Darts semi-final against Bully Boy
Gabriel Clemens’ most colossal World Cup duel
By Tobias Nordman
01/02/2023 5:49 p.m
Gabriel Clemens is on course for the final of the Darts World Cup in London. The next top opponent follows after the world number one Gerwyn Price. ntv.de does the check: what speaks for the “German Giant” – and what for his opponent Michael Smith?
Not much would have been missing and the first semi-final of the Darts World Championship would have taken place without Gabriel Clemens and Michael Smith. The two arrow colossi have each “survived” a game that they should never have “survived”. The “German Giant”, who amazingly won his quarterfinals against “Iceman” Gerwyn Price, was already on the verge of being eliminated in the third round against Jim Williams. The Welshman had already pulled the duel to his side with an insane success rate on the crucial double fields before he lost the precision at the match dart and he never recovered from it.
The “Bully Boy” survived his duel with Stephen Bunting even crazier. “The Bullet” scored his English compatriot to the ground, but suffered a frustrating “double trouble”. But because only the one who hits the double fields wins, Bunting was eliminated – and Smith is in the semifinals. ntv.de expert Kevin Schulte saw “one of the strangest games of the World Cup”, which the “‘Bully Boy’ must never win”. Now in the evening there is a duel between Clemens, the first German ever in the semi-finals, and the Englishman, who only broke free from the final curse at the major tournaments a few weeks ago and won the first major title at the Grand Slam of Darts. Now the second big title can and should follow.
“Bully Boy” isn’t playing his best darts
And Smith beckons a second coup. After Price’s surprise exit, he is a candidate to take the top spot in the world rankings on January 4th. But Peter Wright from Scotland, who has already been eliminated, can also move up if neither Smith nor Michael van Gerwen win the tournament. It’s not that far yet, first the semi-finals, first “Bully Boy” against the “German Giant”. And again the 39-year-old from Saarland is just the outsider, as he was against Price. And again he meets a world-class opponent who is far from playing his best darts in this tournament.
And so Clemens not only speaks for the role of the player who has nothing to lose, but also that he is the man who is in the best shape after a mixed season at the climax. He brought four strong games to the stage. His performance in the round of 16 against the Scottish firefighter Alan Soutar was remarkable and was topped a round later against the world number one. His scoring was impressive, especially on the triple 20 “Gaga” was incredibly strong. Hardly a shot (three arrows) remained without a hit on a triple field. Added to this is the stoic calm with which Clemens steps to the oche. He doesn’t allow himself to be driven by the backdrop of Ally-Pally, which is well disposed towards him, nor unsettled by an opponent’s antics. Price’s strange headphone action bounced off the “German Giant”.
Smith has become much stronger mentally
And so the furious run and the associated confidence in his own class should be Clemens’ big trump card in this duel. Even if his opponent was the second strongest player of the past year after van Gerwen and with the victory at the Grand Slam of Darts he also assured himself that he is a man for the big stages and the big titles. A parallel, by the way, to Peter Wright, who was also the “eternal second” for many years and became even stronger after his first triumph at the UK Open in 2017 and finally went through the roof after the 2020 World Cup title.
Nicknames: “German” Giant (Clemens), “Bully Boy” (Smith)
Old: 39 (Clement), 32 (Smith)
World Ranking: 25 (Clement), 4 (Smith)
PDC tournament victories: 0 (Clement), 21 (Smith)
Prize money 2021 and 2022: 221,250 pounds (Clemens), 758,500 pounds (Smith)
Nine-Darter on TV: 0 (Clement), 2 (Smith)
Walk-in music: “Wonderwall” (Clemens) “Shut up & dance” (Smith)
Smith has become much more mentally stable as a player. His talent is huge, his scoring skills feared. But when things didn’t go well, the Englishman quarreled with himself so vehemently that he messed up games out of anger at himself. The state of mind of the 32-year-old was obvious to any opponent. “He put a lot of effort into it,” says Kevin Schulte. “He would certainly have lost a game like against Martin Schindler in round three at the last World Cup,” believes the ntv.de expert. This new strength is an important pound, because “that’s exactly what you need against such a relaxed player like Clemens”.
In addition, experience in such duels speaks for Smith. He has already been in the final twice, so he knows how to win the World Cup semi-finals and how to dose the strength in the long set duels. Nevertheless, Schulte believes in Clemens’ chance: “‘Gaga’ played four really good games, Michael Smith didn’t manage that. He was only really strong against Joe Cullen and hasn’t actually played a good World Cup for his standards so far.” The two have already played each other five times, four times the Englishman left the stage as the winner, but it was never as big as tonight at 8.45 p.m (in the live ticker at ntv.de).