Nathan Aspinall: UK Open champion on a stunning rise to PDC glory

By Jay FreemanBBC Sport
Nathan Aspinall: UK Open champion looks ahead to Premier League debut

What are the keys to being a successful darts player in today's multi-million pound industry?

The first is probably to find a way past Michael van Gerwen. But what about the hours of practice at home? Dedicating your life to the sport?

Newly-crowned UK Open champion Nathan Aspinall does things a little differently.

While the 27-year-old admits "darts is my life at the moment" as he prepares for his Premier League debut on Thursday, the Stockport thrower does not actually own a board.

"I don't keep one in my house because I don't want to practise at home. When I'm at home I want that to be my family time," the world number 16 told BBC Sport.

"I decided to take it down so when I'm at home it's just me and my family with no darts involved. I practise at my manager's in Rochdale and I treat it like a job."

It has been an incredible rise for Aspinall, who won his first PDC title in September before going on to reach the semi-finals of the World Championships at the end of the year.

His victory at the UK Open in Minehead this month saw him beat 2018 world champion Rob Cross in the final and pick up a £100,000 winner's cheque.

In doing so, Aspinall became only the second player to win a televised PDC tournament with a 170 checkout, following Colin Lloyd at the World Matchplay in 2005.

"I didn't even have time to think. The adrenaline was that high, I was that full of focus and I didn't even know what I was doing if that makes sense," he said.

"When it went in, the 170 was amazing, but in my head you take them out probably once in 50. So when I hit the two treble 20s, you've got to go for it.

"Most darts players know that only Colin Lloyd has done it in the PDC and it wasn't until after I got my trophy, I realised then that I was one of only two people to have done it."

'Massive risk to quit my job'

Nathan Aspinall became the first player since 2012 outside the top 32 to win a televised PDC event when he won the UK Open earlier in March
Nathan Aspinall became the first player since 2012 outside the top 32 to win a televised PDC event when he won the UK Open

Giving up his job as an accountant 12 months before his stunning UK Open victory has obviously paid dividends for Aspinall - but he admits it felt like a gamble at the time.

"It was a massive risk because when I quit my job I had about two grand in my bank. I've got two children, a partner, house to pay for, cars, bills," he said.

"I signed with a new manager and he has made a massive impact on my career. He's got me sponsorships and the money from that has enabled me to go into events not needing to win to pay my bills and that took a lot of pressure off me.

"Earlier on it was hard but I'm now massively reaping the rewards."

Aspinall's tremendous run to the last four of the 2019 World Championship saw him gain a place as one of nine 'contenders' in the Premier League following Gary Anderson's withdrawal.

A rematch of his semi-final against Michael Smith awaits Aspinall in Nottingham on Thursday.

"I couldn't believe it, it was amazing. I go every year to Manchester as a fan and that's the pinnacle of the sport," he said.

"I'm just going to go out there and enjoy it. I always play with a smile on my face because I'm thankful for the opportunities I'm given.

"I'll go out there and smile, try and interact with the crowd and if I do all that, hopefully I'll win the game."

Additional reporting by BBC Radio Manchester's Mike Minay.

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