Emotional Smith wins first title for over two years
By Joe Williams 10/11/2020
Michael Smith picked up his first PDC ranking title in over two years in winning Players Championship 19 with a 8-6 victory over Jermaine Wattimena in the final.
Smith, who since his last ranking win had lost 9 finals in a row which included being Runner Up in all three of the so called Triple-Crown’ Events (World Championship, Premier League and World Matchplay) and most recently The World Cup of Darts just two days prior.
He began the day with a 6-3 victory over Callan Rydz with an average of 103.5 before back to back 6-2 wins over Boris Krcmar and Ryan Murray respectively which saw him average 105.8 against Murray to reach the Last 16.
At that stage, he took on Joe Cullen, which could turn out to be the game of the day, with the pair averaging well over 100 with Smith ending the match with a 103.5 average and a 6-4 win and denying Cullen, who averaged 108.6!
At the Quarter-Final stage, The St Helens star averaged just 90.4 to see off Conan Whitehead 6-2 before denying a comeback from Portuguese Star Jose De Sousa in the last four- winning it 7-5 with a 98.3 average to set up a final clash with Wattimena.
The final began with Smith racing into a 2-0 lead with winning legs in 12 and 15 darts before Wattimena rattled off back to back legs of his own in 17 and 18 darts respectively to square the match up at 2-2.
The game was poised for a number of legs after that before in the 10th leg, which turned out to be the vital point of the match, Wattimena had two visits to the board with three darts to square the match up at 5-5 but with each visit, he bust his score with his first dart and that allowed Smith back in, who took his chance to go 6-4 up and take control of the match.
The next four legs were all won on throw with Smith clinching the win in the 14th leg of the match in 13 darts to claim the title and a first ranking win since April 2018.
Wattimena, denied for the third time in a PDC ranking final, reached the decider by recording wins over Ian White and Luke Humphries, both going the distance of 11 legs but sandwiched between that was a 6-3 win over fellow Dutchman Jelle Klaasen in the Second Round.
In the last 16, he defeated Simon Stevenson 6-1 before back to back ton plus average wins over Vincent Van der Voort (104.5) and Brendan Dolan (112.2) saw him book a spot in the final against Smith. Unable to clinch the title but plenty of positives going into the next four days of the Winter Series.
Elsewhere, World Champion Peter Wright and Recent Pro Tour winner Damon Heta reached the Last eight whilst there was a Last 16 appearance on his Pro Tour Debut for 2020 BDO World Championship Finalist Jim Williams.
There were early exits for recently crowned Premier League Champion Glen Durrant, two-time World Champions Gary Anderson and Adrian Lewis as well as Gerwyn Price, Nathan Aspinall, Ian White, and Dave Chisnall.
The Winter Series continues on Wednesday with Day two and Players Championship 20 taking place with play beginning at 14:00 GMT and the event will be broadcasted across two streaming boards on PDC.TV as well as via bookmakers’ websites worldwide and all games will be shown on tv.dartconnect.com.
Players Championship 19
Vincent Van der Voort 6-5 Jim Williams
Jermaine Wattimena 6-1 Simon Stevenson
Brendan Dolan 6-1 Toni Alcinas
Damon Heta 6-1 Ron Meulenkamp
Peter Wright 6-4 Dimitri Van den Bergh
Jose De Sousa 6-3 Danny Noppert
Conan Whitehead 6-2 William Borland
Michael Smith 6-4 Joe Cullen
Jermaine Wattimena 6-3 Vincent Van der Voort
Brendan Dolan 6-0 Damon Heta
Jose De Sousa 6-3 Peter Wright
Michael Smith 6-2 Conan Whitehead
Jermaine Wattimena 7-3 Brendan Dolan
Michael Smith 7-5 Jose De Sousa
Michael Smith 8-6 Jermaine Wattimena
Pictures by Taylor Lanning.