The new PDC season got underway on Sunday with UK qualifiers for the first European Tour events of 2016, and for one player in particular it certainly marked a quick return to form.
In the first leg of his final qualifier for the Dutch Darts Masters, Jamie Caven produced the perfect leg of darts.
Jabba finished off a 150 checkout with bull and double tops to complete a nine dart leg, and then closed out a 6-1 win over Mark Barilli to book his place in Venray in three weeks’ time.
“That was the very first leg of the final match,” Caven recalled. “So to hit a nine darter in the first leg, it’s hard to keep that average up.
“It’s good to do one towards the end of the game, but any time is a good time really and I finished it off with a 12 darter and a 132 finish. So I knew that I played pretty well.
“You just go with how you feel. I’ve never done a nine darter on tour in the normal way before.
“I’ve done them in exhibitions and practice going 180, 180, 141, but the other one I’ve had on tour a few years ago against Simon Whitlock was quite unique as well.
“I started 167, 180 and then took out 154 by going treble 20, treble 20 and double 17.
“That was pretty unique too, but when you block the treble you have to switch. That’s why I didn’t have any hesitation in going bull, double top and it’s always nice when they come off like that.”
Caven’s nine-dart joy on Sunday was short lived though, as the world number 23 then suffered a surprise 6-5 defeat to Welshman Robert Owen in the qualifiers for the German Darts Masters.
“We had the first event on Sunday and I played pretty well and got through that,” Caven said.
“I had the nine darter and things were going really good, but on the flip side in the second qualifier it was just a case of missed doubles.
“I had a few that were all on the wire and I couldn’t have put them closer if I put them in the board with my hand. It was just a case of they didn’t go in.
“I was 5-3 down and had come back well to 5-5, and then I missed six darts to go through. Any other time it would go in straight away.
“When you miss with the fourth, fifth and sixth darts, I knew then straight away I wasn’t going to be getting another shot.
“But I’m not going to dwell on that. That’s all it was, missed doubles at the wrong time.”
After reaching his fifth major quarter-final at the end of the 2014 season, Caven’s progression appeared to have halted last year, with the 39-year-old suffering first round exits in the World Matchplay, World Grand Prix and Players Championship Finals.
However, the former Winmau World Youth Masters winner bounced back last month and recorded his best-ever run at the PDC World Championship.
Straight set wins over both Rob Szabo and Ricky Evans secured Jabba’s place in the last 16 for the first time in his career, with James Wade edging their clash 4-1.
“I had quite a disappointing year,” Caven admitted. “I didn’t achieve half of what I wanted to, but then to go and have my best-ever run in the Worlds was a bit bizarre really.
“It gives me a platform to build on. I need to make sure I’m in as many of the big events as I can.”