World champion Michael Smith is not ready to hand his crown over to anyone else as he prepares for the defence of his title.

The 33-year-old lifted the Sid Waddell Trophy for the first time in January after a stunning performance against Michael van Gerwen in the final, hitting a nine-dart finish in the greatest leg in the history of the sport.

He has struggled to live up to the billing of world champion during 2023 but is determined to keep hold of the silverware in the Alexandra Palace tournament which begins next month.


“It is going to be a sad moment because I am going to be introduced as the reigning champion, but if I get beat next time I am going to be the former,” Smith, who will play Kevin Doets or Stowe Buntz in the second round, told the PA news agency.

“I don’t want to be the former. Eventually it will happen, but I’m not ready for it to end yet. I want to be announced next year as the reigning back-to-back champion, that is what I am striving for.

“I know I can do it, I have to work on my game to find it. I have done it countless times before, it is one more big push now to end the year on a big high.

“It feels like it has gone too quick. I have enjoyed it, I have virtually taken the year off darts, especially the floor events, just to enjoy what I did. Twelve months has gone by too quickly, it’s a bit saddening, but also happy to be at Ally Pally and defend my title.”

Three-time champion Van Gerwen, who plays Keane Barry or Reynaldo Rivera, has not won the title since 2019 and usually arrives at the Palace as favourite.

But he says Luke Humphries is the man to beat after winning the last three majors, including the Players Championship at the weekend.

“I don’t know if I am the favourite, Luke Humphries is playing some really good darts, he has had some fantastic results,” the Dutchman told PA.

“I am one of the favourites, everyone still wants to beat me, but there will be pressure on everybody.


“The worlds is a different kind of pressure. We are talking about the big tournament now. It is the biggest one so it adds extra pressure, you can’t compare the worlds to any other. It would mean the world to me.”

Two-time champion Peter Wright will play the winner of Jim Williams and Norman Madhoo, while Humphries faces Lee Evans or Sandro Eric Sosing.

Fallon Sherrock, who made history in 2020 when she became the first woman to win a World Championship match, is back at the Palace for a fourth time and will face Jermaine Wattimena in the first round, with Martin Schindler waiting in the second round.