Adrian Lewis is targeting a World Championship revival a decade on from his maiden triumph

The date was January 3, 2011. The night Adrian Lewis etched his name into darting history, landing a spectacular nine-darter and claiming his first world title with victory over Gary Anderson.

‘Jackpot’ had been touted as a future world champion since his emergence in the mid-noughties and he duly delivered, defending the Sid Waddell Trophy in 2012 by overcoming his fellow Stoke-on-Trent star Andy Hamilton.

In an iconic interview with Sky Sports during the midst of his 2012 success, Lewis bullishly declared: “I am the best in the world” – a statement few would have disputed at that juncture.

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This year’s showpiece will mark the 10th anniversary of Lewis’ maiden World Championship success, and the 35-year-old cannot quite believe it himself.

“I can’t actually. That’s gone that fast, hasn’t it? It has gone so quick,” he admitted in an exclusive with the Darts Show podcast.

However, Lewis returns to Alexandra Palace in uncharted territory, as he prepares to begin a World Championship campaign ranked outside the world’s top 20 for the first time in his career.

Lewis made a positive start to the 2020 season, with a quarter-final appearance at the Masters followed by an impressive quarter-final showing in July’s World Matchplay, but since then, he has endured a tumultuous period on and off the oche.

The two-time world champion was ruled out of the World Grand Prix after returning a positive Covid-19 test ahead of the event, and his woes were compounded when his replacement Simon Whitlock replaced him in the world’s top 16 with a run to the semi-finals.

Lewis was also unable to qualify for the European Championship after missing out on the remaining qualifiers whilst in self-isolation, and his failure to make the Grand Slam has seen him plummet to 21st on the PDC Order of Merit.

“I was gutted to be honest, but it’s one of them, you just have to move on and keep moving forward,” he admitted.

“It didn’t just cost me my top 16 status. I was defending money and I didn’t pick up any money from the Grand Prix, and I couldn’t play in the qualifiers, so I didn’t make the cut [for the Euros].

“It was very tough. I didn’t have the best Summer Series or Autumn Series, but I did play half decent at the Winter Series. I had a few big averages there and things are looking good again.”

Lewis’ impressive Winter Series featured victory over world No 1 Michael van Gerwen, as he advanced to semi-finals and quarter-finals on consecutive days.

“When Phil Taylor gets introduced on TV or when he did, it was 16-time world champion, it didn’t mention anything else did it really? That’s the ultimate.”

Lewis on the importance of the Worlds…

Having lost over three stone during the first lockdown, Lewis insists he has been putting in the hard yards on the practice board, and now he’ll be hoping to reap the rewards.

“There is always room for improvement but I’ve been working hard, I’ve been doing five or six hours a day for the last two or three months now, so hopefully it will all come together at the right time,” he added.

“Any dart player starting out – when you first start playing, your dream is to win the world title. Nothing else matters really, it doesn’t matter if you win the Matchplay. The main one is the World Championship.

“When Phil Taylor gets introduced on TV or when he did, it was 16-time world champion, it didn’t mention anything else did it really? That’s the ultimate.”

Talking of Mr Taylor, ‘The Power’ backed his former protege as an outside shot for the Sid Waddell Trophy this year, describing it as a ‘make or break’ event in Lewis’ career.

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‘Jackpot’ is under no illusions that he faces a huge task to return to his former heights, although he doesn’t necessarily agree that this year’s showpiece will be a defining moment.

“I wouldn’t say make or break, because it only takes one tournament early next year – say I win the UK Open, you’re back in the running again.

“I didn’t really see it like that. It is going to be tough, I’ve got a lot of hard work ahead of me if I want to get back up into the top eight, which I’m capable of doing. “

This would be the perfect place to start for Lewis, and his consistency at this event since making his debut in 2006 augurs well.

He has only failed to go beyond the second round twice in 15 appearances, and he has progressed to the quarter-finals or better on eight occasions.

Lewis’ recent World Championship record

His most notable performance at the Palace over recent years came in 2016, as he succumbed to Anderson in a repeat of their 2011 showdown.

‘The Flying Scotsman’ gained revenge for his defeat five years earlier to also claim back-to-back world titles, but Lewis still reflects on that night with a sense of regret.

“I made the final in 2016, I think that was an opportunity missed there,” admitted the four-time World Cup of Darts winner.

“I was too in and out. I was hitting a lot of 180s but there was nothing in between.”

Looking ahead to this year’s extravaganza, Lewis has been handed a tough opening round assignment against Danny Baggish, who accounted for in-form Australian Damon Heta in a five-set thriller on Saturday.

Victory for Lewis would set up a third-round showdown against Premier League champion Glen Durrant, but the 35-year-old appears to be relishing the challenge.

“I think they are all tough draws these days. You look around the field and if you look for the mug, I think you are the mug,” he joked.

“It’s going to suit me anyway because it’s a bit of a longer format. The couple of games I have played on TV this year have been first to six legs, so you have got a bit more time to settle in at the Worlds.

“I always seem to play well at the Worlds, because it is the biggest tournament and if you can’t get right for that, you shouldn’t be playing really.”

You won’t miss a dart this Christmas thanks to the dedicated Sky Sports Darts channel all the way until January 4 with every session from the World Darts Championship, including the final on Sunday, January 3.

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