Fantastic Ferret Falls Short

Red Dragon Darts

JONNY Clayton produced his most successful display at a World Matchplay, reaching the Final for the first time in his career as he continued what has been a strong start to 2023.

You don’t always have to to lift the trophy to have had a hugely positive outcome from an event.

Jonny Clayton exceeded his previous performances in the most prestigious of PDC ranking tournaments, impressed live fans, and TV audiences alike, with his ability. He also gained many thousands of admirers for his resilience and grace whilst under tremendous personal stress.

The Ferret fell short in the Final against Nathan Aspinall but can hold his head high after what was a tough run to the Grand Finale at the Winter Gardens.

Jonny defeated recent World Championship Semi Finalist Gabriel Clemens 10-8 in the First Round where he produced an 11-dart leg to wrap up victory over the German Giant.

“The 11-darter was amazing. Anybody would take that, and I certainly will! This is just my second win here in five years, so it means a lot.”

Clayton produced a much-improved display to defeat former Matchplay winner Dimitri van den Bergh in the Last 16, claiming an 11-6 win in Blackpool.

The former Premier League winner averaged 101.90 with a checkout rate of 57.89% having found the 2nd 170 finish of the tournament in the 4th leg.

“I knew I had to play well tonight, and thankfully I did. It’s been very difficult, but I’m here to do a job, and I’m trying my best to do it, so today was a good day.”

The Ferret moved onto the Quarter Finals where he was the 2nd highest ranked player left in the competition, after Michael Smith and Gerwyn Price exited on Tuesday before Peter Wright also bowed out the following night.

Clayton would face Snakebite’s conqueror Ryan Searle in the Quarter Finals, with Heavy Metal coming into the match as the player with the highest tournament average.

The World Number 7 took until the end of the fourth mini session, to open a 2-leg lead on Searle who was appearing in his first Matchplay Quarter Final.

The Welshman included a staggering 6 ton plus checkouts as he wrapped up a 16-12 win over the World Number 15.

“It’s always a great feeling to hit the big finishes, and that really helped me out tonight. Ryan is one of the nicest guys on tour and he’s a cracking dart player. We have great respect for each other, so I’m chuffed to get over that winning line.”

The Pontyberem born player set up a Semi Final clash with fellow Red Dragon player Luke Humphries who like Jonny was playing in his maiden Last 4 match in Blackpool.

Cool Hand Luke started the stronger of the two in the Semi Final, breaking throw in the 17th leg to move 10-7 ahead in a race to 17 on Saturday night.

Clayton instantly broke back with a 100 checkout having found 2 double tops as he surged back into the match after breaking again in the 24th leg.

Both players held their nerves on their own throw until the very last leg, where the Ferret crucially pinned double tops with his last dart in hand to finish 80 and claim a 17-15-win, breaking Humphries to avoid sudden death and book his place in a first World Matchplay Final.

“I’m doing this for my dad. He’s not well at all, so it would mean everything for me to win this title. It means a lot to me for a lot of different reasons. My dad’s my biggest fan and he’s wishing me on, so I want to do this for him.”

“To get over the line against one of the best players in the world is an amazing feeling. Luke Humphries is going to go on and pick up major’s time after time.”

Clayton despite defeat in the Final won the hearts of many throughout the week in Blackpool, with full support going to him and his family in a difficult period.

A valiant effort from one of the PDC biggest stars, as he produced the best performance at the Winter Gardens of his career so far.

“I cannot argue with the result. I was beaten by the better player, and what a fantastic guy he is. To make the World Matchplay final is an amazing achievement. I’m a very proud man.”

“I’d like to thank my family and this phenomenal crowd. One day I will get back on this stage in a final, and hopefully that will be my night.”

Jonny Clayton will return to action at the start of August for the New Zealand Darts Masters, with the Ferret also defending his New South Wales Darts Masters crown the following week.

Images: Taylor Lanning & PDC, Red Dragon.

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