Hollywood Halts Smith’s Defence

Red Dragon Darts


Chris Dobey sent out a statement with a stunning straight-sets victory over defending champion Michael Smith, as Michael van Gerwen also powered through to the quarter-finals on a dramatic night at the Paddy Power World Darts Championship.

A bumper 12th day of action at Alexandra Palace saw a quartet of PDC World Champions in action, as Smith’s hopes of defending the Sid Waddell Trophy were dashed by a dazzling Dobey.

The 2023 Masters champion posted a third consecutive ton-plus average to continue his own pursuit of the Sid Waddell Trophy, defying a 102 average from Smith to book his place in the quarter-finals on New Year’s Day.

Dobey signalled his intent with a stunning 130 checkout to kick off proceedings, and after wrapping up set one, he doubled his lead after Smith missed a dart at tops to level the contest.

The Bedlington star then moved a set away from glory with clinical 100 and 87 combinations, before Smith struck back with a magnificent 140 finish to open set four.

However, Dobey was unfazed, following up a 14-dart break with back-to-back 12-darters to cap off another imperious display – which also ends Smith’s 12-month reign as world number one on the PDC Order of Merit.

“I didn’t even feel comfortable up there tonight,” claimed Dobey, despite averaging 102 and producing a trio of ton-plus checkouts.

“Michael is a great lad. I’ve got all the time in the world for him, but there could only be one winner and I’m pleased it was my night.

“I don’t think anybody underestimates me; they know what I can do. I’ve been pretty consistent in this competition, and I’m going all out. I want to be the champion.”

Friday’s play in the sport’s showpiece event saw four last 32 ties and two last 16 encounters take place in the capital, with Van Gerwen also breezing through to Monday’s quarter-finals with a whitewash win, seeing off Stephen Bunting.

Bunting had produced a brace of ton-topping averages to reach the last 16, but was blown away by a merciless Van Gerwen, who has progressed to the last eight without conceding a set.

The opening nine legs of the contest went with throw, but Van Gerwen struck the first decisive blow with a 14-dart break of throw to establish a two-set lead.

Bunting – who landed a 138 finish in set one – attempted to hit back with a 125 outshot midway through set three, although Van Gerwen refused to relent, sealing his progress with ominous ease.

“I’m happy with my performance,” declared the Dutch supremo, who averaged 99, landed nine 180s and pinned 44% of his attempts at double.

“We all know Stephen Bunting was playing phenomenal darts, so I wanted to bring my A-game. I wasn’t at my best, but I think in patches I did the right things at the right moments.

“I can do a lot better, but there’s still a long way to go. The fighting spirit is there, and I’m feeling good, I’m feeling comfortable.”

Earlier in the day, Gary Anderson recovered from a sluggish start to power through to the last 16, averaging over 99 on his way to a comprehensive 4-1 victory against Boris Krcmar, which completed the third round action.

The Croatian number one conjured up a majestic 161 checkout to win the opening set against throw, but Anderson soon found his range, restoring parity before landing 11 and 12-darters to move 2-1 ahead.

Anderson averaged 112 in a high-quality third set, and he continued his charge in the latter stages, crashing in nine maximums to create a last 16 tussle against fellow veteran Brendan Dolan.

“When Boris won the first set I thought it was going to be a struggle,” conceded popular star Anderson, who is bidding to become the first Scot to lift a hat-trick of World Championship titles.

“When I walked out – I have never had a reception like that before. They come from all over the planet to watch this game, and we have to thank them.

“Brendan is a dark horse, a class act. People write him off, and you never should write Brendan Dolan off. It’s going to be tough!”

Elsewhere, Raymond van Barneveld will take on teenage sensation Luke Littler in a mouth-watering last 16 clash on Saturday, after punishing a profligate display from Jim Williams to celebrate a hard-fought 4-1 success.

Williams squandered five darts to win a scrappy opening set, and Van Barneveld capitalised to open his account, only for the Welshman to snatch a second set decider to level proceedings at one set apiece.

The Dutch legend responded by reeling off eight consecutive legs to move to the brink of victory, before defying a late wobble to progress to the fourth round for the first time since 2018.

“I never played my A-game, but I am so happy to be through,” said Van Barneveld, who will now take on an opponent 40 years his junior in a battle of the generations.

“I know what Jim is capable of. He beat James Wade last year, Peter Wright this year, so I was warned, but he missed some crucial doubles today.”

Van Barneveld’s victory in the PDC World Championship came in January 2007 – 20 days before Littler was even born – and the Dutchman added: “I cannot wait to play Luke tomorrow night.

“When I was 16, I was playing with Lego and Playmobil! This kid is amazing. He is quality, and I am so looking forward to that game.”

In Friday’s opener, Damon Heta won through a rollercoaster seven-set clash against Berry van Peer, in a contest featuring 24 maximums.

Van Peer – buoyed by a 142 checkout in the early exchanges – raced into a two-set lead before Heta hit back, winning nine of the next 12 legs to move to the cusp of a fine comeback victory.

The Dutchman halted Heta’s charge with a clutch 108 checkout followed by an 11-darter to set up a deciding set, only for the Australian number one to follow up a 114 kill with a spectacular 151 match-winning outshot.

Meanwhile, Jonny Clayton came through a hard-fought encounter against Krzysztof Ratajski to set up an enticing last 16 tussle against 2018 champion Rob Cross.

Clayton started strongly to establish a two-set cushion, before punishing missed doubles from Ratajski at crucial junctures to prevail with a 91 average and five maximums.

The fourth round action will conclude on the final day of darting action in 2023 on Saturday, with Littler and Van Barneveld’s blockbuster battle headlining a fascinating double session.

Heta takes on Scott Williams in Saturday’s opener, before Daryl Gurney meets Dave Chisnall and Cross clashes with Clayton.

Anderson’s tie with Dolan opens the evening session, while Van Barneveld and Littler’s meeting is followed by tasty tie between world number three Luke Humphries and former Masters winner Joe Cullen.

2023/24 Paddy Power World Darts Championship
Friday December 29
Afternoon Session
Damon Heta 4-3 Berry van Peer (0-3, 2-3, 3-0, 3-2, 3-1, 1-3, 3-1) (R3)
Jonny Clayton 4-2 Krzysztof Ratajski (3-1, 3-2, 0-3, 3-1, 1-3, 3-1) (R3)
Raymond van Barneveld 4-1 Jim Williams (3-2, 2-3, 3-0, 3-0, 3-2) (R3)

Evening Session
Gary Anderson 4-1 Boris Krcmar (2-3, 3-1, 3-2, 3-1, 3-0) (R3)
Michael van Gerwen 4-0 Stephen Bunting (3-2, 3-2, 3-1, 3-1) (R4)
Chris Dobey 4-0 Michael Smith (3-1, 3-2, 3-0, 3-1) (R4)

Saturday December 30
Afternoon Session (1230 GMT)
3x Fourth Round
Scott Williams v Damon Heta
Daryl Gurney v Dave Chisnall
Rob Cross v Jonny Clayton

Evening Session (1930 GMT)
3x Fourth Round
Brendan Dolan v Gary Anderson
Raymond van Barneveld v Luke Littler
Luke Humphries v Joe Cullen


Images: Cleeves/PDC


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