Michael Smith wins first TV ranking title in the Grand Slam of Darts
Michael Smith was overcome with emotion after claiming his first TV ranking title with a convincing victory over Nathan Aspinall in the Cazoo Grand Slam of Darts final in Wolverhampton on Sunday.
Smith, who had previously lost eight big-stage ranking finals, fulfilled his darting destiny with a 16-5 victory over Aspinall in Sunday’s showpiece at the Aldersley Leisure Village.
Smith, from St Helens, was competing in his fourth televised final of 2022, having lost World Championship, UK Open, and European Championship deciders earlier this year.
However, the 31-year-old put on a dominant performance to win the £150,000 top prize and become the seventh different winner of the prestigious Eric Bristow Trophy.
“I’m used to giving the runner-up speech,” joked Smith, who averaged 96, landed nine 180s and converted 50% of his attempts at double to seal a landmark victory.”
“I was so nervous. In the first few legs I was shaking like mad, but then Nathan started to miss doubles and let me in.”
“Nathan is a quality player and if he had got going it would have been a totally different game.’
“Every time I got a shot I took it out, and then I started to find my scoring but my doubles stayed, so happy days!”
“The hard work starts again now,” insisted Smith, who will aim to make it back-to-back titles at next week’s Cazoo Players Championship Finals in Minehead.
“Nobody can take this away from me now. It’s a big weight off my shoulders.
“I’m going to enjoy this until Thursday and then on Friday it’s a new event, and now I’ve got this title, who knows?”
After Smith wired double 14 for a roof-raising 145 checkout in leg five, Aspinall was relieved to trail 3-2 at the first interval.
Smith followed up a two-dart 88 finish with a 13-darter in leg ten to extend his lead to 7-3.
In an attempt to close the gap, the Stockport player posted 13 and 15-dart holds, but Smith was unfazed, following up an improvised 69 checkout on double nine with a 14-dart hold
After Aspinall missed the same target for a 138 finish, the world number four moved into double digits in a crucial 15th leg, completing a two-dart 84 combination via double 12.
This proved to be the deciding blow, as Smith went on to win the title in spectacular fashion, reeling off the next six legs without reply.
The fourth seed extended his lead to 12-5 with a 12-darter, and Aspinall’s woes were exacerbated when Smith sank a two-dart 76 finish to move closer to his elusive first TV win.
Smith continued the procession to 15-5, and after firing in his ninth 180, he sealed the deal with a two-dart 56 outshot on tops to spark the celebrations.
Meanwhile, Aspinall used a stunning late surge in his semi-final win over Luke Humphries to reach his second televised final in as many months, following his World Grand Prix run in October.
Aspinall led 14-11 after converting 90 and 124 combinations for consecutive 12-darters, before sealing a 16-12 victory with a brilliant 121 finish on the bull.
The former UK Open champion was unable to replicate that performance in the final, but after a serious wrist injury 12 months ago, his remarkable comeback continues.
“From where I came from in January, I’m really proud to reach two major finals in three tournaments,” declared Aspinall, who regains his place in the world’s top eight after pocketing the £70,000 runners-up prize.
“I just couldn’t find it. It was just one of those nights, but if I’m going to lose to anyone I’m glad it’s Michael, and hopefully we will play together at the World Cup in June.
“I love Michael to bits. I’m so proud of him. It’s hard to get over the line, and he’s finally done it.
“I said to him before the match, as soon as he wins one he is going to dominate, and I’m really sorry to the rest of the Tour Card Holders, because we’re all in trouble now!”