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You’ve just got to focus, hopefully he’ll let you in a couple of times and then you take your chances.”Lewis only started playing darts at 17, made his TV debut as an inconsistent 19-year-old and turned pro at 21.

He came to the sport two decades after pints were consumed on stage by the athletes – it’s just water now and the competitors are regularly drug tested – but the crowds are no less immense.

“On TV it doesn’t seem anywhere near as loud as it is in the venue, nothing compared to being there,” he insists. There’s no “quiet please” from the umpire here.

“I’d rather it be a bit more rowdy than quiet. If someone shouts out louder than the other three or four thousand in the venue, then that can put you off, but it’s all part of it.”

Handling that pressure, as well as the head to head nature of competition, is all part of what pays the bills for the pros. There is a £1million prize pool on offer at the championships.

“We make a good living, we do,” Lewis says. “It’s not about the money even, at the end of the day we play darts, we love it and we get paid for it – can’t ask for more than that.”As a kid in Stoke, Lewis never conceived of seeing the world.

“I love it, but it didn’t even cross my mind,” he says. 

“I don’t know how I would have ever thought about it growing up. Obviously now I’ve seen a lot of the world and I consider myself very lucky.” 

His favourite place probably isn’t a shock: “I love Vegas, visiting and playing there.”And he has no hard feelings against those fruit machines either, now he’s more than old enough to play them, and he’s been paid back in part.

“A couple of years ago I was in there with me wife (then his girlfriend), and she won US$24,000 on a fruit machine,” he laughs.

“And it paid for the wedding.” Seriously, can this bloke stop losing?

Bullseyes on the Prize: The Whiz and TNT for Oz

Simon ‘The Wizard of Oz’ Whitlock has been carrying the Aussie flag in professional darts for years, striding into arenas to the signature Down Under by Men At Work, but we’ve got a good feeling about one of his country mates, Shane Tichowitsch, known as “TNT”.

The darts dynamite, 45, from Bundaberg, Queensland, is a massive long-shot at the World Darts Championship, starting Friday.

He earned his spot after finishing top of the Dart Players Australia Order of Merit, and faces English world number 12 Dave Chisnall in round one.

Whitlock is reigning European champion and was world champs runner-up in 2010.

Defending champion Adrian Lewis says he’s one to watch out for in the tournament: “He’s one of the best finishers in the game.” 

Seeded fifth, Whitlock will play the winner of a preliminary round match-up between Japan’s Haruki Muramatsu or New Zealand champion Dave Harrington.

 

Ladbrokes PDC World Darts Championships run from December 14 to January 1 at Alexandra Palace, broadcast on Sky Sports HD. 
Tix from £20  N22 7AY  
pdc.tv  
Tube | Wood Green  Alexandra Palace

 

Photos: Getty; Lawrence Lustig/PDC


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