You’re never left in any doubt as to when Wayne Mardle has hit a 180.

Eyes bulging, arms outstretched as he goes careening around the venue; there’s almost a Marco Tardelli feel to Mardle’s exuberance. It’s all part of the Hawaii-501 image. Part deliberate crowd-pleasing, part untapped enthusiasm for darts. The exhibition equation is simple enough for the 46-year-old.

“I just think they’re fun. I’m under no pressure when I play them. I like to talk to people, meet new people,” Mardle told Dartsnews at his latest event outing in Grantham.

“When you’re on the tour and you’re doing these corporate events, you’re kept away – and I just want to meet people.

“Players don’t make enough of the fact that they hit 180s! Forget about when they do it on TV, they’ve got to concentrate.

“I don’t want them unnoticed [at exhibitions], they’re the best thing you can hit, right? So let’s celebrate it!”

Memory lane

Mardle has a long-standing love affair with the Netherlands, and counts time spent in the Low Countries among his personal career highs.

“Between 1998 and 2006, I was in the Holland all the time – most weekends, actually. I loved it, I really did.

“Those days ended when I joined the PDC. Now, I’ve got a chance to come back, and I’m going to relish the challenge!”

That thought takes him back to a breakthrough on Netherlands soil, one which put him on the darting map.

“My first big, big ranking win was the Dutch Open [in 2000],” he recalled with some clarity.

“What do I remember of it? Wow. I remember beating Les Wallace in the Last 16, Martin Adams in the quarter. Barney – who was world champ at the time – in the semi-finals.

“There were 3,000 people there wanting me to lose!

“In the final – which was a real long format, best of nine sets – I beat Mervyn King, five sets to one.

“To beat Raymond, in the Dutch Open, over seven sets – that proved to me that I was OK…that I was good enough to play against anyone.”

Pieter Verbeek/PV-Darts

Photo: Pieter Verbeek/PV-Darts

All eyes on Mike

It won’t surprise many to know that Michael van Gerwen is Mardle’s pick for the PDC World Championship this year. Even when his form drops, van Gerwen has a keen advocate in the Sky pundit. There’s only one man that Mardle sees standing between the world champion and a title defence.

“I think Michael’s been the best player in the world since 2012. Forget about the off-and-on periods. If he plays well in any event, he wins that event.

“He puts so much pressure on himself to win the World Championship. When you see him play, you’re feeling that there’s a man playing under pressure,” Mardle mused.

“If he relax, he just wins.

“I don’t forsee him losing late on, because of the format. I don’t see him losing early on, because of the draw.”

Master vs Apprentice

There could well be two all-Dutch games in round two. Michael van Gerwen’s potential clash with Jelle Klaasen is hotly anticipated as more of a royal rumble than a darting duel. In what would be a more sentimental meeting, Raymond van Barneveld has a second round match against Jeffrey de Zwaan lined up, if he beats Darin Young.

“I think Raymond versus de Zwaan is more intriguing than Jelle versus Michael. De Zwaan throws with Barney darts. [van Barneveld] has been his mentor. If he beats him in his last year…it would be symbolic,” reckoned Mardle, who turned his focus to the youngster. No stranger to letting the chance of major titles pass, he offered a warning to the 23-year-old not to pass up on big chances.

“Jeffrey de Zwaan has not risen since I thought he would, in the last 18 months. If he doesn’t do it at the Worlds, he can’t for another seven months.

“His talent is great – his winning ratio isn’t.”

Mardle will be in De Zwaan’s homeland for the Kings of Darts events next month. It gives him just enough time after Christmas to get fit for those arena-length runs when the maximums start flying in.

Pieter Verbeek/PV-Darts

Photo: Pieter Verbeek/PV-Darts

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Author: Ed McCosh