Sunday, September 20, 2020

Josh Payne: from young hopeful to seasoned professional

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Tom Beresfordhttps://www.tomsportsjourno.com
Sports journalist. Non-League football reporter. YouTuber, presenter, podcast host. Previously heard on FiveLive and Love Sport Radio. Managed by Epic Sports Management

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As the image of the modern-day dart player is ever changing, Gravesend’s darting ace is certainly one of the names that springs to mind, alongside the likes of Gerwyn Price as an advert for personal fitness and healthy lifestyle in our sport.

Payne burst onto the scene as a fresh-faced 17-year old with masses of potential and has been ever-present on the PDC circuit since debuting at the age of 17, winning titles on the Development/Challenge Tour and on the Players Championship series on two occasions.

Before Payne even joined the PDC ranks, his potential was already being talked up by those close to him. The Kent ace became the youngest player in history to win the Kent Super League singles title and incidentally was picked for Kent’s A side and England’s youth team.

During the 2013 season, Payne picked up his first senior singles titles at the Sittingbourne Open and the Medway open. The Gravesend star played on the PDC Youth Tour since its inception in 2011 and after an impressive campaign, Payne won his tour-card in 2013 and in his debut season as a professional, he defeated Phil Taylor in a UK Open qualifier.

Since winning his tour-card initially in 2013, Payne has gone on to qualify for numerous European Tour events since the age of 19 and continued to impress those within the game both on the Development Tour and on the pro-tour.

The winners circle

In April 2016, Payne picked up his first senior PDC title as he successfully picked up a Players Championship title in Barnsley, defeating James Wade 6-5 in an enthralling final, taking out 116 to complete the win with ‘the machine’ waiting on D20 for the title.

After securing his first senior ranking title, it opened up several doors for Payne as he made his debut at the World Matchplay in Blackpool. Unfortunately, Payne lost out to Robert Thornton 10-7 in a closely-contested battle, but that tournament in particular gave the youngster a taste of life on the big stage and to his own admission, he didn’t feel any nerves, just anticipation.

After his World Matchplay debut, Payne said: “I loved every minute out there, not the result that I wanted, but there are lots of positives to take. I can play a lot better than that, a lot of people know that and stage experience is something that I’ve got to learn.”

Experience

After gaining that much-needed TV stage experience, Payne went on to perform at the Grand Slam of Darts, Players Championship Finals, UK Open, World Championship to name a few.

After debuting at the World Championship in 2017, Payne really started to produce some great performances on the big stage and at the 2019 World Championship, the Kent star pushed Dave Chisnall all the way in an astonishing contest in which Payne averaged over 110 in the first couple of sets.

But just prior to that fantastic battle with Chisnall at Alexandra Palace, Payne picked up his second senior PDC title, edging out Peter Wright 6-5 in a fascinating final in Milton Keynes, a win that really showed any critics just what he has to offer.

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In 2019, Payne produced a terrific run at the UK Open in mine head as he went on to reach the quarter-finals, his strongest run in a PDC televised major. As the tournament went on, Payne showed more and more aggression and passion is his game as he battled his way past the likes of Kyle Anderson, Jamie Lewis and Simon Whitlock to set up a mouth-watering last eight clash with Rob Cross on the main stage, in which he narrowly lost out to the world champion.

As Payne has often alluded to, he’s far from the finished article and he has a lot more to offer and after seeing off Diogo Portela 3-0 at the 2020 World Championship, Payne admitted that he’s learning all the time.

In an interview with Live Darts after the win, Payne said: “I don’t think that I played that I played to my full potential, my finishing was good and I think that I scored well when I needed to, but there’s a lot to work on.

“I know I can do better, I just need to push forward. I work on everything in my game behind the scenes, it hasn’t quite come together yet, but I promise, it will come. Floor tournaments are a lot different to the televised events. I’ve been trying to find a balance between both, I feel like I’m playing well on the stage but not as well on the floor now. Coming into next year, I’ll be looking to be dominant on both the stage and on the floor.”

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