Robert Thornton has leapt to the defence of two-time world champion Adrian Lewis, who was suspended by the Professional Darts Corporation with immediate effect following a heated altercation with Jose Antonio Perales in the opening UK Open qualifier last Friday.
Lewis was embroiled in a war of words with the Spaniard throughout their quarter-final clash in Wigan and confronted his opponent midway through the match for what he perceived to be deliberate gamesmanship.
The 33-year-old fought back from 3-1 and 4-3 behind to prevail with a 12-dart leg in a last-leg decider, but after landing the winning double, ‘Jackpot’ had to be led away by security after appearing to push Perales in the neck.
‘Jackpot’ went on to lose in the semi-finals to Michael van Gerwen, before the Darts Regulation Authority released a statement later that evening, confirming that Lewis had been suspended with immediate effect- pending a full investigation.
Nevertheless, in an interview with Phil Lanning, two-time PDC major winner Thornton has defended the under-fire Stoke star, admitting that it was ‘completely out of character’. He said: “I love Adrian to bits, he is the life and soul of the practice room and it’s surprising this has happened.
“Adie is definitely the hardest person to wind up so I don’t know what has exactly set him off like that. It’s certainly out of character. He’s a big loveable guy who laughs and jokes with everyone and we’re all shocked about it.
“There are a few rumours going round that they’ve suspended the wrong player but I can’t comment on the exact incident because I wasn’t there,” Thornton added.
It’s been a testing period for Lewis, who slipped to 20th on the PDC Order of Merit following a shock first-round exit at the World Championship against German qualifier Kevin Munch. ‘Jackpot’ was plagued with injury throughout 2017 which side-lined him for several months, and a potential ban would only add to his frustration.
Lewis has also been left out of the Premier League for the first time since 2009, but ‘The Thorn’ has backed his colleague to return to form. “I think Adrian will bounce back from this, he’s far too good a player. It will be harder now if he gets a ban but he’ll still fight on and put it behind him.
“A few years back Adrian helped me through a tough time, I was in a terrible place, but he put his arm round me and was so supportive. That’s the sort of guy he is and that’s what makes this so surprising. He’s always there for other people and always gives you a sloppy kiss every time you see him. It’s not like him at all.”
Photo Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC