Matt Porter: Record setting Masters was genuinely impressive

By Mattew Porter 26/02/2021

WATCHING our 2021 season burst into action at the Ladbrokes Masters was genuinely impressive. In the past, the Masters has been accused of having something of a ‘pre-season’ feel to it with the players having had at least a month off after the World Championship and many focusing on the upcoming Premier League or ProTour seasons. But not this year.

A tournament average of 97.87 must be a record (come on you social media stattos, correct me if I’m wrong) and I know that Jonny Clayton hitting a 91 percent checkout success rate in a best of 19 match was the best I’ve ever seen, if not best of all time.

Jonny showed incredible character to not only knock out Michael van Gerwen but come through last leg deciders in every round until the final when he wore down another player enjoying a real Indian Summer in his career, Mervyn King – probably playing the most consistent darts he has done for a decade and looking unflappable for the most part in doing so.

Much has been made of how Jonny still (at the time of writing) works as a plasterer, and Mervyn took up part-time work as a delivery driver during the lockdown to keep himself occupied. It’s easy to pass negative comments about this, but for me it shows both men to be hard-working and dedicated in the extreme: giving yourself to one profession is hard enough, let alone two!

Jonny squeezed out Mervyn for the final Premier League place and it did make me laugh to read the opinions of some people that doubted whether what we said about neither of them knowing it was on the line was true or not. The fact is, it was decided in a PDC Board WhatsApp conversation after the second semifinal, and I deliberately only conveyed it to ITV to announce during the ad break leading up to the walk-ons.

The practice room TVs never have volume on (as if any of the players would want to listen to any of our lovely pundits) and our Tournament Director Graham Fairhurst was under strict instruction to ensure nobody went anywhere near them before the match or during the breaks. So when John McDonald announced the news to Jonny afterwards, it was the first time he knew he had been selected to join that elite band of players. Yes, he may have thought he was in with a shot, but so did about half a dozen others!

This year’s event will have a number of newcomers with Jose de Sousa and Dimitri van den Bergh also making the cut for the first time, but all eyes will be on the Welsh following their World Cup win and Gerwyn Price’s sensational, and richly deserved World Championship win. You may have noticed I’ve chosen not to write about our recent escapades in the world of Covid: quarantines, testing, bubbles, protocols and ‘behind closed doors’ have been pretty much all I’ve done for the last 10 months now.

So for once, it was nice to let the darts do the talking and concentrate on our dau o bencampwyr Cymru! Thanks for your support – let’s hope it’s not long until we can welcome you back in to our events.

------ENDS------

Matthew Porter is Chief Executive of the Professional Darts Corporation.

Read his column and much more, in the latest Darts World magazine, order here.

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