Michael Smith made the breakthrough of his career by lifting the PDC Darts World Championship with a brilliant performance to defeat Michael van Gerwen. Smith was a beaten finalist in 2019 and again in 2022 after losing to Van Gerwen and Peter Wright respectively.
But, he overcame his past demons to win on his third attempt, securing a 7-4 win over the Dutchman to etch his place in the history of the game. This included one of the best legs seen at the World Championship as Smith produced a nine-dart finish seconds after Van Gerwen narrowly missed out.
Can Smith Repeat?
Smith will now be bidding to join an elite company of players to win back-to-back world titles. Gary Anderson was the last man to win successive championships in 2016, proving how difficult the feat is to achieve, especially given the level of competition at the top.
The excellent standard has put the game in a great place in all departments, earning massive TV audiences and selling out venues with ease, and darts betting has seen a surge in popularity across the board as there is top value to be had on the leading players. Although Smith won the crown last year, two-time winner Peter Wright is a strong contender for this year’s competition.
Smith remains the man to beat after his maiden title win and he built on his success almost immediately after the World Championship, defeating Price in the Bahrain Darts Masters. The 32-year-old was clinical under the spotlight and delivered an 8-6 victory to beat out the Welshman, further stamping his credentials as the number one player in the world.
Remaining there ahead of the World Championship in December will be a challenge, and the chasing pack have already proven that there is little difference between the leading lights. Van Gerwen produced an outstanding performance in the Premier League Darts, raising his game after finishing fourth in the standings over the course of the season to defeat Smith and Price in the playoffs. It has been four years since the Dutchman has lifted the World Championship. After his defeat against Smith in the final last year, he will be hungrier than ever to reclaim the crown.
Price cannot be overlooked either after he and Jonny Clayton combined to win the World Cup of Darts. It was a welcome return to success for the Welshman after his premature exit in the World Championship and defeat to Van Gerwen in the Premier League Darts Final. Price was stunned by Gabriel Clemens in the quarter-finals of the World Championship, suffering a last-eight exit for the second year in a row. Motivation should not be an issue for the 38-year-old, although he’ll want to develop a consistent run of form ahead of the event.
Wright is an interesting prospect as an outsider in the betting odds. The Scot’s form in ranking events has not been at its usual high standards, failing to reach the quarter-finals of the World Championship, UK Open or World Matchplay. He did progress to the semi-finals of the Masters before losing out to Rob Cross, which was slightly encouraging. However, he will need to improve before facing his in-form rivals.
There are also further outsiders bidding for the crown. Nathan Aspinall produced a brilliant run to win the World Matchplay, defeating a host of talented players before crushing Clayton in the final. Andrew Gilding had the tournament of his life to win the UK Open, edging out Van Gerwen in the final. Darts is in an extremely good place with quality competition rife between the leading players and even outsiders too. If Smith wants to repeat his success, he’s going to have to be on the top of his game.