James Wade has been accused of ‘thuggish’ and ‘bullying’ behaviour after aggressively celebrating in the face of Seigo Asada during a feisty second-round clash at the World Darts Championship on Wednesday evening.
‘The Machine’ fought back from 2-1 down to defeat ‘The Ninja’ in a five-set thriller, after Asada had dumped out former World Master Krzysztof Ratajski in the opening-round. It was a high-quality affair at the Alexandra Palace, but Wade’s controversial antics dominated the headlines.
Asada stormed to the opening set with a 106.39 average, but Wade fought back to level at one set apiece, after the Japanese World Cup star spurned one dart at tops for a two-set lead. As Wade restored parity, he then directed his celebration straight towards Asada, who appeared completely bemused by the situation.
‘The Ninja’ rallied to regain the lead, but Wade’s clinical combination finishing proved decisive as he survived multiple scares in an enthralling final set to prevail with a 93.57 average and a 45% checkout success rate.
The nine-time major winner suffered an opening-round exit at the Ally Pally twelve months ago to former World Youth champion Keegan Brown, but he claimed back-to-back televised titles at the European Championship and World Series Finals less than two months ago to end his four-year wait for a major.
However, Sky Sports experts Wayne Mardle and Mark Webster were highly critical of Wade’s conduct. “There was nothing in the game to tell you that that kind of behaviour was going to happen. You can over-celebrate, but that was just aggressive, that is putting yourself upon someone. That’s bullying, that’s just nasty,” Mardle said.
“We saw it in the Gary Anderson and Gerwyn Price game but they were both going at it, they were both doing it. One was the aggressor then the other one was the aggressor, so they kind of met in the middle.
“There was nothing about this game that said that was going to happen and if any player thinks that’s acceptable, then that’s unacceptable. That shouldn’t happen.”
Webster was also bemused by the behaviour of his fellow left-hander, and suggested it was a sign of desperation from Wade. “It was unnecessary. It was as if he was trying to intimidate Seigo. He’s unfamiliar with this stage, he’s only played on it a couple of times and James knew he was in trouble. I thought it was a little bit desperate really.
“It’s not like James to be that fired up. I don’t know why he did it, I didn’t like it, I don’t like it when players do it- it’s not needed. He’s won the game now and I think he’ll look back on that and feel a little bit embarrassed,” Webster added.
"I wanted to hurt him, I wanted to really hurt him in his face."
Some bizarre post-match comments from James Wade after his tie-break win over Seigo Asada.
— Sky Sports Darts (@SkySportsDarts) December 19, 2018
Nevertheless, when quizzed about his behaviour by Sky Sports’ Rod Studd in his post-match interview, Wade made a series of bizarre comments. “I did it for my son and my country. It’s a magnificent feeling, I could easily have lost that and I dug in for my son and my country, so it’s good,” Wade declared.
“I didn’t think he had that game in him, I really didn’t. Perhaps if I felt he had that game in him, I probably would have prepared a little bit differently. How I won that game I don’t know, but it’s about time because I’ve lost so many games here that I shouldn’t have lost.
“I kept giving it to him. I wanted to hurt him, I wanted to really hurt him in his face. It wasn’t a great game but I wanted to hurt him and I wanted to progress. That was for my son and also for a bit of the UK as well,” Wade added.
Mardle was astonished by Wade’s post-match reaction and told Sky Sports’ Laura Woods: “Does he mean he wanted to punch him in his face? What does he mean? I’m absolutely lost for words, that’s just not on.”
“I hope he wakes up in the morning and thinks: ‘Do you know what I’ve made a mistake there’, because he can’t think that’s right and no one watching it can think that’s right. If they do that’s thuggish behaviour and there’s no place in darts for that.”
"Does he mean he wanted to punch him in his face? What does he mean? I am absolutely lost for words."@Wayne501Mardle is astonished after an explosive post-match interview from James Wade.
— Sky Sports Darts (@SkySportsDarts) December 19, 2018
Webster also admitted that’s Wade’s behaviour should be judged in the same light as Gerwyn Price, after the Welshman was heavily criticised for his behaviour in an extraordinary Grand Slam of Darts Final against Gary Anderson.
“There’s still no excuse for it. We hammer Gerwyn Price for doing things like this so why should it be any different when James does it? He shouldn’t have done it. Ultimately he’s dug in well, lets look at the qualities of the game,” said the former Lakeside world champion.
“He took out some big finishes and does what James Wade does, but I’ve never seen him that fired up in any game, let alone a first-round. I think it was a bit of panic. He knew he was in a game.
“I think the word ‘hurt’ he should have replaced with rattle. He was trying to rattle his opponent because hurt is a strong word, but he shouldn’t have done that and when he takes stock of that I’m sure he’ll regret doing it.”
However, irrespective of the controversy, Wade avoided the same fate suffered by Simon Whitlock, who joined Peter Wright and Raymond van Barneveld in departing the tournament at the first hurdle. As a result, Wade now takes on either Jelle Klaasen or Keegan Brown in round-three on Sunday afternoon.
Photo Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC