Ricky Evans may boast the record for hitting the quickest 180 in darting history, but he’s more than just a quick-fire thrower; he’s a top class talent making serious strides in the game. ‘Rapid Ricky’ is into the world’s top 50 after some terrific performances over the last 12 months and with new darts and potentially a new walk-on in 2019, he’s bidding to enjoy his best year yet.
“2019 will be the first year I have my brand new darts and set up, after 15 years with the same darts,” Evans said. “I’m very excited to see what occurs, I’ve been practising well and playing solid locally with them. I’m pretty sure Target Darts are keen on selling them sometime in 2019 and that’s mega for me as I’ve always wanted something like this.”
It’s no more than Evans deserves, but his new darts could also be matched by a new-walk on song. The ‘Baby Shark’ tune took the European Tour by storm last year, but Japanese sensation Mikuru Suzuki used the same entrance en route to her historic World Championship triumph at the Lakeside and Evans is accepting defeat on that front.
“Mikuru is a world champion and a huge star now, so she more than deserves it as her walk on. I’ll find something stupid and wacky to walk on to, I was contemplating doing the conga or YMCA, something to get the crowd on my side and boogieing is what I’d love!”
Evans is one of the most affable and entertaining characters on the circuit, and he’s also renowned for hitting a maximum in just 2.16 seconds at the World Championship back in 2017; but despite still being the quickest thrower in world darts, he’s actually slowed his game down.
“Believe it or not but I have actually slowed down, it’s something I’m working on, ” Evans claimed. “I do feel though I’m at my best when throwing a wee bit faster, but maybe sometimes I need to step back and calm myself before a crucial double or checkout.”
However, it certainly worked for Evans in 2018, as he enjoyed the best year of his career thus far. The 2013 World Youth finalist reached four quarter-finals on the Pro Tour circuit and also reached his first senior PDC final at the Dutch Darts Championship in September.
Evans was narrowly beaten in the final by world number 11 Ian White, but this secured his spot at the World Grand Prix, European Championship and World Championship, and he admits it ranks as his greatest achievement to date.
“It’s got to be the biggest achievement, winning 5 games on a stage in one event was all new to me, so I was very proud of myself. I didn’t play the best in all regards, but I battled and won a few close 6-5 games instead of being the other way round.
“I loved being in a Euro final and next time I’m in the latter stages of one, I’ll know what to do and how to prepare as they’re very long days.
“It was a good consistent season for me. I always pop up every year with a couple of good runs, but last year I seemed to reach my board final most days and qualifying for most TV events was a huge step for me, hopefully 2019 is even better,” Evans added.
The 28-year-old claimed a number of big scalps throughout last year, defeating Daryl Gurney, James Wade, Dave Chisnall and recorded three successive wins over two-time world champion Gary Anderson. Nevertheless, Evans admits he relishes the prospect of locking horns with the world’s elite.
“I’m a very confident player anyway so beating the so called bigger names and ranked players isn’t a surprise to me. I believe I play better against the higher ranked players as I go into the games with the ‘nothing to lose’ mentality.”
“I admire Wayne as a person and pundit so to have him pick me out is huge. He knows his darts and I’ll be making sure I prove to him and all the other pundits or critics that I’m a world class darter.”
The task for Evans now is to translate his floor form to the biggest stages. The Kettering ace reached the last 16 of the European Championship and Players Championship Finals last Autumn, but he’s adamant that there’s plenty more to come.
“I played rather well at the Players Championship Finals, but apart from there I don’t think the TV cameras/big stage have seen my proper game yet,” said Evans. “I know I’m capable of hitting big averages and top performances but then again I don’t mind winning with lower key stats- averages look good but I’d rather climb the rankings.”
Sky Sports expert Wayne Mardle has touted Evans as one of his five players to watch in 2019 and the former Challenge Tour winner is determined to underline his credentials by making his World Matchplay debut and winning a first Pro Tour event.
“I admire Wayne as a person and pundit so to have him pick me out is huge. He knows his darts and I’ll be making sure I prove to him and all the other pundits or critics that I’m a world class darter.
“I’d love to qualify for the Matchplay in Blackpool and with my 2018 form I’m already in contention. I also said after my World Championship defeat that I’m going to win a Pro Tour event this year, so watch this space,” the 28-year-old added.
Evans is also part of the Nevada Sports Management team and is stablemates with former world champions Rob Cross and Stephen Bunting, nine-time major winner James Wade and David Pallett. Pallett regained his Tour Card earlier this month and Evans is delighted by his best mate’s return to the circuit, with the Pro Tour season set to get underway next weekend.
“It’s brilliant being in the same stable as [Rob] Cross and [Stephen] Bunting, they’re very fun to be with so it makes weekends and tournament days relaxing whilst in their company,” said ‘Rapid Ricky’.
“As for [David} Pallett, he’s recently bought a house in the same street as me so we practise together every day. I love having him so close especially now he’s back on tour, I’ve got my best mate back for 2 years! Practice isn’t boring or a chore now with him so that’s brilliant.”
Photo Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC