Evening Standard

'By winning the world title I proved that even when the chips are low, I can still come back and deliver the goods,' says Lewis. Image courtesy of Evening Standard

For a man who has become world darts champion for the second year running, Adrian Lewis could be forgiven for resting on his laurels. But, as we meet in a pub near the Bank of England, the 27-year-old exudes the hunger that Mervyn King, the Governor of the Bank, would like to see in this country’s entrepreneurs.

“I want to help England win the World Cup and be No 1 by the end of the year,” he says. “I have won two world titles and I want to win many, many more. I’ve got respect for everybody I play but I don’t fear anybody. Nobody causes me sleepless nights.”

Not even Phil Taylor, the man Lewis will partner in England’s World Cup team in Germany this week and whose long held No1 crown he seeks?

“With his record [15 world titles] and experience, you’ve got to say he is the best player in the world. We’ve played five times on TV over the last year. He beat me three times and I beat him twice. But I’m not scared of him.

“When I am playing my game, I fear nobody. When I go up there to play him, I don’t start thinking about what he’s done in the past, it’s like a fight.”

Taylor has spoken of Lewis being “a son to him”, they have practised together and the world No2 admits: “Phil has been helpful in a lot of respects.”

However, ask him if he owes anything to his fellow star from Stoke and he responds sharply: “I don’t know that I owe Phil anything. I had already played in a couple of TV events before I actually met him. He never sponsored me. If he wanted to sponsor me he could have said there’s the money.”

Lewis is impressed with the determination of Taylor who, at 51, is nearly twice as old. “The day after he won one of his world titles, he was back on the practice board again. That just shows his character. We are both gritty characters. We have the determination to succeed, it’s the way we’ve been brought up in the Potteries.”

And that upbringing came from Lewis’s mother, Yvonne. “My mum used to play county darts. She was a massive influence, helping me get to where I am now. To tell you the truth I thought I was going to be in the building trade, I worked in a builders’ merchants in Stoke. My mum kept pushing me and pushing me. She is a care worker. When I took up darts at the age of 17 she would give me £50 a week.”

The influence was all the more crucial as his parents separated when he was young. So, although his father Sammy Wright played darts for England, he says sadly: “I didn’t really meet my dad until I was 17 and a half and I was already playing darts then.”

They only met because Lewis sought him out, knocked on his door, and his parents have since reconciled.

By then he had already found his darts hero: the Dutchman Raymond van Barneveld. Lewis says: “I like watching Ray, I’ve always loved his action and his throw inspired me. He’s made darts what it is in Holland, he’s like a king over there.”

Lewis has some way to go before he can claim such a status and crowds, far from admiring his style, have often booed him for what has been perceived as unacceptable behaviour.

In the 2008 Holland Masters, a row with opponent Kevin Painter ended with Lewis being banned for a month and fined £400.

“Yeah,” admits Lewis sheepishly. “We had an argument on stage. I didn’t like the way he was walking straight down the oche. Obviously, you might walk off either side but he was walking straight down the middle. So I told him what I thought and the next minute we were arguing and then both got banned.”

The 2012 PDC World Championships at Alexandra Palace saw more problems during his semi-final with James Wade. Trailing 2-0, Lewis and Wade left the stage after both players complained about a draught blowing across the stage. This provoked the crowd although it was Lewis they heckled when play resumed.

He does admit that crowds have tried to put him off as he is preparing to throw. Lewis says: “There’s a lot of it that goes on but I don’t think I draw particular attention. I’m not looking for an argument. If people have bets against you, then they’re obviously shouting, ‘Miss it’. You hear everything. I think it’s harder when there are a couple of people at the front shouting ‘Miss’ or calling you whatever they want to call you.

“I don’t care what the crowd are doing. All I’m trying to do is get the job done and, when I’m playing, that’s what goes through my mind.”

The Wade semi-final illustrated Lewis’s ability to shut out the crowd as he came back from 5-1 down to win a match that has been described as the greatest comeback in darts.

“It is definitely the greatest match I’ve played,” he says. “It showed how much work I’ve been putting in and it finally paid off. Darts is one of the most competitive sports you will ever play. It’s the only sport where you can’t stop your opponent from scoring. So you are under pressure straight away.”

But, even for Lewis, the pressure he found himself under when he competed in the 2005 Las Vegas Desert Classic was very unusual. Having won a couple of thousand at roulette at the MGM Grand Casino, he tried his hand on the slot machines and won 72,000 dollars, only to discover he had broken the law. “They asked me for my ID and I was 20. In America, you cannot play in the casino until you are 21.

“They didn’t stop me at the roulette. It was only when I won the big money, that’s when they asked for everything. I was with a lad called Steve Beardon. We tried to get him to claim it but we were on CCTV so we couldn’t.”

The incident gave him the nickname Jackpot but, while Lewis has done well out of darts, he points out: “Me a millionaire, oh no, it’s the tax man. If you earn he’s got to be paid.”

The next few weeks will both decide how much Lewis will owe the tax man and define the darts’ season. The Premier League starts at the Manchester Arena a week on Friday with Lewis playing Taylor, and he says: “It’s a gruelling 16 weeks. It takes your private life away from you because it is non-stop. I shall have to start preparing for that.”

But his preparation will be very different to that of Taylor. “Phil’s getting himself into shape with his nutritionist and whatever else. Me and a nutritionist? No, no I’m too fond of chicken tikka masala. But I will try and get myself in shape, keep dedicated, keep practising and there’s no reason why I can’t be there at the top for the next 15 years.”

It is this determination Lewis will use as he seeks the World Cup. He adds: “I’ve proved why I was world champion last year and this year again, because even when the chips are low, I can still come back and deliver the goods.”


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