JAMIE HUGHES pulled off one of the great “fairytales” with a last-gasp Czech Open victory to book his place in the Betfred World Matchplay.
The Tipton ace needed to pull off a miracle and win in Prague to pip his mate James Wilson by just £250 in the rankings to reach Blackpool.
Yet remarkably Hughes, 33, did just that with a remarkable run to finally beat Stephen Bunting 8-3 and seal the incredible turnaround.
Yozza said: “It ranks as probably my biggest achievement in darts. I’m speechless at the moment, it doesn’t feel real.
“On top of that I’m in the Matchplay now, I’ve come out of nowhere. It’s a bit of a fairytale story.
“If I’m honest I don’t go to any tournament thinking I’m going to win this or that. I just tell myself to be the best you and let them try and beat the best you.
“The best me has turned up and been better than the rest.
“Early on in the season I was hitting massive averages and losing. Just recently I’ve been winning with low averages.
“I haven’t seen many of my averages today, I know it was 102 this afternoon. When you are playing and winning and hitting doubles, that’s what it is all about.
“This is my biggest achievement. Where do people rank Michael van Gerwen in the all-time greats? And he was in this field. I’m going home with the trophy, not him.
“Of course I can win the Matchplay. I’ve got three darts the same as anyone else. I think if you look at all the stats I’m playing as good as anyone. So why not?
“Hopefully I can kick on now, I’m hoping this is the start of big things now.”
Hughes kicked off his campaign with victory over Devon Petersen, before whitewashing two-time world champion Adrian Lewis to book his place in Finals Day.
The Tipton ace then overcame Ron Meulenkamp, Ian White and Simon Whitlock to reach the final, where he blitzed Bunting in the searing heat on stage.
He added: “I think what got me through in the end was that I’m fitter than the rest of the players. They all seemed to struggle in the heat.
“To be honest in the past I have had problems with the heat but not today. I purposely bought a bad of chalk to bring just in case my hands sweated up but they didn’t.
“I had no plans this summer. Who in their right mind before this weekend thought I’d win this and get in the Matchplay?
“I’ve knocked my good mate out of it James Wilson but I’m sure he’ll come back stronger.”
By Phil Lanning
Photos credited to Jonas Hunold/PDC Europe.