He was very close, had the big favorite on the brink of defeat. But he didn’t make it across the finish line. 27 hours after gabriel Clemens’ furious 4:3 against Jim Williams, Martin Schindler had to bow to the speed and quality of Michael Smith, despite an outstanding performance at times. The 26-year-old lost 3:4. Germany will be represented by Clemens alone in the Round of 16 of the Darts World Championship. “My back was against the wall,” admitted number four in the world rankings after the match.

After Schindler had cheered on from the spectator area the night before, the two best German dart players swapped roles on Wednesday evening. And “The Wall” made it clear from the start against the 2022 World Cup finalists that he was very keen to challenge the big favorite and 2022 World Cup finalists that evening. He missed the first break chances in the first leg, but in the decider he started with six perfect darts against the throw and won set one. His average was promising: 101.27.

He had met Smith nine times on the tour so far, only once, in August 2021 it was enough for a narrow victory. And shortly afterwards, Schindler was reminded of his class again. The Strausberger was down 40 points in the first leg of the second set, but was then knocked out in the face with the highest possible finish. Smith checked the 170 points. A feat that only the German had managed to do in the tournament so far. Round two went smoothly to the “Bully Boy” with an average of 107.36 points.

In the third set, Schindler had the chance to score his second 170 of the World Championship. He hit the triple 20 twice and just missed the check on the bullseye – but he got the leg anyway and bounced across the stage like a bouncy ball after the break. Cheered on by the many German fans, the duel against the Englishman increasingly turned into a home game. After four breaks, the two met in the decider, and Schindler again presented himself as strong as an ox: five of his first six shots landed in the triple-20. Shortly thereafter, he erased 88 points in two darts to win a set 2-1. An 11-darter in the deciding leg. Pure world class!

“Oh, how beautiful it is,” echoed through the Alexandra Palace, and memories of the previous evening were awakened, but the 26-year-old was still two sentences away from the sensation. Only minutes later, however, this got clear contours: with a 128 checkout, the number 29 in the world rankings made the break to 2-0 in set four and thus also the new set win perfectly: 3: 1 for the German. Smith now needed three sets in a row.

Schindler was the great opportunity just before the finish line, however, to note. He missed five chances for what was perhaps a decisive break to make it 2-1, was punished for the mistakes, but then at least held his throw and forced Smith into the decider. With 121 points left, he could have had a chance at a match dart, but he only hit the single-5 with the first dart. Smith checked on double 20 to make it 2-3. The favorite had now found his rhythm and won set six 3-1. The seventh and last round had to bring the decision.

Smith used his throw advantage and took a 1-0 lead, but Schindler countered again after both sides had missed chances to make it 1-1. The tension was unbearable and the pressure on the two pros was immense. However, the experienced Englishman didn’t show anything, checked 83 points with two darts and then pulled through. His first match dart landed in the middle of double 20. At the end of the day, the average throw was 95.36 points, he hit 40 percent of his doubles, the dream of the first title lives on.

Michael van Gerwen had previously underpinned his ambitions for the world title, but had a lot more trouble than expected in his task. Mensur Suljovic turned out to be a real touchstone for the Dutchman in the 4:2. “It was a great match, certainly my best in the past three years,” said the Serb, who was starting for Austria.

Months of suffering lie behind Suljovic. Due to latent health problems following his corona vaccination in summer 2021, he has only been able to train continuously for a few weeks. All the more surprising was his performance against van Gerwen, who had to play an incredible average of 115.84 points to win the first two sets in the decider.

His opponent had a score of 102.9, demonstrated an uncanny security when checking and deservedly secured the third set 3:1. When he took a 2-1 lead in the fourth round, even the sensation seemed possible. His double rate was still an incredible 82 percent, he had hit nine of his eleven attempts. But van Gerwen forced the decider and started it with six perfect darts – the basis for 3:1 after sets.

The following round also went over five legs, with the scene of the match in the last. “Mighty Mike” didn’t trust Suljovic with 161 points to win the set, gave up his match dart on the bullseye with 50 points left and instead put 32 points left on the 18. A mistake – the Austrian instructed the Dutchman about triple-20, triple- 17, Bullseye to 2: 3 after sets. “You have to trust every player to check. You shouldn’t do what he did,” Suljovic later criticized, while van Gerwen admitted: “I would do it again and again.”

Not relevant to the result, but telling of how close it was between the two: Legs were tied at 12-12. Who would have thought that before? The fact that van Gerwen then pulled through, kept his nerve and closed the match to 4:2 could no longer detract from his opponent’s performance. However, in the astonishment at the resurrection of the 50-year-old, van Gerwen’s strong performance again went down a bit: the Dutchman ended with an average of 107.66 points and thus remains the first contender for the really big hit in the final on January 3rd, the would be tantamount to returning to number one in the world rankings.

At the beginning of the evening, another player, Joe Cullen, was in talks for the title. The Englishman beat Australia’s Damon Heta 4-0. “It wasn’t great, it was solid at best,” said the “Rockstar” after his average of 98.09, thereby emphasizing his own claims.

After the last four third round games, the first two round of 16 will take place on Thursday evening in London. Gerwyn Price meets Jose de Sousa, who still turned his match after a 0:3 against Ryan Searle, youngster Josh Rock challenges Jonny Clayton. For Gabriel Clemens things continue on Friday afternoon. Against Scotsman Alan Soutar he then wants to be the first German to reach a World Cup quarter-finals.

3rd round:

Dimitri van den Bergh (BEL/15) – Krzysztof Ratajski (POL/18) 4:1 (3:2; 3:0; 0:3; 3:1; 3:1)

Nathan Aspinall (ENG/10) – Josh Rock (NIR) 3:4 (2:3; 3:1, 3:1; 1:3; 2:3; 3:0; 1:3)

Jonny Clayton (WAL/7) – Brendan Dolan (NIR/26) 4:1 (3:2; 3:2; 3:2; 2:3; 3:2)

Jim Williams (WAL) – Gabriel Clemens (D/25) 3:4 (1:3; 3:0; 1:3; 3:2; 3:1; 2:3; 1:3)

Gerwyn Price (WAL/1) – Raymond van Barneveld (NED/32) 4:0 (3:1; 3:1; 3:2; 3:1)

Peter Wright (SCO/2) – Kim Huybrechts (BEL/31) 1:4 (3:0; 0:3; 1:3; 2:3; 2:3)

Ryan Searle (ENG/16) – Jose de Sousa (ENG/17) 3:4 (3:1; 3:2; 3:1; 2:3; 2:3; 1:3; 1:3)

Danny Noppert (NED/9) – Alan Soutar (SCO) 2:4 (3:1; 3:0; 1:3; 0:3; 1:3; 0:3)

Gary Anderson (SCO/11) – Chris Dobey (ENG/22) 1:4 (3:0; 2:3; 2:3, 2:3; 1:3)

Joe Cullen (ENG/13) – Damon Heta (AUS/20) 4:0 (3:2; 3:1; 3:2; 3:0)

Michael van Gerwen (NED/3) – Mensur Suljovic (AUT/30) 4:2 (3:2; 3:2; 1:3; 3:2; 2:3; 3:1)

Michael Smith (ENG/4) ­– Martin Schindler (D/29) 4:3 (2:3; 3:0; 2:3; 1:3; 3:2; 3:1; 3:1)

3rd round (from 1.45 p.m.):

Dirk van Duijvenbode (NED/14) – Ross Smith (ENG/19)

Rob Cross (ENG/6) – Mervyn King (ENG/27)

Dave Chisnall (ENG/12) – Stephen Bunting (ENG/21)

from 8.15 p.m.:

Luke Humphries (ENG/5) – Vincent van der Voort (ENG/28)

followed by two rounds of 16:

Gerwyn Price (WAL/1) – José de Sousa (POR/17)

Jonny Clayton (WAL/7) – Josh Rock (NIR)