Michael Smith completed his journey from World Youth Champion to World Champion within a decade, when he won darts’ most prestigious prize, the PDC World Championship, at Alexandra Palace earlier this year.
The World No.1, dubbed ‘Bully Boy’, is aiming to become just the fourth player in the tournament’s history to win the trophy back-to-back when it gets underway on December 15.
However, Smith is the fourth favourite at 7/1 in the PDC World Championship odds — leaving him behind three-time winner Michael van Gerwen (4/1), 2021 winner Gerwyn Price (9/2) and fellow Englishman Luke Humphries — who is seeking his first title.
It’s hard to rule out the defending champion and the player with the official title as the best in the world though. So, as Smith gears up for his return to ‘Ally Pally’, let’s take a look back at how he won the World Darts Championship.
As one of the top seeds, Smith entered the tournament in the second round — and he was drawn to face qualifier Nathan Rafferty.
It was the first time the then-Development Tour player had qualified for the main event, and this was the biggest game of the young Northern Irishman’s career.
However, the 23-year-old lost 3-0 in all three sets for an overall defeat of 3-0 on sets.
29th seed Martin Schindler presented a far bigger danger in the third round, and the German brought a good fight to Smith.
Schindler and Bully Boy took a set each to begin with, but ‘The Wall’ then stormed into a 3-1 lead and a possible upset appeared to be on the cards in the darts odds.
The German needed just one more set to dispatch Smith, but he remained composed and won three straight sets to secure a dramatic 4-3 win.
The games just getting harder for Smith, and he had to see off 13th seed Joe Cullen in the fourth round to book a place in the quarters.
The two Englishmen took a set each to make 1-1. But it soon became an uneven affair, and Smith took three successive sets 3-0, 3-2, and 3-2 to wrap up a rather comfortable 4-1 victory.
The quarter-finals saw Bully Boy take on another compatriot, this time in the form of former BDO World Darts Championship winner Stephen Bunting.
Again, it started with both players taking a set each. However, Smith appeared to be on course for a straightforward victory when storming into a 4-1 lead.
‘The Bullet’ wouldn’t give up easily though, clawing it back to 4-3. But Smith put any hope of a comeback to bed when winning the eighth set 3-1 for a 5-3 success.
25th seed Gabriel Clemens stunned the 2021 World Championship victor Gerwyn Price in the quarters, but Smith would prove a set too far for the German in the semis.
The pair traded blow-for-blow to make it 2-2 after the first four sets. However, Bully Boy soon took control of the game.
He won the fifth set 3-0 to take a 3-2 lead overall, and Smith never looked back — charging on to a 6-2 win over Clemens.
Smith’s only other World Championship final appearance ended in defeat to van Gerwen in 2019, so when he met the Dutchman in the showpiece again, it was a chance for redemption.
The game toed and froed in the first five sets. ‘Might Mike’ won the first set before Smith secured the next two, but van Gerwen then won two on the trot himself to go back in front with a 3-2 lead.
Bully Boy went on a fantastic run of four straight sets, however, to go 6-3 up. Van Gerwen pulled one back to make it 6-4, but Smith won the 11th set 3-2 for a 7-4 win.