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'I’ve still got the fight' - Michael Smith reacts after nail-biting World Darts Championship opener

Michael Smith produced a brilliant fightback to kick off his defence of the Paddy Power World Darts Championship title on a thrilling opening night at London’s Alexandra Palace.

Reigning champion Smith turned on the style in the closing stages to book his place in round three, after recovering from 2-1 down in sets to deny Dutch debutant Kevin Doets in a high-quality contest.

The world number one was facing the prospect of becoming the first defending champion to lose their opening match in the sport’s showpiece event since 2009, before he fought back magnificently to keep his hopes alive.

Smith showed no sign of early nerves on his Alexandra Palace return, wrapping up the opening set with a ton-plus average to send out an early statement in the capital.

However, Doets – who dispatched Grand Slam of Darts quarter-finalist Stowe Buntz 3-0 in the opening match of the tournament – halted Smith’s charge to restore parity at one set apiece.

The St Helens star responded with a spectacular 150 finish midway through set three, although Doets was unfazed, reeling off legs of 12, 14 and 13 darts to move a set away from a famous victory.

Nevertheless, Smith followed up a 13-darter with a brilliant 121 on the bull en route to clinching set four, and a majestic 142 checkout in the opening leg of set five catapulted him to an impressive comeback victory.

“I feel good. It’s a game that I needed,” insisted Smith, who averaged 100, crashed in five 180s and pinned 50 per cent of his attempts at a double.

“It was nice to show that I’ve still got the fight and I still know how to battle back, and I think in the last seven or eight legs I played really well.

“I kept my focus and I hit a couple of key shots at the right time. That’s what I’ve been doing in practice, and this result has given me a big confidence boost.”

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