James Wade’s third UK Open title in a third different decade saw the Machine catapult back into the world’s top four on the PDC Order of Merit.
Few players in the game have ever achieved such consistency as the 37-year-old, who has remained at the sport’s top table for over 15 years.
His latest major title is a reminder of his capabilities, and his storied career is far from over. Indeed, the Aldershot native feels his experience serves him well, and that he is better placed than he was upon his early breakthrough in the sport.
“In 2007 when I won the Matchplay, I think that I was so caught up in the moment that I didn’t realise what I had done, and I’ve gone through all those years now and I realise what you’re achieving, what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. I may have even savoured the moment a little bit more this time I think,” he reflected, speaking to The Darts Show Podcast.
“Perhaps I took it for granted a little bit.
“It happened to me very quickly. I think it was two or three years and I won the first major. It was too quick I think.
It happened to me very quickly. I think it was two or three years and I won the first major. It was too quick I think.
Wade reflects that success came too early in his career
“This is my third reinvention of myself,” he continued. “I could honestly look back between four or five years between – I guess 11 and ’17, I’m not just on about the problems I’ve had. I was adjusting to medication, and I tried lots of different medications and that completely screwed my brain. Personal life, I was a young man. That was different. I was enjoying life.
“I was growing up, with the problems I had, and also the big, big thing, maybe not as big as my mental health, but the other big thing was my throw. No one told me – I’ve so many friends in darts – nobody told me that my arm was six inches higher than it was [supposed to be]. And it was like that for years. Not one person told me.
“As soon as I noticed that – I corrected that not that long ago, probably two years ago, and it is slowly turning the corner. I’m slowly becoming a bit more consistent. I’m slowly getting some scoring power back.
“I think that’s why I had a bad five years. I really do…It was just so inconsistent.”
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UK Open glory
Wade enjoyed a memorable run at Milton Keynes last weekend, beating Ryan Joyce, Rob Cross, Gabriel Clemens, Simon Whitlock, Gerwyn Price and Luke Humphries to become just the second player who has won PDC major titles across three different decades.
It is an achievement of which he can be proud, as he eyes more silverware.
“It’s lovely to win it three times,” he smiled. “I think the last one was just as precious as the first one. I’m really, really happy. Especially the way I played as well. The draws I was unfortunate to get as well, the timing on top of all that. It was really good.”
And he was happy with the manner in which he piled on the pressure on his opponents, producing big legs at the crucial moments.
“That’s how you play your darts. You get into someone quick, and most of them don’t like it,” he explained.
“If you get into even some of the top ones, they do collapse. I don’t see why they do it, but more than enough of them do do it.
“The game is not as hard as people say it is. When I’m playing as I can up there, it can be comfortable and enjoyable. If my head is not switched on and I’m not in the right place, I can lose silly games, I can play bloody awful.
“It’s just starting to come. I feel like I’m playing better. The weekend I definitely played well. But the weekend before that I played well as well. I just feel the better patches are more regular.”
Premier League omission
Wade’s major title came just too late in order for him to be handed a 2021 Premier League spot. But he feels that he was nonetheless deserving of one.
“I’m probably frustrated, not annoyed. It’s happened to me more than enough times to mention,” he lamented.
“If it had been chosen on the dates they always choose it, I believe I was eligible for it. I believe I was eligible for that last place, maybe not even the last place, probably a couple up the list. Because I’m always competitive when I’m in it.
“I’m normally around there on the last night. I’ve never disgraced myself in it. But they kept it open for another tournament, which Jonny Clayton won. If you do it on what people in there have done, they all deserve their places.
“But if they had done it on the dates they’ve always done it, the closing date, I think I should have been in. But every player in that tournament has won a major title. And you cannot argue with that.
“I’ve put on a brave face and said it doesn’t bother me. But it does. It hurts.”
Wade finds himself back in the top four of the world. But 2021 brings a different landscape to perhaps any stage in the PDC era, as there is not one single force dominating on the oche.
“There’s not one dominant player anymore, which is quite strange. Darts has never had that, I don’t think. I haven’t had that since I’ve been involved anyway,” he outlined.
“It’s good for other players, because random players can come along and have a run, and they can win a title.
“It’s bad because the rankings fluctuate so much, because you haven’t got one dominant body. It used to be, as a rule, there was for a long time period, Phil, me, you, and there were a couple of others that could do the business if it was the right time for them. But apart from that, that’s why the rankings were always the same.”
Watch live coverage of the 2021 Premier League on Sky Sports – the action gets under way on Monday April 5 with five consecutive nights of action from the Marshall Arena, Milton Keynes.