Michael Smith continued to be the bridesmaid and not the bride when he faced Dutchman Michael Van Gerwen in the opening round of the 2019 Unibet Premier Darts League in Newcastle last night (Thursday).
A repeat of the 2018 Premier League final and 2018/19 World Championship finals saw reigning champion Van Gerwen begin the defence of his title with a narrow 7-5 victory - the first on the road to play-off night at The O2 arena in London later this year.
The St Helens arrow smith landed the first blow with a 93 checkout to break throw in the opening leg, only for Van Gerwen to hit straight back with a 12-dart leg in what was developing into a hard fought encounter.
The Dutchman, who ended the match with a 104.98 average, doubled his advantage with another break to go 4-2 up, but Smith replied in kind immediately to make it 4-3 and then landed a spectacular 150 finish to level the scores at 4-4.
Three holds of throw followed, with the game seemingly heading for a draw, before a perfectly-timed break of throw from Van Gerwen saw him narrowly come out on top of Smith once again.
"I was really glad I managed to win that last leg because I wouldn't have been happy with a draw," said Van Gerwen, who has topped the league phase every year since his 2013 debut year.
"We played some phenomenal legs and some not so good legs, so I have things to work on to improve over the next few weeks.
"Even without Gary Anderson (suffering from a back injury) this is going to be a very tough season and to beat a great player in Michael in my first game is the best way to start."
Smith will hoping to bounce back in his second match against Peter Snakebite Wright next Thursday in Glasgow.