NATHAN ASPINALL goes into the BetFred World Matchplay as a title favourite but admits his career changed by a missed bullseye.
The World No.7 became the inaugural PDC Home Tour lockdown champion three weeks ago and is fired-up for the first major back on the big stage in a month’s time.
But the Stockport ace, 28, revealed he doesn’t think he’d be the latest star of the oche if Gerwyn Price had beaten him at the Worlds two years ago.
He said: “I often do wonder what would have happened if he had hit the bull to beat me three-nil in sets in the second round of the World Championships two years ago. Would I be wear I am now as World No.7?
“Hand on my heart I don’t think I would be. I really really don’t. I do think that game, me beaten someone of his calibre, he was pretty much the best player in the world at that time. To beat him on the biggest stage made me think I am actually good enough.
“I do think that moment and that game changed my whole career. So thank you Gerwyn Price!
“Our sport is 10 per cent ability, 90 per cent in the head. I’m quite strong minded. There’s some players that are and some aren’t. When you are confident and everything is right in your head and at home, it flows.”
Aspinall also admits that other pivotal moments came when he lost the 2015 World Youth Championships to Max Hopp in a deciding leg and then winning his first Players Championship three years later when he was penniless.
He added: “Not many speak about the Youth final to be fair, it absolutely broke me. For six months I couldn’t win a game, I was a broken man. It proper screwed me up. If I hadn’t lost that title I would have got a place in the Worlds and I would have retained my tour card. But I think that’s helped me be the player I’ve become now.
“It means I can dig deep and come back from positions that not many other players can come back from.
“I think that stems from games like that against Max
early on in my career where I’ve had a right good uppercut and now I’ve become stronger”.
“I won my first Players Championship in Barnsley and I didn’t have any money to get a taxi from the Metrodome to the train station. I had no money left but I had just won 10 grand!
“I walked to the train station with a suitcase on the train. I got home and thought ‘wow I can’t wait for that to clear because I’m skint’.
“I was buzzing, it was another moment in my career that I thought I am good enough to make a living out of darts.”
Now Aspinall can’t wait to get back onto the big stage for the Matchplay and he’ll start as a real contender for the title.
He added: “I’m just hoping I can kick off where I left off before lockdown. I’ve upped my practice, I’m playing really well.
“I never thought I’d miss the darts as much as I have. I’ve missed the darts, the lads, the craic, all the things that come with the darts tour.
“We’ve got the Summer Series on July 8 before the Matchplay which is a great idea with the PDC.
“You can play at home in matches and hit big averages but they count for nothing, it’s what happens on the big stage.
“To put the five days of Players Championships on before is a great shout and hopefully that will get rid of some rust and get us ready for the Matchplay, wherever that will be.
“Personally I’d love it to be at Blackpool but I can’t see it. Obviously we’ll have to see what happens on July 4 when the Government announces the next move. But I do think it’s going to be at an alternative venue and likely to be Milton Keynes.”
Pictures by Taylor Lanning
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