World Matchplay 2021: Michael van Gerwen and Peter Wright set up blockbuster semi-final clash
Peter Wright eliminates Michael Smith 16-7 to set up semi-final clash against Michael van Gerwen, who overcame Nathan Aspinall 16-9; watch the World Matchplay semi-finals from 7pm Saturday on Sky Sports Arena.
By Cameron Hogwood at the Winter Gardens, Blackpool
Last Updated: 24/07/21 9:27pm
Michael van Gerwen was well shy of his blistering best but did not need to be as he laboured past Nathan Aspinall in a lacklustre contest to set up a World Matchplay semi-final showdown with Peter Wright.
A stuttering matchup was decided late on when Van Gerwen conjured his most assured spell of the match to finish the last three legs in 36 darts.
Michael Smith's agonising wait for a maiden televised title meanwhile goes on after he was outplayed in a 16-7 defeat to Wright, who called out his own below-par effort on the doubles amid his search of a first Winter Gardens crown.
"Of course that [the win] is the most important thing, we all know I played a really poor performance and I can only be annoyed with myself, I had so many chances early doors to make it even more difficult," Van Gerwen said. "What can you say? Listen I won it.
"Normally in the last few games or year I probably would have lost because of the moment I was in but I never give up, I always give 100 per cent and it's not always nice but we have to fight. Then games like this don't matter, you want to win.
"I'm really looking forward to tomorrow, first I need to cool myself down and analyse my game because I made a lot of mistakes here so I need to make sure I'm doing it better tomorrow. To be playing Peter Wright in the semi-final I think is a fantastic game for the crowd to watch."
MVG defeats Aspinall in low-quality affair
Michael van Gerwen kept his hopes of winning a third Matchplay title alive as he edged out Nathan Aspinall 16-9 in a matchup that had promised so much but delivered short of expectations.
A game of plummeting averages saw MVG salvage a 94.72 in comparison to Aspinall's 90.21, while both men missed 27 doubles each on the night.
An electricity upon two famously popular walk-ons was fuelled further by exchanges of 180 from the pair to open their accounts on the evening, little did they and an expectant crowd know the performance levels would decline drastically.
Van Gerwen moved into the ascendency early on when tops garnered him a 3-1 lead after Aspinall had been unable to take out 66 for the break. The Dutchman then squandered three at double 16 for 4-1 to this time hand the initiative to his opponent, amounting to tops to rescue the hold of throw.
The Green Machine did finally chalk up number four courtesy of a 110 finish, until the contest fell worryingly flat with both averaging around the 90 mark.
Double 16 evaded Van Gerwen on three more occasions at 5-2 to assist a third leg for Aspinall, who followed up by sinking bullseye for a sublime 130 and a much-needed eruption of emotion to reduce the deficit to 5-4. The Englishman crossed everything for a sustained change in fortune, but to no avail, as Van Gerwen kept his composure to fire 68 and emit his first meaningful 'boom' of the night, which he built on with a 13-darter for 7-4 shortly after.
Another miss on double 16 for Van Gerwen was tarnished by three at double eight, which Aspinall was able to find for a break of throw and an unlikely 7-5 while averaging just 89. Again though he was unable to capitalise, Van Gerwen breaking straight back before pinning double on for 9-5 after Aspinall had missed nine darts, hoisting his average down to 85 in the process.
Van Gerwen punished three missed doubles from Aspinall to strengthen his grip at 12-6 without ever really getting close to his best, until what felt like a defining moment came in leg 23 when the Green Machine reeled off his most clinical combination yet to see off 88.
The two-time champion eventually wrapped it up with an 81 checkout to pencil in a rematch of the World Championship final of two years ago against famous foe Wright.
World Matchplay 2021: Friday's Quarter-Finals
|Peter Wright 16-7 Michael Smith|
|Michael van Gerwen 16-9 Nathan Aspinall|
|best of 31 legs|
Wright out-plays Smith to cruise to semi-finals
Peter Wright's average and confidence grew from strength to strength as the former world champion steamrolled his way to a 16-7 win over Michael Smith and a spot in the final four.
Snakebite, who has now beaten Smith in nine of their last 14 meetings, averaged 100.37 to his opponent's 99.23 but was left underwhelmed with a 36 per cent doubles conversion rate (16/44) he knows will need to improve if he is to lift the Phil Taylor trophy this weekend. His 25 more darts at a double than Smith were, though, reflective of his dominance.
"My percentage on doubles was terrible, and obviously 100 average is not that good but I was actually nervous," said Wright. "I felt brilliant coming on stage, I hit too many loose darts and too many 100s that should have been 140s, 180s but it's a W."
Smith hindered himself with a slow start from the off, missing tops to gift Wright a 2-0 cushion before clawing his way back to 2-2 with an 11-darter he had hoped would be a catalyst for a spike to his average. But he was pegged back again when a miscue on double 18 cost him a 76 checkout and an invaluable break, inviting Wright to rescue the hold on tops for 3-2.
At 4-2 Bully Boy then missed bullseye for a 121 break, instead seeing Wright return to pin double nine for a three-leg advantage. He continued to loiter though, responding to a 14-darter by sending a clutch 65 on tops to make it 6-4, with both men at this point playing on near identical averages just upwards of 100.
It was Wright who kicked on, punishing Smith's failure to take out 72 by dispatching 66 for a break and 8-4 before seeing off 91 immediately after while pushing his average to around 105.
From there the game began to run away from Smith when an 88 checkout for 12-4 and a break was glossed by a 13-darter for 13-4.
Smith fought to keep himself alive with a resilient spell that saw him finish 84 for 13-6 and nail tops for 13-7, but the damage had been done, his miss on bullseye for a 170 spectacular handing Wright his eventual match darts.
Watch the World Matchplay from the iconic Winter Gardens all the way through until Sunday, July 25. Check out daily Darts news on skysports.com/darts, our app for mobile devices and our Twitter account @skysportsdarts