Nathan Aspinall continued his resurgence with a run to last weekend’s BoyleSports World Grand Prix final, and the Stockport star was in positive spirits following his exploits in Leicester.
Aspinall produced a series of spirited displays to seal a spot in Sunday’s showpiece at the Morningside Arena – his first appearance in a televised final since October 2020.
The two-time TV title winner defeated three of the world’s top ten – including top seed Gerwyn Price – while also dumping out World Championship runner-up Michael Smith and UK Open champion Danny Noppert earlier in the event.
Aspinall was blown away by an irrepressible Michael van Gerwen in the opening exchanges of Sunday’s final, with the Dutchman storming into a seemingly unassailable 4-0 lead.
The former UK Open champion fought back magnificently, reeling off three consecutive sets to threaten an extraordinary comeback, only to succumb 5-3 after spurning two darts at double to force a deciding set.
The contest followed a similar pattern to the pair’s quarter-final showdown in July’s World Matchplay, which saw Van Gerwen triumph 16-14 in a thriller, having led 11-4 at one stage.
“When I was 4-0 down, I just wanted to win a set and give him a bit of a game,” admitted Aspinall, who sealed his qualification for next month's Cazoo Grand Slam of Darts after reaching his first double-start final.
“I wanted to make Michael win it, and he did. In that last leg, that 146 finish – I saw it out of the corner of my eye on the scoreboard. That cost me a fortune at the World Matchplay!
“I thought he was going to take it out again, but fair play to Michael, he has been phenomenal all week.
“I never gave in, and it’s another final for me so I’m very happy. I just need to stop giving him head starts!”
Aspinall has enjoyed a sensational revival in 2022, having feared for his future in the sport at the start of the year.
The 31-year-old suffered a serious wrist injury 12 months ago, and he was forced to spend a few weeks on the sidelines following his early exit at last year’s World Championship.
However, Aspinall has claimed a brace of ProTour titles since returning to action, and he tops the Players Championship Order of Merit with just six events remaining this term.
Despite falling agonisingly short in his bid to lift a third televised crown, the two-time World Championship semi-finalist was still in buoyant mood as he targets an explosive end to the campaign.
“I’m so proud of myself. I’ve had so much support,” said Aspinall, who is on the cusp of returning to the world’s top ten after scooping the £60,000 runner-up prize.
“I believe I’m a big game player and I think I’ve proved it this week, beating the world number one, the world number four and the world number nine.
“Michael has been amazing though. He’s back to his best, and he is the deserving winner of the tournament.”