Two-time PDC World Championship finalist Michael Smith reached the 2023 semi-finals by downing fellow Merseysider Stephen Bunting 5-3 in the last eight on Sunday. That came after Dimitri van den Bergh had become the first Belgian ever to reach the last four of the event with a thrilling 5-3 win over Wales’ Jonny Clayton.
Smith took the early lead in a first set which went with the darts all the way, but it took Bunting only three legs to level the match. Smith then took a lead he’d never lose when checking out on 61 to take the third set in four.
The fourth set saw Smith rattle off three straight legs from one leg down, and he carried the run through the fifth as Bunting’s doubles game disappeared. Bunting shook off the pressure of chasing to claim the sixth set with ease, but when he had a chance to claim five straight legs at 1-0 up in the seventh he twice let Smith back in.
Still, there was more life in the number 21 seed, who took a 2-1 advantage against the darts and went on to narrow the gap to 4-3 as Smith began to falter with the finish line in sight.
But from there Smith got back on the bike, making the most of Bunting’s inconsistency when attempting doubles to plant home double 10 in the fourth leg and secure a semi-final spot against the winner of Sunday’s last-eight match between Gerwyn Price and Gabriel Clemens.
In the earlier clash, a big 180 for Clayton in the second leg helped him to race to a 3-0 first-set win, but Van den Bergh bounced back to break in 15 darts on the way to his own 3-0 set win. Clayton then averaged 105 to break in the fourth leg of set three to take a 2-1 lead, but Van den Bergh again stormed level with a second 3-0 whitewash in the fourth.
A non-competitive deciding leg of the fifth set from Van den Bergh gave Clayton a third lead, but the Belgian levelled again when the sixth also went to a decider, nailing double 16 to close out a dominant final leg. And when Clayton missed five darts for the leg to open the seventh set, Van den Bergh made him pay with double 10 to hold the rest of the way and take a first lead at 4-3.
In the eighth, Van den Bergh landed double-top for the first, but big misses of the same target in the next two legs saw him fall behind in the set. Yet he won the chance to throw for the match when he closed out on 37 after Clayton had squandered two chances at double 5 to take the set.
And a 13th 180 of the match helped him to set his stall out, with double 9 assuring him a slice of history as the first Belgian to reach the PDC World Championship semi-finals. There he will face the winner of Sunday night’s clash between Michael van Gerwen and Chris Dobey.
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