Peter Wright talks Ladbrokes Masters, Ally Pally, Outfits, Van Gerwen and more
After a near month-long break, the PDC Tour roars back into action this weekend for the 2021 Ladbrokes Masters.
This year’s event has been expanded to include the 24 best players on the globe, increasing from the traditional 16-player format.
And there are narratives aplenty ahead of this weekend’s thrills and spills on the oche in Milton Keynes. Gerwyn Price is the new world champion and world number one, with Michael van Gerwen bumped down to second in the world.
But it’s Peter Wright who heads to the Marshall Arena as the defending champion, and ahead of this year’s event, Snakebite joined ourselves and the Daily Star to get his take on everything from empty venues to Ally Pally, to his rivalry with Price and MVG and much more.
Ladbrokes News: What was it like to play at Ally Pally with no fans? You actually played one night with fans and one night without…
Peter Wright: The first night of playing was fantastic, we had some fans in! I really enjoyed that. I know it wasn’t like it was normally with a full house, but it was really good. There weren’t many fans in there but they made all the players feel welcome, they were all singing and chanting, which was really good. But yeah, the next night I played it was horrible. It just felt like you were practising indoors. Even though you had a big picture of yourself right there, and other bits, it was a bit strange. But I didn’t play well enough and that’s why I got knocked out.
LN: What does that do for your plans this year, seeing Gerwyn win the worlds this year and take your crown? Has that spurred you on or have you been taking a bit of time out?
PW: I’ve just been relaxing to be honest. Doing lots of bits at home. I’m waiting on Red Dragon to come back to me with a new dart. I don’t know if I’m going to get it in time for the Masters, but we’ll see.
LN: Is that just a personal preference or a reaction to playing in these empty venues? Nathan Aspinall has explained this week that he’s changed his equipment because the venues are colder now without fans, and he’s having problems with his grip.
PW: Nathan’s dart is pretty smooth, with only a couple of grooves on it. So obviously if you’ve got a cold hand with a smooth dart it’s not going to grip properly. And obviously with a crowd in there and more heat, he’ll have more grip. I always change my darts, I’ve got plenty of darts I can win titles with, I’ll work through them.
LN: How have you been handling the last few weeks after such a long time away from home on the tour before Christmas?
PW: I’ve just been doing bits and bobs that have been building up around the house! Taking the tree down, putting the decorations away – that took about a week I think! It’s difficult because obviously we have the Masters this week but after that we haven’t got tournaments lined up for a few weeks. So I could have been practising as soon as I lost in the worlds up until now and wasted all my good darts. You’ve got to practice but I don’t want to overdo it.
LN: Do you think we’ll see a reaction from Michael van Gerwen this year now Gerwyn’s taken the world number one spot off him?
PW: Michael’s worked really hard to be world number one, and to win all the titles he’s won. He’s won everything you can possibly win in darts. To take over from Phil he’s done an amazing job, especially so at such a young age. But I think the standard Michael’s been setting, everyone’s coming up to now. They’re seeing all the titles that Phil and Michael have won and seen what that extra bit of practice and belief can do, that maybe you can do it. I’ve shown it can be done, Gezzy’s shown it too. I’ve got a bit fire in my belly for this year, I’m looking forward to this year. Especially after some of the comments MVG has made about me. I’m glad he’s number two, so now I get to play him in the semi-finals to knock him out before he gets to a final!
LN: We had some breakout performances last season, the likes of Jose de Sousa and Mike van Duivenbode. Who are you looking at for a breakout year this year?
PW: I always like the look of Chris Dobey. He’s got a lovely action. He does all the right stuff. He turns up now and again in tournaments, but if he can learn to put it all together through a whole tournament then he could be real dangerous. He’s still young, he loves darts and he’s beaten all the top players already. I also want to mention Mervyn King, because I threw his darts after the Players Championships, where he lost in the final and I went ‘Wow, these are pretty special’ I told him there and then that he’ll be back in the top 10 in the world enough. He’s had an incredible last 12 months and he’s only going to get better with these darts.
LN: You’re the defending Masters champion, and this year the tournament is expanding from 16 players to 24. Does that reflect the strength in depth in today’s game?
PW: Yeah, I think it’s really good. It’s normally just the top 16, but now it’s the top 24 and they’re all fantastic players. Any of them can go and win it. And that’s good for you guys watching on TV, and it’s good for the new guys too who haven’t been in the Masters before.
LN: After dazzling us all with the Grinch at Christmas for the worlds, have you got anything lined up for this weekend?
PW: I’m still waiting on my shirts! My shirts are on the way this week, hopefully they arrive in time! The outfits… that depends on the shirts and Jo’s organised the shirts! It’s pretty good stuff…