter-finals.
With a spectacular 110.6 average, the Welshman raced into a dominating two-set lead, only for Smith to come back with three straight sets to take the lead.
The match soon heated up, with the two players trading three consecutive ton-plus finishes in an incredible sixth set, but after a tumultuous end, ‘Bully Boy’ retained his calm to clinch a memorable triumph.
This match was regarded as having the potential to be the tournament’s best, and it certainly came up to the billing, with 25 maximums and five ton-plus finishes.
The competition was fierce, but Smith was relieved to be on the winning side this time after an agonising tie-break loss to eventual winner Rob Cross in the 2018 event.
Smith told Sky Sports, “That deserved to be the final.”
“It felt like the Rob Cross game from 2018.” I thought I’d been in this predicament previously when I had the 96 to take Rob out, but I got away with it and made it through.
“I just kept telling myself going into that match, ‘I’ve got a game to beat anyone, I’ve just to keep believing and keep doing it.’
“My scoring tonight wasn’t great, but it came at the right time.” I made the correct shots at the right moment, and I’m really overjoyed to have won.
“Jonny has most likely been No. 1 or No. 2 throughout the year. The way I did it with 72, 64, and 68 [finishes] was huge for my confidence, and those last darts at double were going in.”
Smith, who finished second at Ally Pally in 2019, is a consistent competitor in the final rounds of major events, but a first televised victory has eluded him thus far.
The 31-year-old has lost five major finals since 2018, but he is optimistic about his chances as he prepares to face defending champion Gerwyn Price in the last eight on New Year’s Day.
“I’ve been here for quite some time. It’s my 11th World Championship, I believe “Smith continued.
“All I want to do now is stay focused and continue what I’ve been doing for the past 12 months.” As you can see, it’s finally making its way into my game.
“I’ve had a really poor World Championship the last two years, and this year I’m finally giving a good account of myself, so it doesn’t matter who I get or what I do, as long as I play darts on this stage, I’m delighted.”
Mardle: It was 36 lovely dart legs!
Since exploding onto the scene almost a decade ago, Smith has been hailed as a potential world champion due to his tremendous talent.
Wayne Mardle believes ‘Bully Boy’ has all the attributes to hoist the Sid Waddell Trophy on January 3 because he now appears to have the attitude to match his spectacular ability.
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