Nicholson v Anderson in their words

We spoke to both players after Nicholson’s stunning 9-8 win against the Scotsman in the fourth round of the 2011 UK Open and they revealed a few interesting thoughts. What shined through from talking to them both (separately) was how gracious a loser Anderson is and how engaging Nicholson is as an interviewee.

Both spent far longer chatting to us than I expected; Nicholson even dragging a chair over and sitting with us, eager to air his views and insights.

Anderson put his collapse mostly down to the heat, saying he struggled to grip his darts at times. When we put the same question to Nicholson he said he is constantly wiping his hands and controls the sweat quite well. Watch out for this next time Nicholson is on stage and you will indeed see he works his hands in the same way a cricketer constantly shines the ball.

Anderson wobbled at the critical time and a couple of bull finishes from his opponent knocked the stuffing out of him.

Maybe this iron nerve was down to Nicholson’s preparation of immersing himself in trance music, or maybe it was more to do with fitness and sharpness garnered from going for a run in the boiling sun to acclimatise to the heat.

For a player who has played in 52 degrees in Australia the Reebok probably felt like Lapland. “I don’t drink much alcohol and I drink a LOT of water when competing, you have to keep hydrated.”

In the final deciding leg it was Nicholson to throw and as he released the first dart Anderson stepped forward. Explanation? “I thought we bulled off for throw in the last leg! He threw his first and as I stepped forward he threw the other two. It threw me for a minute.” And he didn’t recover as Nicholson closed out the match.

So can Nicholson go on and win the trophy? Anderson wasn’t so sure, Nicholson is confident he can.

“I’m 32 years old now, it’s time to show what all that experience can bring.” A mature statement from a player still regarded as a youngster but obviously doesn’t see himself as that. Anderson is almost ten years his senior.

Nicholson again – “Phil Taylor once said you can’t practice being on stage and you can’t practice cacking yourself. I’ve had plenty of practice of both now so I handle it better.” Practising every week with a player of the quality of Dave Chisnall will also help. Chizzy is another to watch out for according to his Tuesday practice partner.

Recent laser eye surgery might have been considered a gamble given that glasses worked perfectly well and he had won a Pro Tour event the week before. Remember what happened when Phil Taylor donned the spectacles?

Wryly batting that comparison aside as being good for publicity Nicholson is happy that he no longer has to push his specs back up his nose when it’s hot. One less thing to think about and his eyesight is now as good as it’s ever been. It will need to be good tomorrow as he follows the Anderson win with a draw against Phil Taylor.

As for Gary Anderson, he will hang around and watch one of his protégés, Michael Smith, play his match against Raymond van Barneveld. Anderson sponsors Smith and has been looking for young players who show the right attitude as well as skill to sponsor, mentor and nurture.

It is admirable to see the senior players on the tour looking to put something back and this is something that is often overlooked by the general press when focusing on how much money professional darts players put behind the bar.

There is obvious respect between these two players and this weekend has shown they are more closely matched than many might have previously thought. This tournament could be the watershed in Nicholson’s career, as the World Championships were for Anderson.

Ultimate respect is reserved for John Part he tells us (“he took Taylor on, and beat him, when nobody else could or would and he’s the most gracious man on the tour.”) and his tip for the weekend coincides with your intrepid reporter’s – “watch out for Robert Thornton this weekend, he fell away a bit but is back in the place he was when he moved to the PDC.”

I point out that Thornton’s PDC career followed a similar path to Nicholson’s and the Geordie Aussie agrees – “yes, his first major was the Players Championship, like me, and our progress has been very similar.” With both through to the last 16 could we be seeing them contest Sunday’s final to converge in perfect symmetry? “It’s possible but the draw will have a big say in that.”

Post interview note: as it turned out, Nicholson was ultimately done by the draw. After beating Anderson & Taylor he drew eventual winner James Wade and couldn’t rouse himself for a third consecutive humdinger.

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