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Tears and jeers mark dramatic world darts champs final

Author
Daily Telegraph UK,
Publish Date
Tue, 4 Jan 2022, 2:44pm
Peter Wright celebrates his second World Darts Championship title. Photo / Getty
Peter Wright celebrates his second World Darts Championship title. Photo / Getty

Tears and jeers mark dramatic world darts champs final

Author
Daily Telegraph UK,
Publish Date
Tue, 4 Jan 2022, 2:44pm

At the end of one of the tightest PDC World Championship finals in recent memory, there were tears all round. 

For Peter Wright, whose outlandish mohawk hairstyle and Snakebite moniker bely a quietly emotional man, they were tears of joy: a 7-5 victory resulting in a second world title, two years after becoming the oldest first-time winner aged 49. 

For Michael Smith, who must fear never realising his bountiful potential, they were tears of despair. A sixth defeat in as many major finals. It had happened yet again. 

"I must have done something terrible in a past life because it's doing my head in now," he said, wiping his soaked face. Wright responded by describing his vanquished opponent as "the future of darts". 

It was a touching conclusion to a troubled tournament, blighted by Covid and sullied by offensive crowds - dual concerns that faded away in a fuzz of contrasting emotions late on Monday night at Alexandra Palace. 

"I'm gutted for the players that have missed out like Michael [van Gerwen], Chizzy [Dave Chisnall], Vincent [van der Voort] and all the other players who have tested positive [for Covid], but it doesn't take away from me working hard to get it," said Wright, whose three-dart average of 98.34 in the final was marginally below Smith's 99.22. 

"It's not about me. I just love him [Smith] to bits. I feel bad. As soon as he gets a major, he will trounce everybody. He's going to be a future world champion." 

That the match would go the distance seemed an inevitability. With a near identical tournament average heading into the final, those in the know had been torn in selecting their winner and united only in predicting a tense affair. 

The main concern was whether 31-year-old Smith's frequent afflictions would again surface. Cast as a nearly-man, the odds on him extending his terrible record in major finals plummeted within half an hour of the start, by which point he was already 2-0 down and in possession of just two wholly irrelevant legs to show for his early efforts. 

One of those - the second of the match - was truly remarkable for its utter atrocity, Smith finally triumphing in a 28-dart leg after the pair had missed a whopping 21 darts at doubles between them. Unsurprisingly, it was the longest leg of the entire tournament. 

The only other time Smith contested a world final in 2020, he broke his non-throwing hand after punching a toilet door in frustration when 3-0 down during the match and was later unable to hold his runner-up trophy aloft. On this occasion a quiet word with himself had cataclysmic consequences. 

An astonishing run of 180s in seven consecutive legs saw him break the all-time record of 71 maximums at a World Championships on his way to levelling the scores at 2-2. From there the match teetered on a knife-edge late into the night. 

Wright - ever the tinkerman - changed his darts on three occasions as a one-set lead flip-flopped from one man to the other. The Scotsman had been booed during his walk-on, although any negativity was a far cry from the abuse hurled at Wales's pantomime villain Gerwyn Price before his quarter-final exit. 

So loud were the vicious chants of "sheep sh----- b------" directed at Price during the tournament that Sky Sports opted to mute the noise of the audience singing on more than one occasion. It epitomised a worrying descent from harmless exuberance among the masses in attendance to an increasingly boorish culture that veered into ever more threatening realms over the course of the tournament. It is a concern that must be addressed with a matter of urgency. 

Thankfully, the longer this final went on, the more any animosity faded and respect for both players from every man, woman and Smurf inside Alexandra Palace grew. Post-watershed, Wright came alive. 

Despite Smith equalling the record of 24 treble-20s in a World Championship match, Wright ground him into submission. Having teetered in the balance at 5-5, the match slipped out of Smith's grasp, and a double 16 with Wright's first match dart sealed the deal.