|Sky Sports darts commentator Stuart Pyke takes his own personal look back on a fabulous week by the seaside! |
Wish you could have been here…..weather roasting hot, atmosphere brilliant, beer cold and plentiful and oh yes…..the best World Matchplay Championships in the 13-year history of the event.
Food good, top quality coverage from Sky and top quality tungsten!
See you at The Winter Gardens in 2007.
That just about sums it up….an amazing week of darts….over 600 legs, 232 180s, scintillating check-outs, shocks galore, the emergence of the new breed and of course a certain Mr Taylor.
It all added up to something very special. The crowds were phenomenal….a sell-out with over 2,000 fans every session but boy it was also the hottest Blackpool ever. At one stage, everyone was in meltdown and when you take into account the lights and the humidity, temperatures would have touched 110 degrees at their worst.
We will never forget the sight of poor Dennis Smith, wilting in the heat in his match against Ronnie Baxter. ‘Smiffy’ is fine now but needed urgent medical attention after suffering heat stroke. Most of the players coped pretty well with the searing heat and an air conditioning unit was placed close to the stage to cool them down between throws.
I just had the feeling I as arrived at the venue on that opening night that there was something special in the air – and we weren’t disappointed, as the week just got better and better.
James Wade and Andy Hamilton…..we salute you, because you are the future of darts. We have known for some time that these two guys have the talent and they chose to display that on one the biggest stages in world darts.
If Wade continues to throw like that in the next 12 months, he will graduate from Unicorn Contender to Unicorn Maestro. He stumbled at the final hurdle and will think back to those crucial 14th and 15th legs, when he missed darts at doubles to go 10-5 up on Taylor.
But to beat the likes of Ovens, Painter, Mason and Scholten in such style, confirmed that a new darts star has been born…..quite simply, Wade has come of age. Quitting his job as a mechanic has paid dividends and his £15,000 runners-up cheque will give him the financial freedom to give the circuit a real good go…..also he has a holiday in Barbados to look forward to – courtesy of sponsor Jason Thame – who promised Wade the trip of a
lifetime if he reached the final……well done Wadey mate – you deserve it!
And what about ‘The Hammer’ Andy Hamilton…..darts very own King Henry VIII look-alike…..he played like a darts king all week, just missing a 9-darter in the semi-final against Taylor and losing that match with a 102 average. It’s been a remarkable 12 months for Hamilton, because he has only been playing the PDC circuit for a year. His reward for a brilliant Blackpool week is a place in the world’s top 32. I reckon by January, he will be in the top 16 and over the next few years, his star will rise over the wide world of tungsten.
Taylor was…well, Taylor! After losing to Barney in both the UK Open and Las Vegas Desert Classic, he knew he had a point to prove…..he averaged 100 all week and it was a tough draw as well. ‘The Power’ had to beat Bob Anderson, John Part, Dennis Priestley, Hamilton and then Wade.
Other stars of the week for me…..Dennis Priestley – who has just turned 56 but is playing better than ever and gave Taylor a real run for his money…..and the Blackpool fans, who sold out every single session. They came over-dressed and under-dressed and shouted their support from the rafters.
The biggest disappointment….well, I’m afraid that has to be John Part and I’m sure he won’t disagree. His performance against Taylor in the 2nd round was his worst in all those epic clashes between the two over the years.
The match of the week? Well, it has to be that brilliant semi-final between Wade and Scholten…..for sheer drama, tungsten tension and magnificent darts, you couldn’t beat it. In fact seasoned observers of all 13 World Matchplay tournaments reckon it is now in the top five of all time…..I for one wouldn’t disagree. 19-17 to Wade in the tie-break, 19 180s and 10 x 100+ finishes…..fantastic darting fare.
It was a pleasure to commentate on and I have to reveal that despite all the hot air coming from the commentary box (!!) we were very grateful to have an air conditioning system pumping in cool air! One of the perks of the job I guess!
So roll on Blackpool 2007…..tickets for the tournament will go on sale in early January. They will be sold out within hours. It’s hardly surprising because it really doesn’t get any better than this.