Not just still standing… I’m starting to climb!
Last week I wrote that a lot can change in seven days in darts – and so it proved! I have felt like I really needed a bit of luck and a deep run in one of these TV events to give me some momentum, and the European Championship certainly provided that. The bit of luck I needed was probably the challenges that Dirk van Duijvenbode had in our first-round tie where he was clearly struggling with injury and needed the help of a huge amount of Deep Heat.
That said, it really didn’t do me any favours as it was fiercely strong. I don’t know if it was shaking Dirk’s hand or just the fumes, but it got in my eyes and was burning like crazy. I don’t think I have ever taken my glasses off so many times in a match and it felt like I had been eating chillies.
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Once that win was under my belt, I felt my confidence coming back and I started hitting big finishes at big moments. That was certainly the case in my game with Jose de Sousa where I hit him with three-figure check-outs every time he slipped up.
That set up a clash with Luke Humphries, an absolute class act who is going to win a lot of events. I have had some big battles recently with Luke with him finding some crazy averages (including one where he gave me a 6-0 thumping).
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In the build-up, Luke said some really nice things about me, including saying that he thought I was under-appreciated in darts. I have explained here that I find it difficult sometimes to have the flair and showmanship of some of the players because I am trying to keep an even keel on stage, but it was very kind of him to fly the flag for me.
It was a good game with Luke, which I was delighted to win. That gave me the chance to tackle MVG’s conqueror Gian van Veen. Even though he made a fast start and raced into a decent lead, I knew that if I kept up my standard and pressured him at some point, he would feel it, and that proved to be the case.
In the end, the final with Peter Wright was a game too far. Peter was the better player and fully deserving of the win. I was disappointed to fade like that but consoled by the fact that I was back in the Grand Slam, a tournament I really enjoy.
Having missed out on the event for the first time in as long as I can remember last year, I am keen to make up for lost time and also defending the ranking points I picked up two years ago when I reached the semi-final at Wolverhampton. I like the group format and once it gets into the knockout stages, the longer format games seem to really suit me.
I am also looking forward to giving a young fan his first experience of the darting arena. A good friend of mine lives in the Midlands and his son Jack is going to be cheering me on over the weekend, and hopefully acting as a good luck charm. Thanks as ever for the support and hopefully you’ll tune into the Grand Slam.
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