Michael Smith: Winning the PDC Grand Prix would show doubles doubters

So often the nearly man of recent times, Michael Smith is aiming to break his TV tournament duck in Dublin by hitting his doubles

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 30: Michael Smith of England celebrates victory over Nathan Aspinall of England after the 2019 William Hill World Darts Championship Semi-Final match between Nathan Aspinall and Michael Smith at Alexandra Palace on December 30, 2018 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by James Chance/Getty Images)


Paddy Power News: You had a tough match against Simon Whitlock in the first round of the Grand Prix in Dublin, you must’ve been delighted to get through?

Michael Smith: The way it started, I didn’t think I was doing too well. But, he kept giving it large at silly points and that kind of annoyed me. When that 128 went in to save the match, I knew I had to start playing then. I did that, not to my full potential, but I still got the win.

I was annoyed with myself early in the match too, I just couldn’t reach the level I wanted to and I was throwing at tops, but I was nowhere near. I don’t think I was hitting double 15 or 10s then either, my scoring was off too. But, I managed to persist and keep going, luckily enough it started to go in a bit then.

PPN: What do you do when that happens, what do you do? Is it just a matter of you know it will come right eventually?

MS: You just have to bide your time, but I left it a bit too long in that match because he nearly won. The 128 was the crucial shot and it kick-started me into the game. I won the set from there, and when he left 36 I hit a 155 outshot. So, I knew it was coming right at the right time.

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PPN: Is it frustrating when you know things are not right in such a big match?

MS: It is, especially when you add in I’ve never done well here at the Grand Prix. That’s only my second win here in seven years (check that stat). But, I was glad to get there in the end. It’s another win and it was another tournament where I want to push for the quarters or semi-finals and maybe win it, who knows!

PPN: It’d be great to get this one because you’ve had so many runners-up spots…

MS: I’d especially love to win the Grand Prix because people keep saying my doubles are bad and stuff like that. It’s a double-to-start tournament as well, so to win this would be fantastic. This tournament started so many careers too. It was (Michael) van Gerwen’s first one, Daryl Gurney’s first victory and Colin Lloyd’s opening one too. Who knows, it could be me next.

This is the hardest tournament because it’s the best of three sets. We spend all year playing first to six and it’s crucial because you go into the game thinking ‘don’t lose the first set’ – rather than going in to smash the first set. But, I was just glad to get over the line against Simon and get ready for playing Ian White tomorrow in the best of five. That means you’ve more time to settle in and it should be okay then.

PPN: Is it hard to come down after a tense contest like that?

MS: No, I sleep great after matches. I was even late for these interviews! Every day I’ve been up at 8am for darts, so I was like I’ve got to have a lie-in today and I woke up at 12pm. I was out for the count, the match didn’t even bother me. Early on in my career, it was harder. I’d be watching the highlights on Twitter or looking back at my match on YouTube, I’d be texting everyone too. But now, I just put my phone on charge.

In this hotel, you don’t have a plug next to your bed anyways. So you have to charge it on the other side of the room, and you have to put it down and go to sleep!

PPN: You lost to Rob Cross in the World Matchplay final, how have you been feeling about that?

MS: That was the worst one for me, it killed me. That hurt more than losing thew Worlds or the Premier League and all the others I’ve been in. That was the one where I was like, ‘I’ve had so many chances, this is the one’. Again, I was playing the better darts out of the two, like I did against Michael [van Gerwen] in the World final – I was the better player going into it – and I was just trying too hard.

It just all went to pot.

I found myself 9-0 down, but I got it back to 13-11 and I still felt I had a chance to win. But, I just went again instead of just relaxing and hitting everything like I was before I got back close. The minute I tensed up, then nothing happened and that’s what hurt me the most.

It’s all a learning curve. I’ve been playing in the PDC for 10 years now and I should have learned not to tighten up and just relax. If I relax, I play a better game.

LONDON, ENGLAND – DECEMBER 23: Michael Smith of England walks onto the stage prior to the secod round match against Rob Cross of England on day ten of the 2018 William Hill PDC World Darts Championships at Alexandra Palace on December 23, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images)

PPN: Have you come across any tips from other people on what to do in that situation?

MS: There are certain people I could listen too, but there are other people who’d tell me something and I’m like ‘you’ve not been there to tell me how to relax.’ But, any advice is welcome. I’m probably the best person to give advice, but I don’t listen to my own advice. So I could tell an up-and-coming kid what to do, but I couldn’t do it myself.

I just want to be my own man, when someone compares you to someone or says your the next so-and-so, I just want to be me and carry on like that. If being me is not good enough, it’s not good enough. But, I’ve proved this year and last year that it is good enough. It’s just one final hurdle that I need to jump over.

PPN: When you said you’d rather have been beaten in the first round than the final, was that true?

MS: That wasn’t anger, that was true. It was because I’ve lost first round countless times in my career. Losing in the first round is easier to get over than losing in a final. If that was my first final, I wouldn’t have said that.

But, because it was final after final after final, I just felt that way.

It’s easier to control your emotions after a first-round loss. I was doing interviews after the final and every single reporter asked me the same question, ‘How does it feel to loss all your major finals?’ After the second or third guy I just went mad and started swearing. One of the PDC staff had to drag me out, and that’s when I said it.

Everything just came flooding back, the Worlds, the Premier League, the World Series finals and you just get fed up of answering. It’s like football, you have a press conference and each person gets there own question. So it was hard to keep answering the same ones. If I got to this final and lost, I’d still say the same thing.

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