James Wade added a 10th televised title to his darting CV this past weekend, winning the UK Open for a third time. SAM CARTER picks out the 10 biggest achievements of The Machine’s career so far…
Hitting the second ever double-in nine darter (2014)
Big achievements don’t necessarily have to come in the form of tournament victories, and that is the case more than once in this list.
The 2014 World Grand Prix in Dublin saw Wade come out the runner up, a run he would probably have been happy with overall even if this moment didn’t occur, but occur it did.
The World Grand Prix is the PDC’s only event where you must start each leg by hitting a double – any darts connecting with any other segment before you hit a double are scored as nil.
This obviously reduces the probability of hitting a nine-dart leg, and only one man had achieved this feat in the tournament’s history, in Brendan Dolan, before Wade became the second man to do so, starting off on tops, hitting six successive treble 20s, a treble 17 and then the bullseye.
His opponent for that match, Robert Thornton, would then repeat the incredibly rare accomplishment later in the game to make this, not only one of the most famous games in World Grand Prix history, but in PDC history.
Players Championship form (2019)
From not winning a tournament to winning several in a short space of time, James Wade became part of a select group of players to win both Players Championships on offer in a weekend, on April 13-14, 2019.
There were also two tournaments of the same nature the previous weekend in the Barnsley Metrodome, one of which was also won by The Machine.
It’s rare to see someone go on such a spell on the ProTour. In recent years the Players Championships are among the hardest to win on the PDC circuit, and Wade went on to win two more later in the season.
As evidenced by his usually mediocre seeding in the Players Championship Finals, Wade is not known for being prolific on the Players Championships circuit, having not won one in four years, before this three out of four title return a couple of years ago.
Winning the UK Open for a third time (2021)
Wade’s last win at this UK Open was in 2011, and he had not really been deep too often in the tournament in the subsequent decade – one quarter-final being his best effort.
This year’s edition seemed to be “the most open” UK Open there’s ever been, with multiple possible winners being touted.
In typical Wade fashion, he progressed through the tournament in solid fashion. His only possible stumbling blocks came in round four, where he had to win a deciding leg against Ryan Joyce and in the quarter-finals, where he had to come from 8-5 down to win 10-8 against Simon Whitlock.
In the final, the outcome never really appeared to be in doubt, with Wade beating first-time major finalist Luke Humphries 11-5.
Wade put to bed any demons he may have been facing after losing his last three major finals and proved that he can still do the business on the big stage.
First player to beat Phil Taylor in the Premier League (2008)
These days, Wade is sometimes omitted from the Premier League line up, despite being one of the game’s biggest names.
Sometimes due to a low ranking or a poor season, although sometimes it is suspected that The Machine’s personality does not fit the mould for the razzamatazz of the sport’s biggest invitational tournament.
When you win a huge PDC event though it is nigh on guaranteed that you will be in and, because of winning two of these prizes in 2007, and making it in to the top four on the Order of Merit, Wade made his Premier League bow in 2008 and was given the hardest task there was back then – Phil Taylor on the opening night in Glasgow.
This was the fourth Premier League season and the three previous were all dominated by The Power. He had not lost a game in the tournament and was expected to continue his dominance by disposing of the debutant, but Wade had other ideas, beating Taylor 8-6 and ending his 44-game unbeaten run in the event.
Nobody will be able to take this achievement away from Wade or equal it as for me we will never see dominance like that in the Premier League ever again.
Run to the World Matchplay final on debut (2006)
Wade was into his third season with the PDC when he finally made it to the hallowed Winter Gardens in Blackpool for what is usually considered as the fans and players’ favourite tournament, the World Matchplay.
Wade was unseeded for the tournament and was drawn against Denis Ovens, a man notorious for getting past the first round of tournaments most of the time.
Wade made lightwork of The Heat though, dismantling him 10-1 and then proved that it was no fluke by beating former World Championship finalist Kevin Painter 13-9.
Another heavy victory followed in the quarter-finals, beating Chris Mason 16-4 and making it all the way to the semi-finals. He did need overtime to beat Roland Scholten in that semi, but against all odds he was into the final.
Wade was only the third man to make the final in his debut year (If you discount the first year finalists), but was definitely the least experienced of the three and was unfortunate to run into Phil Taylor, who won the title back after uncharacteristically losing it the year previous.
Winning two TV tournaments in two weeks (2018)
A pattern you can begin to spot with this list is that Wade seems to appear in some exclusive darting clubs very regularly, whether it be nine-darters, tournament wins or achieving a final on debut and with this entry we have another accolade Wade has accomplished that not many of his peers have, by winning back to back TV events.
The events in question were the European Championship and World Series of Darts Finals, held on back-to-back weekends in 2018.
Going in to these tournaments, Wade had not won a PDC event of any form in two-and-a-half years, and doubts had already set in on Wade’s future in the sport and whether he could match the heights of his early career ever again.
The Aldershot man seemed to have a new spirit around the Autumn of 2018, no doubt sparked by the birth of his first son, Arthur.
The sleepless nights must have brought out the best in Wade as he achieved his first major title in over four-and-a-half years, defeating crowd favourite Max Hopp in a deciding leg in the semi-finals, and then Simon Whitlock 11-8 in the final to claim the £100,000 first prize in Dortmund.
The following weekend, Wade crossed the border for the World Series Finals in Austria and defeated Ross Smith, the Austrian Mensur Suljovic, Jamie Lewis and Raymond van Barneveld on his way to the final.
Luck seemed to be on Wade’s side as he relied on his crestfallen opponent Michael Smith missing five match darts to seal his first PDC major title, before Wade hit double 18 to win.
Winning the Premier League (2009)
As I mentioned previously, Wade made an instant impact in the Premier League in 2008 by being the first man to defeat Phil Taylor in the event. He would go all the way to the final on that occasion where Taylor would exact his revenge and defeat him.
Fast forward a year and Wade was once again in the Premier League where he performed very well, winning seven out of the 12 matches in the league stage. This put him just a point behind Taylor in the first phase and qualified him for the play-offs once again.
This time he went one better, managing to beat Raymond van Barneveld in the semi-finals and the Phil Taylor conquering Mervyn King in the final to take home what is still his biggest prize money cheque to date of £125,000.
The comeback to end all comebacks to win the Masters (2014)
One of Wade’s most incredible achievements in his career came in the 2014 Masters.
The stars seemed to align for a Michael van Gerwen vs Phil Taylor final, as both got to the semi-finals to face Mervyn King and James Wade respectively.
Wade and King both upset the odds though and got through to have a rematch of the 2009 Premier League final.
King looked to set to get revenge for his defeat all those years ago by cruising through to a 9-2 lead, only needing two out of the available 10 legs to win his maiden PDC major.
Wade battled back, at the time seemingly just gathering a few consolation legs before King put himself on the brink by leading 10-6 with a superb 158 checkout.
Sadly for King, he missed six darts for the title in leg 17, another one in leg 18 and one in the penultimate leg to leave Wade with the darts at 10-10.
The drama wasn’t over there, with Wade hitting a superb 135 checkout to win his first major title for three-and-a-half years to seal one of the greatest comebacks in the history of major finals.
Second World Grand Prix title (2010)
Wade arrived for his sixth campaign in Dublin in the Autumn of 2010 being only one of three former winners in the field along with Phil Taylor and Colin Lloyd.
Due to this experience, Wade was seen one of the favourites, but few would have predicted just how much he would dominate the tournament.
The man formerly known as 009 dropped just three sets on his way to the final, beating Mick Magowan, Colin Osborne, Andy Hamilton and Raymond van Barneveld to set up a meeting with English compatriot Adrian Lewis.
With Taylor entering his 50s the previous summer, people were looking at this match as being between the two men to fly the flag for English darts in years to come and they put on a hell of a show, with Wade coming out on top 6-3.
Players like Taylor and Michael van Gerwen are known to dominate tournaments, but one match usually gives them trouble without fail, whether that be going to a deciding leg or having to comeback from a few legs down, but Wade had to do none of that and, for a week at least, he looked invincible.
World Matchplay and World Grand Prix title wins (2007)
In a few months over the latter half of 2007, James Wade went from future star to the here and now in darts as he scooped two televised events in succession.
Back in 2007 there were less events, particularly on TV. Wade arrived to the World Matchplay having been the losing finalist the previous year.
In a tournament where only two of the 16 seeds lost in the first round, the 11th seed Wade beat Wayne Jones 10-7, the legendary Dennis Priestley 16-14, his old adversary Mervyn King 16-11 and Adrian Lewis 17-7 on his way to the final, where he became one of many people to deny Terry Jenkins a TV crown.
Perhaps even more significant than his Matchplay win was his win at the next televised tournament in Dublin.
Sure, he may look back more fondly on his Matchplay success (everyone remembers their first) but he arrived to the World Grand Prix with all the pressure in the world on him and he dealt with it superbly.
Much like his previously mentioned 2010 triumph he dominated the tournament, this time only dropping two sets on route to again meet Jenkins in the final. Wade won 6-3, which propelled him up to number three in the world.
Although I think it’s up for debate, I believe winning these two tournaments together are Wade’s biggest achievements in his career.
He has plenty of time to add to his success: a maiden World Championship crown is still very much a goal for Wade. Maybe he can captain England to their fifth PDC World Cup? Become only the fourth man to win multiple World Matchplays?
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