Michael Smith’s dream of adding the Melbourne Darts Masters crown to his growing CV was shattered by Scot Peter Wright in closely fought final at the Hisense Arena last night (Sunday).
The St Helens ace, who recently won the prestigious Shanghai Masters title, didn’t display the kind of form evident in earlier victoriesover world champion Rob Cross and two-times world champion Gary Anderson but kept abreast of his rival for most of their first to 11 legs showdown, only to succumb at the death.
Both started tentatively - trading holds of throw and unable to make too much of a mark when their opponent threw first.
A 120 checkout to level in the sixth leg from Smith, with Wright sat on tops to break, was the highlight of the opening exchanges.
The Scot then squandered three darts at a double in the eighth leg to break the throw and take a 5-3 lead, allowing Smith to step in and level once more.
The holds of throw continued until the 14th leg when, with Smith waiting on 60, Wright took out 130 on double five to break and lead 8-6.
Smith came straight back at Wright, though, hitting a 180 before pinning tops to clinch the leg.
However, the crucial moment came in leg 16 when another magical finish from Wright, this time a 131, broke the throw and handed control of the contest to the Scot.
The 48-year-old eventually sealed an 11-8 win and then spoke of his delight to be back on the winners podium.
“It wasn’t the best final ever in terms of averages and scores but it was a battle and I’m so happy to prove winning in the World Series in Germany last year wasn’t a fluke,” said Wright.
He added: “I lost a bit of my confidence over the last few months and felt like I was getting smashed up by a lot of players. I was really struggling with my game, but winning tonight is a great feeling.”
It was Smith’s second final on the World Series in 2018 but unlike in Shanghai the former World Youth Champion was unable to claim the title with a final victory.
“Fair play to Peter, he deserved that tonight. It was a tough match and he got the job done,” said Smith.
“It’s another final for me, though, and more proof that I’m getting to where I want to be. Things are starting to improve and I’m happy.”
Smith and Wright faced daunting challenges in their respective semi-finals with match-ups against Anderson and Michael van Gerwen.
Like in the semi-final of the 2018 Premier League, Smith got one over on his mentor and friend Anderson, running out an 11-5 winner.
The 27-year-old averaged 100 and hit eight maximums on his way to victory in a match he controlled throughout.
Wright’s passage to the final was a sealed with a 11-7 win over the world’s number one.
The World Series of Darts continues in Brisbane this coming weekend.