Peter Wright and Michael Smith will contest the 29th PDC World Championship final on Monday evening after both came through enticing semi-finals in a thrilling evening session at the Palace. Wright was a 6-4 victor over Gary Anderson and Smith clinched a 6-3 win over James Wade. Peter Wright and Gary Anderson’s semi-final unquestionably lived up to its billing as two legends of the game produced a classic. The pair exchanged blows at the very highest level with only very short periods off the boil. And it was a record-breaker too – for most 180s in a PDC World Championship semi-final cumulatively and for most 180s for an individual player (Wright) in a PDC World Championship match. It was certainly one to remember for viewers and for both players, but with plenty of opportunities nonetheless and an incredibly high average even in losing sets (as The Red Bit’s number crunching shows), Gary Anderson will be incredibly disappointed to come out the loser, in what is just his second PDC Worlds semi-final loss, having won five. But for an undoubtedly exhausted Wright, the focus will be on recovery before toeing the oche for more tomorrow evening.
Michael Smith had things a little easier against James Wade in their semi-final but not without hiccups. At 5-1 up, Smith looked on course for a rapid victory but Wade’s tenacity and tendency to never drop his level was always going to prove a problem for Michael if he sensed opportunity and that came in the seventh and eighth set where despite some high quality playing in part from Smith, Wade was able to reduce the set deficit to two. However there was no sign of Smith allowing his lead to crumble and he completed the victory in the ninth set in a professional manner, ensuring a place in the World Championship final and becoming with that only the tenth player to compete in more than one.
A word on the quarter-finals
The quarter-final stages of the competition produced plenty of excitement too. Perhaps most acutely so in the fourth and final last 8 match between Michael Smith and Gerwyn Price, where the world number 1 and defending world champion was ousted from the competition despite hitting a 9 darter. Unfortunately, negative crowd interference in the latter stages particularly left a sour note on the match for all concerned, but for Smith it was a phenomenal victory. Recent defending champions such as Rob Cross and Peter Wright have experienced difficulties on title defence and Gerwyn Price can be pleased that it took an excellent quarter-final performance against him to end his reign as world champion. There are certainly no larger, long-term concerns about his form and he will remain a massive contender in 2022. Word must also go to Luke Humphries and Callan Rydz who both put up excellent showings of themselves despite losing out on a place in the last 4. Rydz notably took Wright to a deciding set and produced some of the best darts of the tournament to put his opponent on the ropes early on. Unfortunately for Mervyn King he never really got into his stride in his quarter-final but he can be pleased with having made another deep run.
Can Smith ‘do a Wright’?
A lot of parallels could be drawn between Michael Smith this year and Peter Wright two years ago. Smith is facing down his second final, as was Wright in January 2020, and both have the thought of vanquishing demons in the back of their head (for Smith, the major final and for Wright, MvG). Perhaps the biggest difference is that Wright was not nearly as tipped to do the business two years ago as Smith is now, but that doesn’t leave Bully Boy under any illusions about the challenge before him. If he clinches victory, it will be through a string of excellent performances against excellent players in a route to success up there with the toughest. Peter Wright will be on a high after the events of Sunday evening, but recuperating and reviving his energy will be key if he can put up with the relentless thrower from St. Helens. Hopefully, with both having played in World and major finals before and both in some of the best form of their lives, we can have an excellent end to the World Championship.
Image Credits: PDC