Aspinall: Smith success inspired World Matchplay triumph

Nathan Aspinall (Taylor Lanning/PDC)

Nathan Aspinall revealed that he used world number one Michael Smith as inspiration for his maiden Betfred World Matchplay success at Blackpool’s Winter Gardens last weekend.

Aspinall stormed to victory following nine thrilling days of action at the Empress Ballroom, delivering a darting clinic to dispatch Jonny Clayton 18-6 in Sunday’s showpiece.

He also defeated Krzysztof Ratajski, Danny Noppert, Chris Dobey and Joe Cullen on his way to winning his second televised ranking title, and his first since March 2019.

Aspinall produced a remarkable mid-game blitz to sweep aside a shell-shocked Clayton, converting five ton-plus checkouts and winning 13 of the last 14 legs to cap off a mesmeric display.

“It's an amazing feeling. I'm so happy for me and my family and so proud of myself,” said Aspinall, who becomes the 12th player to lift the coveted Phil Taylor Trophy.

“I did so well to keep it at five-all, I was doing Jonny Clayton things! I was taking out those three-dart combinations and that kept me in the game.

“I think for those ten legs, my scoring was up there with the best I've ever scored and that was the telling factor tonight.

“To share that final with Jonny was very special. He is such a lovely guy. He’s the best person on the tour.

“I wish him and his family all the best. He’s a gentleman of the game, he’s a credit to our sport, but I’m just happy I beat him!”

Aspinall’s darting journey has not been without adversity; he relinquished his PDC Tour Card in 2017, and upon his return to the professional circuit, also endured a number of financial worries.

More recently, the former UK Open champion suffered a serious wrist injury that left him contemplating his long-term future in the sport, although he’s since bounced back in style.

The 32-year-old reached World Grand Prix and Grand Slam of Darts finals in 2022 to confirm his return to the sport’s top echelons, and his World Matchplay success elevates him to a career-high of world number five.

“Moments like this are why you make the sacrifices. It’s just brilliant,” continued the Stockport thrower. “I believed I could win it, but believing is one thing, and doing it is another!

“After what I’ve been through in the last 12 to 18 months, it’s been pretty tough.

“I’ve been hideous to be around at times, but I’ve always believed in myself, my family and my management have believed in me, and now I’ve won another big one [title].”

Aspinall was overcome by emotion after scooping the £200,000 top prize in comprehensive fashion, which also boosts his hopes of making his World Cup of Darts debut in 2024.

The 2020 Premier League runner-up has made no secret of his desire to represent his country, and he’s now in pole position to partner World Champion Smith in next year’s Pairs event.

However, Aspinall revealed that Smith’s success has fuelled his own return to winning ways on the big stage, as he sets his sights on further silverware in the coming months.

“Michael Smith got his new darts and I nicked a set off him the other week – they’re in my darts case,” added Aspinall, who returns to action in August’s World Series of Darts double-header Down Under.

“I’m using that as inspiration, because he’s a guy like me who hasn’t come from much and he’s our World Champion and world number one.

“I’ve got Smithy’s flights, a picture of my kids and I look at my case and I see that as inspiration. If Smithy can do it, why can’t I?

“I’ve done it now. It’s not the World Championship, but it’s the next best thing. I’m buzzing, and I’m going to enjoy this moment for as long as I can.”