Michal Smith claimed a first PDC title for almost two years and his fourth European Tour triumph as he defeated Mensur Suljovic 6-4 in the final of the 2017 Gibraltar Darts Trophy on Sunday.
Smith, who was playing in his first final since the Austrian Darts Open last June, put in a solid display in the final as he claimed the £25,000 title to follow up his trio of previous wins in 2014 and 2015.
The 26-year-old averaged 96.33 and hit 50% of his attempts at double to overcome battling Austrian ace Suljovic at the Victoria Stadium.
Smith raced into a 3-0 lead, including a 108 checkout, to take immediate control of the match.
Suljovic then produced a spirited fightback to break the throw of Smith twice and level the match, before holding throw to move in to a 4-3 lead.
The Englishman then took out 81 on double 12 to level the contest, and it was the ninth leg that would prove to be decisive.
With Suljovic sat on 56 to hold throw and move within a leg of the title, the 26-year-old produced a breathtaking 132 finish on the bullseye to break the throw and edge 5-4 up.
A miss at tops for the title in leg ten from Smith allowed the Austrian a dart at double 15 on a 110 finish to take the encounter to a decider.
Suljovic’s effort, though, was just inside the wire, allowing Smith to step in and seal the victory on double ten and secure the £25,000 top prize.
“It’s a great feeling – I’m so chuffed,” said Smith. “I’d forgotten what it felt like to win a tournament and it feels like I’ve just won my very first tournament again.
“This year I’ve made two finals and I thought I was going to blow it again. The 132 to go 5-4 up won me the game, it was absolutely huge. I didn’t fancy the game going five-all because Mensur is amazing ”
Smith had to work hard to book his place in the final, requiring 11th leg deciders in each of his previous four matches in the tournament, starting with Saturday’s narrow defeat of Christian Kist.
Sunday’s challenge began with a hard-fought win over Dimitri Van den Bergh, with Smith hitting a key 180 in the deciding leg as a 14-darter sealed his quarter-final spot.
In-form Rob Cross waited in the last eight where once again Smith required a last-leg maximum to give him the chance to take out 81 for a spot in the semi-finals.
In-form world number three Peter Wright, a winner of three of the four European Tour events held so far in 2017, was Smith’s semi-final opponent.
Yet again Smith needed a deciding leg, and as with the previous two matches the world number 11 hit a 180 to put himself in control of the final leg before eventually going on to pin double ten for the win.
Suljovic’s began Sunday with a 6-3 win over Cristo Reyes to claim a quarter-final spot, finishing six doubles from 11 attempts as mid-range checkouts of 76, 61, 86 and 64 helped seal his victory.
A scrappy 6-3 win over Sweden’s Magnus Caris – appearing in his first European Tour quarter-final – followed, as the number two seed moved in to the semi-finals to face Daryl Gurney.
In a tight battle, The Northern Irishman missed four match darts in the deciding leg before Suljovic eventually hit tops to claim a spot in the final.
Wright fell at the semi-final stage in his bid to claim a fourth European Tour title of the year, and he now sets his sights on the Betway Premier League Play-Offs at The O2 in London on Thursday.
Gurney’s run to the last four was his best finish on the European Tour so far this year, as he saw off Simon Whitlock and James Wilson on Sunday before losing out to Suljovic.
Cross reached his third European Tour quarter-final of the year as he continues his impressive start to live on the professional circuit, while Johnson and Caris were appearing in the last eight for the first time on the European Tour after battling through from Friday’s first round.
The next PDC European Tour event will be the HappyBet European Darts Matchplay from June 9-11 at the edel-optics.de Arena in Hamburg, Germany.