Ross Smith ready for World Matchplay darts debut in Blackpool after first title triumph

Ross Smith is relishing his Betfred World Matchplay darts debut in Blackpool buoyed by winning his first Professional Darts Corporation ranking title.

Thursday, 8th July 2021, 12:30 pm

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The final qualifying events for the PDC’s summer showpiece, which returns to its traditional Winter Gardens home a week tomorrow, are taking place in Coventry this week.

And Smith won the third of the four Players’ Championships at the city’s Ricoh Arena, ending a seven-game losing run against Brendan Dolan in the final.

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Ross Smith heads to the Winter Gardens on the back of his first ranking title

A PDC Tour Card holder since 2012, Smith finally found his way into the winners’ enclosure with an 8-4 victory over Dolan, having lost to namesake Michael Smith in a Players’ Championship final earlier this year.

But the 2019 UK Open quarter-finalist, who claimed wins over world champions Gerwyn Price and Gary Anderson earlier in the day, finally got the better of Dolan in their first meeting in a final.

In a crucial leg, the 32-year-old, found a seemingly blocked bullseye from a wide angle to make a superb 135 checkout and move into a 4-2 lead on his way to the £10,000 title.

“It feels like it’s taken me 50 years, I’ve been playing that long,” Smith joked.“I’m so happy to finally win a title, I’m bursting with pride.

“Beating Brendan is a massive mental hurdle I’ve overcome. I know I can beat anyone on my day but what I’ve always struggled with is the consistency.

“I feel like for the first time in my career I’m starting to beat the big players and then kick on in my next game.

“I hope this can be a breakthrough moment for me. Before this year I had never made a final.

“I’ve made two and one won now, so there’s no reason why I can’t make an impression at the World Matchplay.”

Dolan’s runner-up placing sees him in good form ahead of his seventh World Matchplay appearance.

The race for the Winter Gardens concludes on Thursday with the final qualifying competition as players scramble for top-16 places in the Pro Tour rankings.

Those 16 will join the top 16 in the world order of merit in the 32-strong Blackpool field.

Chris Dobey, who won Tuesday’s Players Championship in Coventry, went into the final event hanging on to16th spot.

No players in the chasing pack, including former Winter Gardens runners-up Raymond van Barneveld and Adrian Lewis, were able to progress far enough in Wednesday’s competition to close the gap on Dobey ahead of the final qualifier.