NATHAN ASPINALL completed a dream World Series debut with glory in the Dafabet US Darts Masters at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino on Friday, defeating Michael Smith 8-4 in a superb final.
Aspinall has enjoyed an incredible six months to establish himself amongst the sport's top stars with a run to the World Championship semi-finals and a maiden TV title at the UK Open in March.
Those successes earned the 27-year-old a place in his first World Series event in Las Vegas, and he scooped the £20,000 title to conclude a brilliant day at the Mandalay Bay.
Aspinall followed up Thursday's first round win over Shawn Brenneman with a fine 8-5 quarter-final victory against world number two Rob Cross.
He then edged out Peter Wright 8-7 in a tight semi-final - hitting back from two legs behind on three occasions, landing finishes of 161 and 126, before surviving a missed match dart from the Scot in the deciding leg.
Aspinall then saved his best performance for the final, where he overcame Smith in a fast-paced and heavy-scoring contest with a 107 average.
He won the opening leg with a brilliant ten-dart finish, and landed two 180s in the second only to see Smith take out 130 to level.
The next two were also shared before Aspinall finished 70 and 120 to move 4-2 up as he maintained an average of over 111.
Smith took out 118 and 87 to level at four-all, but Aspinall edged the ninth leg on double 18 and pulled clear with checkouts of 85 and 80 and then landed tops to seal a sensational triumph.
"It's absolutely fantastic for me," said Aspinall. "I played really well in the semis but the way I started in the final was superb.
"I've never had a performance like that on stage and to do it in the final, I'm a very happy man.
"Growing up you want to play in front of the biggest crowds in the biggest arenas in the best countries. The UK Open was massive for me and I wanted to make a good show of myself coming to Las Vegas - it was the top seven players in the world and me!
"To come out on top and win the whole thing is brilliant. I'm enjoying life, loving my darts and reaping the rewards for the hard work I've been putting in.
"I've had an incredible time in Vegas. The crowd were on my side from the start and gave me brilliant support - and hopefully I'll be here next year to defend my title."
Smith opened Friday's quarter-finals with an 8-6 victory over World Champion Michael van Gerwen and then hit top gear to average 102 in his 8-4 semi-final defeat of Gerwyn Price.
He had been bidding to follow up last July's Shanghai Darts Masters triumph with a second World Series title, but was overpowered by Aspinall's super-show in the decider.
"It's nice to have reached the final but Nathan was too good there," said Smith. "I was chasing it from the start.
"Nathan played really well but I got myself back into it at four-all and that was my chance. Then my first dart started dropping low and I was chasing trebles.
"I played well against Gerwyn Price in the semi-finals and it was nice to get the win there. I've reached the World Championship final, the semi-finals of the UK Open and the final in Las Vegas, so it's not too bad."
Price had booked his semi-final spot with a high-quality 8-6 win over reigning US Darts Masters champion Gary Anderson as they met for the first time since the 2018 Grand Slam of Darts final.
Wright came from 5-2 down to defeat Daryl Gurney 8-6 in their last eight contest, but agonisingly missed his chance to reach the final.
The World Series of Darts will continue next weekend with the year's second international event, as the German Darts Masters takes place at the Lanxess Arena in Cologne. For tickets, visit www.eventim.de.
Dafabet US Darts Masters
Friday July 5
Michael Smith 8-6 Michael van Gerwen
Gerwyn Price 8-6 Gary Anderson
Nathan Aspinall 8-5 Rob Cross
Peter Wright 8-6 Daryl Gurney
Michael Smith 8-4 Gerwyn Price
Nathan Aspinall 8-7 Peter Wright
Nathan Aspinall 8-4 Michael Smith
Michael Smith knocked out World Champion Michael van Gerwen with an 8-6 success in the opening quarter-final at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino.
Smith capitalised on a slow start from the world number one to lead 2-0 and 3-1, with van Gerwen hitting back to level after eight legs before taking out 100 and 90 to move ahead for the first time at 6-4.
Smith, though, finished double top and 78 to draw level and then fired in double six to regain the edge at 7-6, before securing his place in the last four with a 128 checkout.
The victory was Smith's first over Van Gerwen since the Shanghai Darts Masters last July, when he went on to take the title, as he punished Van Gerwen for a below-par scoring display and 12 missed doubles.
Gerwyn Price ended Gary Anderson's title defence with an 8-6 win in a high-quality contest as the pair met for the first time since last year's Grand Slam of Darts final.
Price opened with legs of 12 and 13 darts, with Anderson hitting back to level before the Welshman fired in successive 13-dart legs to move 4-2 up.
Anderson again levelled, landing six perfect darts in a 12-darter in leg eight before moving ahead for the first time at 5-4 with a 13-darter of his own.
Price replied in kind to win leg ten, before a fine 106 combination from Anderson moved him 6-5 up as he maintained his fine finishing form with 75 percent on his doubles.
However, Price again hit back to take leg 12, and then punished five misses from the Scot in a key 13th by landing double nine to move ahead, before sealing victory on tops in the next.
Nathan Aspinall's World Series debut continued with a superb 8-5 win over 2018 US Darts Masters finalist Rob Cross, as the Stockport ace averaged over 100 to reach the semi-finals.
An outstanding start saw Aspinall lead 3-0 by taking out finishes of 12, 13 and 12 darts, and he also led 4-2 before Cross produced a superb three-leg burst of his own to move 5-4 up.
Aspinall, though, found double five to level in leg ten and then produced a huge ten-dart leg as he regained the lead at 6-5.
Double 16 moved the UK Open champion to the brink of victory, and he capitalised on six missed doubles from Cross in the next to ensure his last four spot.
Peter Wright booked his place in the US Darts Masters semi-finals with a fine comeback to defeat Daryl Gurney 8-6 in the last of the quarter-final contests.
Northern Irish ace Gurney produced a superb four-leg burst from 2-1 down to move 5-2 up, landing two 13-darters and a 112 finish along the way.
An 11-darter, which featured six perfect darts, from Wright saw him kick-start his challenge, before finishes of 93 and 80 hepled him to move 6-5 up with four straight legs.
Gurney levelled in leg 12, but Wright hit tops to regain the edge before punishing six missed doubles from his rival to complete the win on double 18.
Michael Smith powered into the US Darts Masters final with a fine 8-4 win over Gerwyn Price, averaging almost 102 and hitting five 180s in a strong performance.
An 11-darter from Smith opened the contest before he moved two legs up, and he maintained that advantage as the pair traded the next five legs.
Three successive legs from Smith saw him move out to 7-3, and though Price responded in leg 11, the World Championship finalist took out a 14-darter to book his spot in the final.
Nathan Aspinall booked a spot in the US Darts Masters on his World Series of Darts debut with a gutsy 8-7 win over Peter Wright, who missed one match dart in a dramatic deciding leg.
Wright led 2-0 before Aspinall hit back to level after six legs with a stunning 161 checkout, only to see the Scot take the next two to restore his cushion.
Aspinall replied with a 126 finish and levelled at six-all, but missed the bull to finish 86 as Wright moved a leg away from victory at 7-6.
Double ten saw Aspinall force a decider, only for the UK Open champion to miss two match darts at tops - but when Wright was unable to hit the same target he returned to seal a place in the final against Michael Smith.