Michael van Gerwen and Michael Smith will battle it out for Cazoo World Darts Championship glory in a blockbuster showdown at Alexandra Palace on Tuesday night.
Three-time World Champion Van Gerwen and two-time runner-up Smith will lock horns in a repeat of the 2019 final on Tuesday January 3, with the winner also set to become the new world number one.
Van Gerwen is bidding to lift his fourth World Championship title and close to within one of the Dutch record, currently held by five-time World Champion Raymond van Barneveld.
Meanwhile, Smith is aiming to follow up his breakthrough win at last month’s Grand Slam of Darts by fulfilling his darting destiny and claiming the sport’s biggest prize for the first time in his career.
However, it could take something extraordinary to deny an irrepressible Van Gerwen, who has won 13 consecutive sets to storm into his sixth World Championship final.
The Dutchman boasts a tournament average of 104.63, but despite relinquishing just three sets in his five matches thus far, he’s refusing to get carried away.
“I’m doing the right things at the right moment,” said Van Gerwen, who has beaten Lewy Williams, Mensur Suljovic, Dirk van Duijvenbode, Chris Dobey and Dimitri Van den Bergh in reaching Tuesday's showpiece.
“Unbeatable is a big word, but I feel comfortable and from there on I can produce a lot, but you still have to do it when it matters.
“I’m into another final which is nice, but I haven’t won anything yet.”
🗣 "I haven't won anything yet."— PDC Darts (@OfficialPDC) January 2, 2023
Hear the thoughts of Michael van Gerwen, who is refusing to get carried away despite storming through to a sixth Ally Pally final with a whitewash win over Dimitri Van den Bergh... pic.twitter.com/OJJBaKOljv
The 33-year-old delivered the performance of the tournament to dispatch Van den Bergh 6-0 in Monday’s semi-finals, averaging 108 and taking out a stunning 170 checkout in the process.
Van Gerwen also averaged 128.83 in winning sets three and five, using 35 darts across both sets to cap off a majestic display, which brought up his 38th ton-plus average on the Alexandra Palace stage.
“It feels really good, and to win games like that gives you confidence and joy,” added the Dutch legend.
“The way I played against Dimitri – if I do that in the final I think I’m going to win the game, but that doesn’t give you any guarantees so you need to remain focused.
“I think Michael [Smith] deserves to be here with the way he’s been playing in the last few months.
“Me and Michael know each other really well. We have had so many great battles against each other and I think for darts, it will be a stunning final on Tuesday night.”
Van Gerwen has won 37 of the pair’s 49 meetings, although Smith prevailed in their last televised tussle back in June, beating the Dutchman 8-4 to win the US Darts Masters at Madison Square Garden.
The St Helens star is featuring in his third World Championship final in five years, and after succumbing in agonising fashion to Peter Wright 12 months ago, he now has another shot at redemption.
“From the heartache of playing Peter when I was 5-4 up and lost 7-5 – to where I’ve battled through for the last 11 months, just to get back to this stage and get another chance is special,” said Smith.
“I never thought after losing to Michael in 2019 that I would get another chance, so I’ve had a second, now I’ve got a third and I have never given up, I’ve always fought hard.”
Smith has been touted as a future World Champion since bursting on to the scene a decade ago, but after losing in eight big stage finals, he celebrated his first TV ranking title at November’s Grand Slam of Darts.
The 32-year-old – who also featured in World Championship, UK Open and European Championship deciders in 2022 – believes a shift in mentality has been the catalyst for his success.
🗣 "It would mean everything for me."— PDC Darts (@OfficialPDC) January 2, 2023
Michael Smith reflects on reaching his third World Championship final in five years, as he moves one win away from fulfilling his darting dreams at Ally Pally... pic.twitter.com/UdLLjBi8vX
“I don’t think my darts have got better, I think I’ve just got stronger mentally,” added Smith, who could become the first former World Youth Champion to lift The Sid Waddell Trophy tonight.
“I was always moaning like it was someone else’s fault, but you have to own up to it. You missed the doubles, nobody else did, and it was about putting it right.
“Over the last two or three years I’ve not won everything, but I’ve put my mind right, I had to take responsibility for myself and step up when I needed to.”
Smith has certainly stepped up at Ally Pally, defeating Nathan Rafferty, Martin Schindler, Joe Cullen, Stephen Bunting and Gabriel Clemens to set up a titanic tussle against Van Gerwen.
“It would mean everything to me. I want to win,” continued Smith, a 5/2 outsider with official betting partner Ladbrokes.
“It could have been a different story if I lost the Grand Slam, but I never give up and I’ve finally got my first TV title under my belt.
“Hopefully I can get my first World Championship now. I want to get revenge from 2019.
“It would be nice wouldn’t it – my first World Championship and becoming world number one!”
2022/23 Cazoo World Darts Championship
Tuesday January 3 (2000 GMT)
Michael Smith v Michael Van Gerwen
Best of 13 sets