Michael Smith believes he has “arrived” after finally breaking his major title duck by sealing glory in the Grand Slam of Darts.
The 32-year-old had lost his first eight finals, including three this year, but finally got over the line with a classy 16-5 win over Nathan Aspinall in Wolverhampton.
During that run there have been missed darts for titles, late capitulations and heartbreaking World Championship final defeats, but he put all that right as he dismantled Aspinall.
And Smith is happy to be able to shut up the critics.
“I don’t know how to feel, I am used to the emotion of losing,” he joked.
“I have arrived now, I have got my first title under my belt and no one can say, ‘Michael Smith hasn’t won a title’.
“I have finally got one under my belt and it is time to step up. I knew when I went in at 15-5 it was just one more, even I couldn’t have messed that up.
“Now it is my time. It is time to be greedy now and get more and that is what I want.”
Smith, who ended Raymond van Barneveld’s renaissance at the semi-final stage earlier on Sunday, showed no signs of mental baggage as he dominated the best-of-31 showpiece from the first dart.
He fired nine 180s, finished with an average of 96.84 and won eight successive legs to take him to glory, falling to the floor in relief when he sent home the winning double.
It was a second major final defeat in six weeks for Aspinall, who was also beaten at the Grand Prix in Leicester in October, and he never got going against Smith.
“From the start, it was an absolutely horrific performance from myself,” he said. “I could not find the 20. If you are playing someone like Michael Smith and you’re not scoring you’re in trouble. Just one of those games.
“Bad night at the office, there is nothing I can do or say. I thought I was going to win tonight, but it is darts.
“You can be amazing one minute and pants the next. Unfortunately for me I was pants for an hour and 40 minutes.
“But if I could lose to anyone it would be Michael Smith.”