Michael Smith produced a gutsy display in seeing off debutant Ryan Searle in a 10-7 win for the St Helens man. A few crucial finishes helped guide Smith into the second round of action in Blackpool, with a 136 checkout along with a superbly-struck 95 finish on the bull.
Smith admitted post-match that he wasn’t on his A-game, but refused to let his head drop and his mind was fully focused on getting the job done.
“It just shows how far I’ve come,” Smith told the PDC’s Dan Dawson. “I know it wasn’t a great game but mentally, I didn’t let my head drop once and I showed battle and grit. Over the last two years, the mental side is something that I’ve worked on. That was an A-star performance on the mental side of the game.”
Smith went on to say that in previous years, he’s always wanted to enter televised events wanting to look good and show off his prowess, but admits that it’s now all about getting the win, whether he produces his A-game or not.
“I used to always want to look good. I always want to be the best 180-hitter, which in my mind I still think I am, even though I didn’t hit one tonight. But, you won’t remember me hitting twenty 180’s and losing 10-9, will you? I’m in round two, I’ve hit no 180’s, I played garbage and I pulled it out when I needed to.”
The return of the fans at the Winter Gardens is something that Smith uses to his advantage and admits that the nerves did kick in during his first round win over Searle.
“I’m not going to lie to you, I was really nervous. I tried to put the fake smile on, but if you look back at the cameras, my eyes tell a different story. I was bricking it. I started to feel it really bad until I hit the 95 checkout and I just thought, I’m 9-6 up, why am I stressing.”
With the format extended for the second-round, Smith admitted that it’s a format that suits him well, he’s got the first round out of the way and is looking to make strides in Blackpool.
“Wednesday’s a different game, it’s a longer format – even though first to ten legs is a massive format. I’ve got over that now, the anxiety of going back on-stage with a crowd is behind me now and hopefully De Sousa is going to be a lot better game.
“I won’t go back on-stage and not a 180 again, I promise you!”
Smith takes on Portugal’s Jose de Sousa on Wednesday evening as he looks to make it to the quarter-finals for a third consecutive year.