SUPER SIX FOR SENSATIONAL SMITH AT GERMAN DARTS GRAND PRIX
Michael Smith celebrated his sixth PDC European Tour title in Munich, defeating Nathan Aspinall 8-5 to clinch his maiden Interwetten German Darts Grand Prix crown on Easter Monday.
Smith produced a stellar display at the Zenith Kulturhalle to defeat Aspinall in a repeat of November's Grand Slam of Darts final and secure his first ranking title since his World Championship success in January.
The St Helens star had survived three missed match darts in his opening round tie against Adam Warner on Sunday, taking out a 116 checkout on tops to triumph in a last-leg shoot-out.
He then kicked off Monday's action with a sensational 6-2 success against Gerwyn Price, averaging almost 108 to end the Welshman's hopes of lifting a third consecutive European Tour title.
The World Champion defied a resurgent Keane Barry to record a 6-4 victory in the quarter-finals, before surviving another match dart in a gripping semi-final showdown against Damon Heta.
This set up a mouth-watering tussle against his Premier League rival Aspinall, and Smith seized the early initiative, racing into a 3-0 lead after the Stockport star squandered six darts at double in leg one.
Aspinall reduced the arrears with 74 and 108 combinations, although Smith restored his two-leg buffer with an 11-dart hold, before following up a sixth maximum with a 13-dart break to lead 5-2.
Smith maintained his three-leg cushion with a brilliant 130 finish on the bull in leg nine, moments after Aspinall had converted a 112 checkout in leg eight to cut the deficit.
The former UK Open champion refused to relent and threatened an unlikely fightback after winning back-to-back legs to make it 5-6, only for Smith to reply in kind to scoop the 30,000 pound top prize.
"I think that first leg changed the match against Nathan," claimed Smith, who averaged almost 103, hit eight 180s and converted 62 percent of his attempts at double.
"It happens sometimes and you have to ride your luck. I had four match darts thrown against me this weekend and luckily enough I get my sixth European Tour title.
"This weekend just reminded me so much of Gibraltar when I was playing really badly. I wasn't playing well but I kept managing to win.
"I feel bad for Nathan because he's not won one of these [titles] yet. I know how to win these European Tours, and I knew I had to produce the right shots at the key times.
"I think I my brought my A-game twice in five games and now I'm the German Darts Grand Prix champion!"
Aspinall, meanwhile, broke new ground in Munich, reaching his first European Tour final at the 42nd attempt, courtesy of wins over Jim Williams, Andrew Gilding and Joe Cullen on Finals Day.
The Stockport star overcame Williams and UK Open champion Gilding in attritional ties, before clinching a fifth consecutive victory over Cullen, celebrating a 7-5 success in a dramatic semi-final.
"These are big, big tournaments. I've never made a final and I think I felt the nerves early on. Fair play to Michael, he capitalised," reflected a gracious Aspinall.
"I don't think either of us have played very well this weekend, but I thought that was a great game to be fair.
"Michael proved why he is the world number one and World Champion. He put in a fantastic performance in that final.
"These days are really tough but it was a new step in my career this weekend.
"I am going to take the positives and we go again on Thursday night in the Premier League. Hopefully I can use this positivity and have a good result in Brighton."
Cullen - appearing in his 65th consecutive European Tour event - recorded 6-3 wins over Lee Evans and defending champion Luke Humphries before succumbing to Aspinall in the last four.
Elsewhere, Heta suffered deciding-leg heartbreak against Smith, but wins over Masters champion Chris Dobey and former UK Open champion Danny Noppert saw him feature in a first ranking semi-final of 2023.
Top seed Humphries bowed out in the last eight alongside Gilding and Noppert on his return to action, with Irish youngster Keane Barry also progressing to his maiden European Tour quarter-final.
The PDC European Tour continues with the Austrian Darts Open in Graz on April 21-23, as 48 players compete in the year's fifth 175,000 Pound event.
The tournament will be broadcast live on Viaplay, DAZN and PDCTV (excluding Germany, Austria and Switzerland) and through bookmakers' websites worldwide.