Nathan Aspinall produced an inspirational display to claim the Players Championship 13 title in Barnsley, beating Matt Campbell 8-6.
The 30-year-old, who has been plagued by a wrist injury since the end of 2021, secured his first ranking title for two years with Sunday’s success.
The injury, affecting the tendons in the wrist of his throwing arm, saw Aspinall take some time away from the game at the beginning of the year as he underwent a period of rest and rehabilitation.
But the former UK Open Champion has battled through the pain to reach the semi-finals of a European Tour event since returning to action as well as the final of a Players Championship event last week, before sealing the £12,000 winners prize against Campbell.
“I feel so emotional, I’ve had a terrible six months with so much going on. It was only a few weeks ago I was wondering if I would ever play at the same standard again,” said Aspinall.
“I have put so much work in over the last few weeks to try and get back to the level I know I could play, and it’s all come together today.
“In two years since I’ve won a tournament, you start to doubt yourself if you belong with the big boys. But over the last couple of weeks I have put the time in and I am reaping the rewards, and today I am the winner.”
Aspinall credits a chat with his surgeon for his recent resurgence in form and change in mindset, despite the fact the wrist still needs a lot of work to be fully recovered.
“It is still an issue, the tears are still there and you have to let them heal for maybe 12-18 months,” he said.
“I got the good news that I might not require surgery and I am having an injection a week on Tuesday and that should help it.
“I know I am a Premier League player, a top eight in the world player, but I have had a lot of stuff go on.
“Now my mentality and my head is so clear, and I need to get back to where I was in 2019, winning tournaments, TV tournaments and be back in that Premier League. I just need to keep trying my hardest, and put myself in that position.”
In what was a tense final, Aspinall just shaded things – securing an early break of throw in the third leg.
Campbell, just the third Canadian to play in a PDC ProTour final and playing in his first since securing a Tour Card, levelled at 3-3 only to see Aspinall break again in the next leg.
From then on, he failed to find the required break back as Aspinall held strong to see out an 8-6 victory and secure his fourth Players Championship title.
His run to the final started with with routine wins over Joe Murnan and Nathan Rafferty, before posting a big 105.96 average in victory over Andy Boulton.
He then followed this with a 104.97 average in a 6-1 thumping of Scott Mitchell, and enjoyed convincing wins over Rob Cross (6-3) and Brendan Dolan (7-3) to reach the final.
Campbell started his day in fine form, beating Jamie Hughes 6-2 with a 106.36 average.
Another superb performance followed with a 103.46 average as he beat Danny Noppert 6-4.
The 32-year-old then saw off Krzysztof Ratajski (6-0), Peter Hudson (6-4), Martijn Kleermaker (6-3) and Gabriel Clemens (7-3) to reach the final.
It was in defeat that the highest average of the day was posted, as Adrian Lewis fired a staggering 113.12 but was thwarted by youngster Josh Rock 6-3, who posted an incredible 112.34 himself as three successive 12-darters broke a deadlock and took him to victory.
There is a now a month’s break in the Players Championship calendar, with events 14-15 taking place in Wigan from May 10-11, which will see coverage from two boards simultaneously streamed through PDCTV and bookmakers’ websites worldwide.
The PDC European Tour resumes over the Easter weekend with the German Darts Grand Prix in Munich from April 16-18. Watch through PDCTV throughout the event.
2022 Players Championship 13
Sunday April 10, Barnsley Metrodome
Martin Lukeman 6-5 Jake Jones
Gabriel Clemens 6-2 John Henderson
Matt Campbell 6-4 Peter Hudson
Martijn Kleermaker 6-4 Jonny Clayton
Brendan Dolan 6-5 Adam Gawlas
Scott Waites 6-2 Mickey Mansell
Nathan Aspinall 6-1 Scott Mitchell
Rob Cross 6-0 Kim Huybrechts
Gabriel Clemens 6-4 Martin Lukeman
Matt Campbell 6-3 Martijn Kleermaker
Brendan Dolan 6-1 Scott Waites
Nathan Aspinall 6-3 Rob Cross
Matt Campbell 7-2 Gabriel Clemens
Nathan Aspinall 7-3 Brendan Dolan
Nathan Aspinall 8-6 Matt Campbell