After just over two years, James Wade is back in the TV winners club once again.
The Machine is the 2021 UK Open champion, coming through 151 players to defeat Luke Humphries 11-5 in the final. It’s the third time in his decorated career he’s won the event, and it takes him to number four in the world.
However, that’s not the big story. What is the big story is how Wade won this title. He won it comfortably, against very good players. After reaching finals at the European Championship and the Grand Slam late last year, he’s now gone one better, and it looks like this might not be the only title he will win in 2021.
Improved scoring gives Wade more chances
There’s no doubt that James Wade is in the conversation of best players to never be World Champion. New Year’s night at the Alexandra Palace in 2012, when he missed a match dart against Adrian Lewis before losing 10 legs in a row in the semi finals, will haunt him forever.
But you cannot deny the talent the man has. When he won the World Matchplay in 2007, he was the youngest man to ever win a PDC televised event. He’s also won the World Grand Prix, Premier League and European Championship, as well as his success here.
Wade’s been in the PDC that long that you know what to expect from him. An average of around 95, with some huge game changing checkouts. Many in the darting circle call this Wading, and you’ll see the hashtag on social media used regularly. However, this event saw something different.
Coming into the UK Open, a few observers noticed that James Wade had pushed his average up a few points, to nearly 100. That, for most players, would be like them averaging 115. The Machine had also been hitting more 180s in the last few months than throughout the majority of his career, and is an exceptional front runner. In short, this event was made for him, and it showed. Which is why he’s now completed a hat-trick of victories.
For Wade, “the UK Open title could be the first of many in 2021”
Throughout most UK Open runs, there’s always some danger the winner has to come through. For Wade, there was no exception.
A last leg decider against Ryan Joyce on stage 4 in round four, played to an exceptional standard. 8-5 down to Simon Whitlock, before The Wizard missed darts to go within one. Wade punished, winning five straight legs to come through, including a 147 checkout.
But for the rest of the time, it was plain sailing. A 10-7 win over Rob Cross in the fifth round, continuing the bizarre record for Cross that the eventual winner always beats him in the event. A 10-5 defeat of Gabriel Clemens in round six, during which he did not break sweat.
After the quarter final win over Whitlock, excellent finishing saw him defeat World Champion Gerwyn Price 11-6. In the final against Humphries, his opponent missed doubles early on. Wade raced into a 4-1 lead, and did not relent.
Wade has a simple M.O. Win the bull, win the opening leg, break in the second leg, hold again. By that stage, he’s 3-0 up, and already in control. On his own throw, he very rarely takes more than 15 darts to win it, which is why it is so difficult to break him. If he races into a lead, as he did v Price and Humphries on Finals Night, you’re very rarely coming back. However, if he races into a lead, and continues to score the way he’s doing, you will probably never come back.
The Machine will not reach the world number one spot unless he wins at the Ally Pally, but he could be the number one player in the world this year. He’s won TV titles across three decades, joining Phil Taylor as the only other player in the PDC to do so. However, with this scoring power, and his ability to find game changing checkouts, this version of James Wade is the most dangerous of all. Make no mistake, the UK Open title could be the first of many in 2021.