'I want to take over the sport' – Smith world champion after hitting nine-darter in epic final with Van Gerwen

By Sports Desk January 03, 2023

Michael Smith wants to "take over the sport" after becoming world champion for the first time with a stunning 7-4 victory over Michael van Gerwen in an epic final on Tuesday.

Smith is a two-time runner-up at Alexandra Palace, having been beaten in the 2019 and 2022 finals by Van Gerwen and Peter Wright respectively, but he finally got over the line with a stunning display in which he hit a nine-dart finish - only the second time that has been done in a PDC World Championship final.

After Van Gerwen won the opening set, they took a leg each in the second before an extraordinary third leg, with the Dutchman missing double 12 for a nine-dart finish, only for Smith to step up to the oche and take out 141 for the nine-darter himself and send the crowd into ecstasy.

The match continued to be a topsy-turvy affair, with Van Gerwen looking to have seized control by taking a three sets to one lead, only for Smith to roar back and win four sets on the spin to open up a 6-3 advantage.

Van Gerwen pulled it back to 6-4, but Smith sunk in double-eight with the 11th set tied at two apiece to win the title, as well as become world number one.

Asked how being described as a world champion sounded, Smith told Sky Sports: "[It] sounds amazing. I don't want to start getting into the crying and emotions.

"Michael let me off there, and for once I finally took a chance I didn't deserve. I want to apologise to Michael, I've been in that position.

"It's 1-1 now in the worlds. I took my chances, but he knows and I do that it won't be the last world final between us. He is the best player in darts, I've said it for years, and you have to take your chances and I finally did that.

"I want to do what this man has [Van Gerwen] done, I want to take over the sport."

Smith says the crowd spurred him on to hit the incredible nine-dart finish, explaining: "I didn't hit a nine-darter in practice today but I keep going 180, 180, miss, so I thought, 'Do one now, give the crowd what they deserve.'

Van Gerwen was humble in defeat after missing out on the opportunity to become a four-time world champion, stating: "He played really well. I had my chances, we all know that.

"When you don't hit them, he'll throw everything at you. You can only blame yourself, but it doesn’t take anything away [from Smith] because he played brilliantly all the way through.

"I wasn't what I wanted to be, but that’s part of the game and you have to take it on the chin.

"It's part of the job unfortunately. When we celebrate it's a nice job, and when we lose games it's hard. We all know that."

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    Humphries missed match darts against Dimitri Van den Bergh in the deciding leg of the UK Open final in Minehead on Sunday to claim what would have been a fifth major ranking title out of the last six.

    One of those includes winning the World Championship at the start of 2024, but despite such dominance which has seen him outperform Michael van Gerwen, Michael Smith and Luke Littler, Humphries still has to prove people wrong.

    Humphries says he is still navigating the spotlight and the attention it brings.

     “It is silly from me because I am the one that is allowing it to happen,” the 29-year-old told the PA news agency.

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    World number one Humphries came into the tournament at Minehead having won four of the last five major ranking tournaments, which included sealing glory at the World Championship at the start of 2024.

    He was a heavy favourite to add the UK Open to his collection after a trouble-free run to the final at Butlin’s, but the Belgian won a deciding leg to claim an 11-10 victory and seal a second major title of his own.

    It looked like he had blown his chance as he squandered a 7-2 lead and then missed six match darts, only to finally land his seventh after Humphries had missed chances of his own.

    While Luke Littler – who was a beaten quarter-finalist at Butlin’s – has stolen the limelight since his emergence, Humphries was proving himself to be the best player around so this defeat will be a tonic to the rest of the pack.

    And Van den Bergh, who excelled as youth player, will be hoping this can help kickstart his career, which showed early promise when he won the 2020 World Matchplay.

    He said: “First of all, he showed again why is he the world champion. There was a moment when it was 10-8 and I was like ‘I’m one leg away, I can win this’, and I lost it. I lost my gut but all of a sudden, it turned around.

    “My grandad died two years ago and this is my first major win since. This is gold and it’s for him.

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    Humphries said: “I have had a long five days on the road, I am absolutely shattered. I was very lucky to get two darts, I will obviously be gutted because I missed two darts.

    “But I did my best with the way I was feeling. I give everything, I really didn’t play well. I am proud of the way I played.”

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    The 17-year-old has made waves in the first few months on the PDC Tour, having claimed the Bahrain Masters in his debut tournament in January and competed well in the Premier League, but leaves his first major empty handed.

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    Littler said on Instagram: “Disappointed to not make it past the quarters but was a great game. Enjoying my darts and just grateful for everything.”

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    Littler has made waves in the first few months on the PDC Tour, having won the Bahrain Masters in his debut tournament in January and competing well in the Premier League, but he leaves his first major empty-handed.

    He will have regrets about his defeat as despite Heta’s incredible level, Littler rallied from 8-4 down and missed two darts at his favoured double 10 to send it to a decider.

    Heta said: “Credit to myself. I was up for it, sometimes I feel like that in practice so I know what it feels like.

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    “These are the guys I need to beat.”

    Littler’s exit clears the path for world champion and world number one Luke Humphries.

    Humphries, aiming for a fourth successive major ranking title, demolished Masters champion Stephen Bunting 10-2 in the first quarter-final.

    And the 29-year-old celebrated by going back to bed before his return to stage later on Sunday.

    “I am going to go and have a sleep, I felt fatigued coming on to stage, it’s been a long five days on the road,” he said.

    “Usually I’d watch the draw but I am going to sleep.”

    Ricky Evans said he was on “cloud 10” after reaching his first major semi-final by beating Rob Cross.

    Cross missed a plethora of chances, including 28 darts at a double, to allow Evans to steal a 10-7 win.

    “He gave me so many chances and I took them,” a tearful Evans said. “I won and I just looked at the stats and I don’t care.

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