Next up in our Match of my life series is Stockport’s Nathan Aspinall.
We caught up with ‘The Asp’ to relive the one match where it all came together, a match where he felt he was at his absolute best.
There were numerous matches to choose from for a player who has made tremendous progress on the PDC Tour in recent years.
But for Aspinall, a weekend in July 2019 stands out, when he claimed the US Darts Masters title at Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas,
Spurred on by being the lowest ranked PDC representative at the event, Aspinall has fond memories of the Las Vegas experience and the way he played.
“It was unreal, everything changed really quickly in my career,” said Aspinall.
“When I walked in, it's what you see in the movies, it was amazing.
“My friend from Canada came over, he was by best mate when I was growing up and I hadn’t seen him for a few years, so it was nice to have him.
“It was great, I just tried to enjoy the moment, I think it was the top seven in the world at the time and then myself. I was about 14th or 15th, so I just kept saying it’s the best seven in the world plus me.
“For me to come out on top was amazing, I played really well and I don’t think I have ever played a final as well as I did against Michael Smith that year.”
The victory was the culmination of an incredible few months for Aspinall.
In September the previous year, he won his first ranking title by beating Ryan Searle in a Players Championship event - helping him to qualify for a first appearance in the World Darts Championship.
As a 500/1 outsider, Aspinall produced an incredible run to defeat the likes of Gerwyn Price, Kyle Anderson and Brendan Dolan, before losing to Smith in the semi-finals.
His fine form would continue in 2019 and a first PDC major would follow in March, as he beat Rob Cross to claim victory in the UK Open.
Therefore, it came as no surprise to many in the world of darts when he received his Mandalay Bay invite, and ‘The Asp’ did not disappoint.
After beating Canada’s Shawn Brenneman in the first round, Aspinall produced fantastic performances to defeat Rob Cross and Peter Wright, which set up the final with Smith.
Aspinall produced an average of 106.70 to win 8-4 and he still uses the experience as motivation and a source of belief when he is approaching big matches.
“The start of the game was unreal. I am good pals with Mike and it was nice to share that final with him.
“It was nice to come out on top, it was a great game and hopefully there will be more to come.
“I think I’m one of the players that does perform under pressure in big moments, I think I’ve got that in my locker and I’ve proved time and time again that I can produce in these big moments.
“Once you have a scare in the semi-finals and could potentially be knocked out, you are kind of free-rolling and that’s how I felt in that final. I produced my best in the final.
“Vegas was probably the best weekend tournament that I have ever produced, even to this day.
“I think I averaged over 100 in every game. I always look back and think I can do that, that was three or four years ago and I’m a different animal now.”
Smith himself is proof of what can happen following success in the bet365 US Darts Masters.
He went on to win the Grand Slam of Darts weeks later, defeating Aspinall in the final before going on to claim his first world title.
Aspinall is hopeful that he can follow Smith's example.
“Me and Mike have a joke at the moment that I made him who he is! He beat me in the Grand Slam, he hadn’t won a TV title until that moment.
“I’m proud of what he has achieved and if I can follow in his footsteps, then I’ll be one happy guy.
“He won it last year and went on to the win the worlds. Let's have a repeat.
“Two Manchester lads both winning in America and both winning at Ally Pally, that would be pretty good."