Whitlock makes bold Aussie darts prediction
SIMON Whitlock says Australian darts is in the best shape it has ever been and he predicts a world champion from these shores is on the horizon.
The Australian No.1 has come the closest to taking the Professional Darts Corporation world crown, losing 7-3 to Phil Taylor in 2010.
Now the 50-year-old, who is taking part in the Melbourne Masters, says there are plenty more Australians who have the potential to go one step further and win a world final.
They included Perth's Damon Heta, who won last week's Brisbane Masters as a qualifier and continued with a comfortable 6-1 win over James Wade on the first night of the Masters at Melbourne Arena.
"The talent around now is amazing. You only have to look at Damon," Whitlock said.
"He won last week and played amazing."
Heta, 32, easily accounted for Wade, at one stage hitting six perfect darts.
"I just wanted to prove that last week wasn't a one-off," said Heta, who defeated 2018 PDC World Darts champion Rob Cross in Brisbane last week.
"I suppose you could say I picked up where I left off last week. I am delighted to continue the success."
Heta will play Cross again in tonight's quarter-final, following the World Matchplay champion's win over Gold Coaster Robbie King 6-2.
Earlier, Whitlock defeated qualifier Mick Lacey 6-3 to set up a last-eight clash with Northern Irishman Daryl Gurney, who beat another Aussie, Kyle Anderson, 6-3.
Raymond van Barneveld looked in good form, hitting a 106 average in a 6-1 win over New Zealand qualifier Haupai Puha 6-1.
The five-time world champion will take on defending Melbourne champ Peter Wright - a 6-4 winner over Australian Corey Cadby.
Flying Scotsman Gary Anderson was in the best form of the night, defeating Brisbane's James Bailey 6-0.
That win set up a tasty clash with world No.1 Michael van Gerwen in the quarter-finals after the Dutch star defeated West Australian Tim Pusey 6-2.
Whitlock said part of the reason for the rise in talent in this country was the national tour run by Dartplayers Australia.
"The DPA are doing a great job, they are running good tournaments and this is what the result is," he said.
"We have got a bunch of talented players coming through and doing extremely well.
"Corey (Cadby) and Kyle (Anderson) are amazing darts players. I think Corey is probably the most talented player I have seen from Australia and now we have Damon coming through.
"It's great for Australian darts."
Whitlock said any player who thought he had what it took to take up darts professionally - including Heta - should take the bull by the horns and get to Europe and the PDC Tour.
"I have already had a few words (to Damon)," he said.
"I said 'come over and do the PDC Q School. You are good enough … come and do it.'
"It's a dream come true for anyone who loves the game and believes in themselves.
"They have got the opportunity to make a career out of darts."
The Melbourne Masters winds up on Saturday night with the quarter-finals, semi- finals and final.
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