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  • Jamie Chick

Bullyboy Michael Smith bounces back in Hildesheim.

Updated: Jun 13, 2023

By Jamie Chick

Michael Smith began his preparations for the World Cup in style by picking up his first Players Championship title of the year, after an 8-7 triumph over a resurgent Gary Anderson.

Smith checked out 116 in a last leg decider to bring a dominant day to a successful end in Germany, with the reigning world champion putting the disappointment of his first-round exit at the US Darts Masters behind him to come out on top just days before the start of the World Cup.

Anderson looked to be on top in the early stages of the final, taking a 5-1 lead at one point, before Smith found his gears and produced a brilliant comeback to take the title. A crucial 97 checkout in the 12th leg, after his opponent missed multiple darts to extend his lead to 7-5, got him back level to 6-6, before closing out with 14 and 15 dart legs – despite the Scotsman going 7-6 up himself.

Smith started his day with consecutive 6-4 wins over Richard Veenstra and Andy Boulton, before sweeping aside Keegan Brown in the last 64. Bullyboy then dispatched James Wade – who is fighting for a World Matchplay spot himself - in their board final. Impressive performances against surprise packages Danny Lauby and Connor Scutt secured his passage to the final.

Despite missing out on his second title of the year, Anderson was getting himself into form at just the right time. The two-time champion of the world claimed some great wins throughout the day, rolling back the years with consistent first-class performances.

The Flying Scotsman didn’t drop below a 93 average all day, with successes against Dutch duo Maik Kuivenhoven and Geert Nenjtes getting his day started, before consecutive 98 averages got him past Scott Williams and Raymond Van Barneveld. Gary produced a comeback of his own in the quarter finals, surviving three match darts from Chris Dobey in a last leg decider, which was followed by a comfortable win against Australian Damon Heta to book his place in the final.

Notable performances came from Mike De Decker, who excelled with a 103.64 average in his 6-4 win over Mickey Mansell, while world number one Gerwyn Price blew Mensur Suljovic with a 113.57 average in his dominant 6-1 victory. Willie O’Connor and Ricardo Pietreczko both continued their push for a spot at the Winter Gardens as they both reached the last-16, with other results also going their way.

Pietreczko was beaten by the aforementioned Lauby, who reached the quarter-finals along with Christian Perez – who will headline the Philippines team in the World Cup this weekend. Scutt managed to progress a step further to the semi-finals, losing out respectably to the eventual champion Smith.

Elsewhere, other World Cup stars faltered in their preparations, with reigning champion Simon Whitlock and Michael Smith’s partner Rob Cross falling at the first hurdle – before Peter Wright was whitewashed in the second round, alongside early exits for Martin Schindler and Kim Huybrechts.

Final preparations will be made tomorrow in the second of this week’s double-header, before the players descend on Frankfurt for the main event this weekend.

Players Championship 13 – Hildesheim, Germany Results

Quarter Finals:

Michael Smith 6-4 Danny Lauby

Connor Scutt 6-2 Christian Perez

Gary Anderson 6-5 Chris Dobey

Damon Heta 6-4 Gerwyn Price

Semi Finals:

Michael Smith 7-3 Connor Scutt

Gary Anderson (101.38) 7-3 Damon Heta


Michael Smith 8-7 Gary Anderson


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