Michael van Gerwen hailed a ‘phenomenal’ performance from Michael Smith after succumbing to the St Helens star in a sensational Cazoo World Darts Championship final at Alexandra Palace on Tuesday.
Van Gerwen was beaten 7-4 by an inspired Smith, who also landed an incredible nine-darter in the second set of Tuesday’s showpiece, after the Dutchman had missed double 12 for a nine-darter of his own in the same leg.
The three-time World Champion was bidding to claim his first World Championship crown since beating Smith in 2019, and he established an early 3-2 lead following a blistering start from both players.
However, Smith wasn’t to be denied, winning five of the last six sets to lift The Sid Waddell Trophy for the first time in his career, which also saw him crowned as the new world number one.
“Michael [Smith] played a phenomenal game, he deserves this win,” reflected a gracious Van Gerwen, featuring in his sixth World Championship final.
"I didn't play too well in the last few sets but I can only blame myself for that, you have to take it on the chin.
“I wasn’t what I wanted to be, but that’s part of the game unfortunately. I will be back.
“When we celebrate it’s a nice job, and when we lose games, it’s hard."
The 33-year-old was eyeing a fourth World Championship triumph, which would have seen him draw to within one of the Dutch record - held by five-time World Champion Raymond van Barneveld.
Van Gerwen boasted a remarkable tournament average of 104.63 heading into Tuesday’s final, although he was unable to cap off a stunning 12 months by landing the sport’s biggest prize.
The Dutchman fired in 15 maximums and averaged 99.58 in a breathless contest, but he was ruthlessly punished for spurning 32 darts at double throughout the evening.
"If you don’t take these chances you know that you will have a tough match and that it will be difficult,” added Van Gerwen, speaking to Viaplay post-match.
"I missed that double 12 [for the nine-darter], and the leg after I missed two darts at double 12. That’s painful you know. I should have been 2-0 up there.
“I can only blame myself for that and nobody else. It wasn’t great from me today. At the end I was searching for the right form, the right throw.
“I wanted it too much. I wanted to get back to him but it didn’t happen time after time, and that was all because of what happened earlier in the game.
"Those missed doubles were decisive today. I played a great tournament, but in the final I wasn’t good enough. That’s what it is and nothing else. I’m gutted.”
Van Gerwen, who scooped Premier League, World Matchplay, World Grand Prix and Players Championship Finals titles in a trophy-laden 2022 season, remains third on the PDC Order of Merit following Tuesday’s defeat.
The Dutchman will not feature in next week’s Bahrain Darts Masters due to a pre-planned family holiday, but he will return to competitive action at the Nordic Darts Masters in Copenhagen on January 20-21.