Cult hero Qiang Sun set to make his eagerly-anticipated return to the Alexandra Palace stage tonight

By Richard Edwards
19 DECEMBER 2016 • 6:30PM

Qiang Sun will make his eagerly-anticipated return to the Alexandra Palace stage when he makes his second appearance in the William Hill World Darts Championship tonight.

The Chinese thrower was one of the unlikely heroes of last year’s tournament, embracing the Ally Pally crowd during his 2-0 defeat to Mick McGowan in the preliminary round on his debut.

Sun came through a 32-player field in the China Qualifier in October to secure another taste of the big stage.

With this year seeing the launch of the Shanghai Darts Masters in the PDC’s World Series, Sun explains how darts is growing in his home nation.

“In China, there are many dart players,” he said. “Also, there are more tournaments being held around China in the last few years.

“It’s a good phenomenon with a message of hope in developing darts in China.

“Right now, soft tip darts is relatively more popular in China because of its strong recreational effects.

“However, tournaments for steel tip darts are much less than there are for soft tip darts.

“The most influential event would be the China Qualifier for the PDC World Championship.

“The PDC China Qualifier has expanded in the form of regional tournaments, and as a result covers a large regional span in China.”

Sun is currently scheduled to fly back to China on Wednesday, but that could be cancelled if he could pull off what would be classed as two big upsets this evening.

First up for Sun is the newly crowned Unicorn World Youth champion Corey Cadby, who many are tipping to have a big run in his debut year at Alexandra Palace.

Should he get past Cadby, Sun would then take on 28th seed Joe Cullen, who has reached two TV quarter-finals this year, but in six previous appearances has failed to get past the last 64 of the World Championship.

For Sun, though, his main ambition is to once again embrace the experience of playing in what is now regarded as the biggest tournament in darts.

“I’ve played darts since 1998,” he said. “It has been 18 years and darts has enriched my life a lot.

“For my happiest memories, I would say it was darts that brought me to my wife. She’s a darts fan as well.

“I just want to take a good rest before the big event, so I’ve got nothing special planned to prepare for it.

“Besides playing darts, I love spending time with my pets. I have two dogs at home.”

Known in China as ‘Da Xian’, which means ‘the Crane’ in English, Sun hopes to have many more opportunities to play on the big stage, but admits there are several contenders coming through the ranks in his country.

“Yuanjun Liu and Xiaochen Zong, who I’ve come into company with this year, are both great dart players in China,” he said.

“For the expectation in 2017, I would love to keep playing darts and enjoy the moments when playing darts. I wish I could come to Ally Pally again next year.”

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Phil Taylor says preparation will be key as he bids for a record breaking 17th world title

By Alex Moss
14 DECEMBER 2016 • 2:23PM 

Phil Taylor says his ‘preparation is going to be perfect’ as he gets ready to embark on another World Championship campaign this weekend.

The 16-time world champion will be playing in his 28th consecutive World Championship when he contests his first round game of the William Hill World Darts Championship on Sunday.

The sport’s most successful player, now ranked fourth on the PDC Order of Merit, has won 14 of the 23 stagings so far of the PDC’s World Championship.

And as he eyes a 17th world title, to break his own record, Taylor insists his preparation will play an important part in his end result.

“I’m feeling alright,” he said. “I’ve had a couple of weeks now to get ready, which I’m pleased about, and for me it’s about rest and practice.

“I’ve got to get my preparation right but I’ve played well this year.

“My preparation is going to be perfect. It is all about preparation and that’s what I’m targeting.”

Having dominated the sport for more than two decades, Taylor has seen his crown slip into the hands of Michael van Gerwen during the last few years.

Since beating the Dutchman to win his 16th world title in 2013, Taylor has only got past the third round of the World Championship once in the next three years.

The Power’s last TV major win was just over two years ago now, when he won the 2014 Grand Slam of Darts, but the 56-year-old’s outlook on darts has changed.

“I want to enjoy it all now because I’m slowing down now,” Taylor said.

“The schedule’s busier and I find the travelling harder, but this has been my life now for over 25 years.

“I’m looking to relax and enjoy my life and I’m coming towards the end of my career.

“I’ll still play in the events I’ve qualified for and that I’m invited to, but away from that I’m slowing down now.

“Life changes when you get into your 50s and this is my time – somewhere down the line you have to call it a day and this is the start of it.

“I’ve got grandkids and I’ll be able to spend more time with them and do some normal things again, like going away for three or four holidays a year and enjoying things a bit more because I’ll have more time.

“I’m looking forward to it. I’m ready for what we call a normal life, where I’m not sitting on motorways every week and staying in hotels and having a bit of time at home.

“I’ve earned the right to sit back a little bit now and let the others take over.

“I don’t want to be 60 or 70-years-old still on TV, I want to do other things now and have a normal life.”

After relinquishing third seed for this year’s World Championship to Peter Wright, Taylor finds himself in the toughest quarter of the 72-player draw.

A tricky clash with Belgium’s Kim Huybrechts could await Taylor in the third round, with Adrian Lewis and Raymond van Barneveld two of his possible opponents in the quarter-finals.

Before that, Taylor will be fully focused on his first assignment at the Alexandra Palace: John Bowles or David Platt in the first round on December 18.

“I’ve got the winner of two players so I don’t really know who I’m going to play yet, whether it’s John Bowles or David Platt,” he said.

“David’s been around on the circuit for a while before he moved to Australia and I know he’s good, and John’s done really well to qualify.

“It’s two good players, don’t get me wrong, so it all depends who gets through, but I’ll be ready.”

Although 2016 will not go down as one of Taylor’s most trophy- laden years of his illustrious career, it has certainly not been without its success.

In June, Taylor teamed up with Lewis to win the PDC World Cup of Darts for a fourth time, before coming out on top in the Austrian Darts Open seven days later.

Defeats to van Gerwen in the finals of the Premier League and World Matchplay was then followed by triumphs over the Green Machine in the Sydney Darts Masters and Champions League of Darts.

The latter of those was a particular high point in Taylor’s season, with the Power beating van Gerwen twice in two days to lift the new trophy on the BBC.

This year has seen Taylor already start to cut back on his playing schedule, with the victory in the Champions League of Darts coming after a four-week break from competition.

After missing the Players Championship Finals at the end of last month, Taylor will have also had another four weeks between competitive matches when he faces Bowles or Platt later next week.

“It was great to go into the BBC event wide awake,” he said.

“I’ve still got the game and that was probably the best I’ve played all year to be honest.

“At times this year it’s been great, and the Champions League was a real highlight for me, as was winning in Sydney again.

“A couple of the finals this year I could have won quite easily.

“I’ve just missed a few doubles and he didn’t, and I’ve let him off.

“It’s just a matter of going in there fit and healthy and ready for it, that’s all it is for me now.”

Whether Taylor does go on to lift the Sid Waddell Trophy one more time, either in 2017 or 2018, or not, his achievements and contribution to darts have left a legacy which will never be forgotten.

As van Gerwen goes in search for a 44th tournament victory in the space of two years, it is clear to see who the favourite is to walk away with the record £350,000 prize, but Taylor can never be written off.

Mark Frost aiming to be ice cool on William Hill World Darts Championship debut next week

By Alex Moss
5 DECEMBER 2016 • 10:31PM 

Mark Frost is aiming to pull off one of the biggest shocks in the history of the William Hill World Darts Championship next week.

The 45-year-old, ranked 72nd on the PDC Order of Merit, came through a field of more than 100 players to win the PDPA Qualifier in Wigan last week, and with it secure a place in the first round at Alexandra Palace.

Moments after booking his place in a World Championship for the first time in his career, Frost was drawn out against the defending champion, and his good friend, Gary Anderson in the first round.

It is a clash which Frost will be the underdog for, with Anderson having walked away with the Sid Waddell Trophy in the last two stagings of the lucrative event.

And with Frost knowing he will need to beat the second seed to finish the year inside the top 64 to keep his tour card, it is a challenge which the recent Players Championship semi-finalist is ready to embrace.

“I’ve heard he’s not bad,” Frost joked when reminded of the opponent he will face on his Alexandra Palace debut a week on Thursday.

“We always sit on the same table (at Pro Tour events). I’ll be trying my best to beat him.

“It’s going to be hard. I’ve obviously played Barney at the Matchplay which was a fantastic atmosphere.

“I believe it’s supposed to be even more special at this one though.

“I’ve never been. It will be my first time and it’s the first time I’ve ever played Gary I think.”

Frost played 53 legs of darts during last Monday’s qualifier, with a 5-2 win against Kevin Simm in the final putting him straight through to the first round at the Alexandra Palace.

Simm, along with beaten semi-finalists Simon Stevenson and John Bowles will all start in the preliminary round.

“It was nice to know I’d already qualified (when I got to the semi-finals) but I still wanted (to win the qualifier) to get to the first round,” Frost said. “It was a long day. I was shattered by the time it finished.

“My phone hasn’t stopped as you can imagine. It’s amazing really.

“I played really well on the day. I was awesome, that’s not me blowing my own trumpet, I played that well.

“I just played consistent and I was averaging 100 all day.”

Darren Webster: Win against Phil Taylor has given me a big boost for the rest of the year

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Darren Webster whitewashed Phil Taylor 5-0 in the Grand Slam last night CREDIT: LAWRENCE LUSTIG/PDC

By Alex Moss
15 NOVEMBER 2016 • 2:47PM

Darren Webster says he is ‘over the moon’ after whitewashing Phil Taylor 5-0 in his final game of the SINGHA Beer Grand Slam of Darts last night.

The Norwich-based thrower, ranked 40th on the PDC Order of Merit, could not qualify for the knockout stages of the Grand Slam after losing his opening two group games against Ian White (5-3) and Darryl Fitton (5-4) at the weekend.

But the 48-year-old pulled off arguably the biggest win of his career with a surprising whitewash victory against the 16-time world champion in their dead rubber encounter in Group D.

“I never give up ever, no matter who I play,” Webster said. “Phil was off sorts, but it’s worse playing him when he’s off sorts because you think he’s going to kick in any minute.

“I just kept steady and I’m prepared now for the Players Championship (Finals) and the World Championship with that win. I’m over the moon.

“(The win against Phil) gives you confidence. Ok, Phil normally averages 104, 108 all the time.

“I just tried to keep steady. A 95 average, I average 10, 15, 20 points higher than that on tour, but I’m starting to learn how to get it up there.

“It hasn’t been a great tournament for me, but it has in one way. It’s a big boost for me for the end of the year.”

Last night was not the first time Webster has recorded a whitewash win over Taylor. The Demoltion Man thrashed the Stoke legend 6-0 in a Players Championship event in Ireland back in 2014.

Despite the defeat, Taylor still finished top of Group D, albeit by legs difference after Darryl Fitton clinched the runners-up spot with his second win of the tournament, beating Ian White 5-4 in a nervy decider.

Michael van Gerwen in a confident mood after finishing top of Group A in the Grand Slam

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Michael van Gerwen finished top of Group A in the Grand Slam last night CREDIT: LAWRENCE LUSTIG/PDC

By Darts Weekly Staff
15 NOVEMBER 2016 • 11:26AM

Michael van Gerwen continued the defence of his SINGHA Beer Grand Slam of Darts title with a 5-1 thrashing of Max Hopp to finish top of Group A last night.

The PDC number one dropped just four legs over three group games, with the 5-1 triumph over Hopp following wins over Martin Adams (5-2) and Brendan Dolan (5-1) at the weekend.

Van Gerwen also lost only four legs in the group stage on his way to winning the Grand Slam for the first time last year, and the Dutchman is in a confident mood heading into the knockout stage of this year’s tournament.

“I think I couldn’t do much more to be fair,” he said. “I did enough. I did the right things at the right moments and I’m glad to be through to the next round.

“I also didn’t need to use much energy. This was a nice warm up in the group. I wasn’t really worrying about anything.

“I just need to make sure I get my confidence for the next round and then I will be sure that this tournament is going to be fine.”

Phil Taylor, one of van Gerwen’s main challengers in the Grand Slam this week, suffered a surprising 5-0 defeat to Darren Webster last night, but the Dutchman is only concentrating on his own game, with the two potentially set to meet in the semi-finals on Sunday.

“Sometimes people surprise me, like the Darren Webster game earlier on,” van Gerwen said.

“I never expected him to win 5-0. You never know what happens in darts, that’s the difficult thing.

“I know my strong points and I need to show them myself in the next game.

“I don’t want to look to other people. I just want to rely on my own game and no one elses.”

Jamie Hughes: “I’ve been to watch it before a few times but to play in the Grand Slam is going to be special”

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Jamie Hughes takes on James Wade in his SINGHA Beer Grand Slam of Darts debut tomorrow CREDIT: DAVID GILL

By Alex Moss
11 NOVEMBER 2016 • 7:01PM

Wolverhampton expects, and so does Jamie Hughes.

Ahead of making his debut in what he calls his home tournament, Hughes was yesterday expecting the birth of his second child.

The 30-year-old, lives in Tipton, a mere six miles away from the Wolverhampton Civic Hall, the venue for the 10th staging of the SINGHA Beer Grand Slam of Darts, which starts tomorrow.

And for Hughes, who qualified as one of the top four ranked players in the BDO not already in the tournament, it is an occasion which he can’t wait to experience.

“It’s my home tournament so I should have a lot of support there,” he said.

“I’ve been up there and watched it a couple of times as well, so it’ll be a bit special to be going up there myself this time.”

Hughes has arguably the toughest draw of the eight BDO players in the cross-code tournament, with James Wade, Dave Chisnall and James Wilson joining him in Group G.

“It’s very tough,” the former World Masters finalist said.

“James Wade and Dave Chisnall are two Premier League regulars from the last few years, and I’ve also got probably one of the most in-form players in James Wilson, so it’s going to be tough.

“I’ve played Wilson a few times before, but I’ve never played Chisnall or Wade, so that’ll be something new.”

The best of nine leg format for the group stages of the Grand Slam is one of the shortest formats which the PDC players experience on the circuit, while for the likes of Hughes and his BDO players, he is used to even shorter formats.

“The shorter format puts it a bit more in my favour I think,” he said.

“The PDC players will be used to playing over a lot longer format.

“I suppose ranking wise you’ve got most of the top eight in the BDO there so it’s one of the best groups of players the BDO have taken there.”

Since helping England win the WDF Europe Cup team event in late September, the build up to Hughes’ Grand Slam debut has been a quiet one on the oche.

Aside from a trip to Turkey at the end of last month, which saw him lose out in the final of the Turkish Open to Martin Phillips in a deciding leg, Hughes has had his focus elsewhere.

“It’s been quite quiet to be honest,” he said. “I went to Turkey, that was the last one I went into, two weeks ago.

“I’d of preferred to be busier because it keeps your arm sharp you know.

“It is what it is. I haven’t been able to do much because my partner has been pregnant, so it’s all good preparation for the Grand Slam!

“It’ll be nice to have it off my mind but whatever happens happens. I’ll just deal with whatever happens.

“I’ve got a seven-year-old girl. I wasn’t on the circuit or anything back then (when she was born), so it didn’t really affect me. I was just a county player then.”

The Grand Slam this weekend marks the start of an important couple of months for a lot of players, including those of BDO persuasion.

At the start of December, Hughes heads to Lakeside for the Winmau World Masters, before heading out for the Finder Darts Masters and then after Christmas, back to Lakeside for the World Championship in early January.

“It’s the Masters and then Finder Masters just after that,” he said.

“And then it’ll be Lakeside. It’ll be nice to have good runs in all the tournaments again.

“I never go into a tournament thinking I’m going to win it because that’s a bit of an arrogant attitude, and you’re disrespecting the other players.

“It would be great to have some good runs again, but I don’t think you can look that far ahead.

“It’s disrespectful to the other players thinking that you can just beat them all.

“I think that’s when it can come back and bite you and you can lose a bit of an edge on your game as well.

“I played well in Turkey, so hopefully I can carry it on.

“It’s all on the day though, so we’ll see what happens.”

If Hughes is to have a prolonged debut year in the Grand Slam, then he will not have to travel far to get back home.

“I’m only like six, seven or eight miles away,” he said. “So it’s a £10 taxi.”

Peter Wright: When my form starts Michael van Gerwen won’t be on the same planet

Ladbrokes World Series of Darts Finals, Braehead
Peter Wright lost to Michael van Gerwen in the Ladbrokes World Series of Darts Finals on Sunday night CREDIT: STEVE WELSH/PDC

By Darts Weekly Staff
9 NOVEMBER 2016 • 9:39AM

Peter Wright is adamant he now has the darts which will help him end Michael van Gerwen’s dominance in the PDC.

The world number five was narrowly beaten 11-9 by van Gerwen in the final of the Ladbrokes World Series of Darts Finals on Sunday night, in what was his sixth televised final defeat to the Dutchman.

But Wright insists his new set up is going to help him surpass van Gerwen’s form and land him his first televised title.

In an interview with the Diamond Geezer website after Sunday’s final defeat, Wright said: “I didn’t feel I got close in the final to be honest. I was miles away in my mind. I had chances to level up the game. But saying that Michael missed four darts to win it.

“It would have been nice to go 10-10 and go down to the last leg like last year.

“I’m just really angry with myself. I’m pleased in one way that the darts are working now.

“I’ve said to Red Dragon that you have found the darts eventually after all these years.

“Now it’s just up to me tinkering with the point, stem and flight. They’ve done a fantastic job. Watch out, I’m only just starting with these darts.

“I’m looking forward to the rest of the year, I’m going to be flying. No one has seen anything yet.

“I know what I’ve got to do to stop Michael. When my form starts Michael won’t be on the same planet.

“These darts will make sure that I’m doing what Michael is currently doing but even better. But I’ll get to Michael, I will do.”