Michael Smith continued his fine start to 2023 as he claimed the Bahrain Darts Masters title after defeating world number three Gerwyn Price 8-6 in the tournament’s final on Friday.
The world number one scooped up the £20,000 prize at the inaugural event to be staged in Bahrain as part of the World Series of Darts. Smith had shone in his first round win over Abdulnasser Yusuf on Thursday, but had to come from 3-1 down to defeat Dimitri Van den Bergh 6-4 in the quarter-finals and was also behind early on in his semi-final with Raymond van Barneveld.
The St Helens star showed his quality to battle back for a 7-5 win, and then overcame Price in an entertaining final.
It was Smith’s third World Series triumph and you can see how much his confidence has grown since getting his hands on his two first major titles in recent months. After suffering heartbreak in various finals in recent years, Smith finally got his hands on a title when he won the Grand Slam of Darts in Wolverhampton in November.
This gave him a much-needed boost mentally for his World Darts Championship return at Alexandra Palace after he lost out to Peter Wright in the 2022 final, having been ahead at one point in the match.
After their gripping final over a year ago, Wright made a prediction that is already coming to fruition. Smith had thrown some excellent darts in that match but he was undone by himself in crucial moments of the match, something which Wright referenced in his post-match interview.
He told Sky Sports: “It's not about me. It's about the future of darts and this man (Smith). He let me in. I just love him to bits. I feel bad. As soon as he gets a major, he will trounce everybody."
Smith’s biggest problem in the years where he was coming extremely close to titles but just missing out was clearly a mentality issue. It has always been clear that he is a phenomenal player and that this sudden burst of victories comes as no surprise.
There were moments throughout Smith’s stunning World Championship title win where he was put under some pressure and in years previously he most likely would have crumbled. He now has the strength to keep his nerve and respond when the momentum appears to be changing at key moments in matches. Smith has pushed through a barrier and now he has nothing to fear at the highest level. He has enjoyed an amazing start to 2023 and you feel that he is just warming up.
*18+ | BeGambleAware