Justin Pipe returns to competitive action this week under no illusions as to how important the next two months will be in reaching world darts’ top ten.
The Force from North Curry near Langport travels to Germany this weekend for the fourth European Tour event ranked 11th globally by the Professional Darts Corporation.
The 40-year-old faces PDC newcomer and former British Darts Organisation ace Tony West in the opening round and while his immediate focus is on their clash tomorrow, Pipe conceded it was the start of a busy eight weeks.
Between now and the end of October, the ex-tree surgeon will compete in the two televised events – the PartyPoker-net-sponsored European Championship and World Grand Prix – six Players’ Championship rounds, the Championship League and another European Tour competition.
Having climbed to the brink of the top ten by reaching the quarter-finals of July’s World Matchplay, Pipe wants to scale further heights by the end of the year.
He said: “I can’t wait for this weekend and I am practicing hard for it now. I want to go there ready to win and it is always good because you know that whoever you play it is never easy. I am really looking forward to getting back on tour.
“We have got the Euro Tour and then the European Championship, and then a couple of ProTours. Then we have got the Champions League of Darts, which makes it a really busy month.
“October is no different. We have got the Grand Prix, the ProTour and then the Champions League again. It is a massive time for me and if I can do well I can get into the top ten. That is the aim during September and October.”
Pipe – currently £16,000 behind tenth-placed Raymond van Barneveld in the world rankings based on prize money over a two-year period – already has one European Tour crown to his name, scooping £15,000 in the process.
While steady success over the coming weeks will boost his chances of improving his ranking, Pipe is also well-aware that he needs to perform in order to qualify for November’s Grand Slam of Darts in Wolverhampton.
“I desperately want to make the Grand Slam because that is such a great tournament to be in,” he said.
“You have got three guaranteed television appearances, so for your sponsors, your management and also your own profile it’s great.
“Unfortunately there are only two spots left and unless I make a television final in the European Championship, Grand Prix or Champions League I won’t be in it unless I win the qualifiers in November.
“The finalists in the qualifying will make it providing somebody who hasn’t qualified doesn’t make it to a television final. It’s going to be really tough and unless I make a televised final then I will have to win or make the final of qualifiers, where 250-300 players will have entered. That will be so hard and I would love dearly to make it to the Grand Slam as I love the competition.
“I have been in it the last two years and the first was my first major televised competition, while last year I played quite well and was unlucky not to progress.
“The good thing about the Grand Slam is that it’s not a ranking competition and nobody’s rankings are effected, which is the only bonus of not being in it.
“But having played in it and being used to the format, it is great to be involved in. The venue itself is brilliant with the balconies and stage. I think the Civic Hall is one of my favourites, over and above Ally Pally and Blackpool just because of the atmosphere.”
Even though this weekend represents Pipe’s first competitive outing since his Blackpool heroics, he heads east on the back of two open and exhibition victories.
Pipe triumphed over Simon Whitlock and Dennis Smith in the Romsey Open, before beating Andy Hamilton, Dennis Priestley and Kevin Painter to win Saturday’s Flight Night at Bristol City Football Club’s Ashton Gate.
Pipe was even throwing tungsten on his family’s summer holiday and said: “I took my dart board with me and had it up in our bedroom at the villa because I had to. I am not like some of the guys where they can go two or three weeks without throwing a dart.
“If I do that it kills me so I took my tour board and putting it up on the door was the first thing I did and the board was the first thing I unpacked.
“I was doing an hour every day on holiday, which is what you have got to do. My wife Claire and the kids are brilliant, they know why I did it. I was itching to get back in my own practice room, though.
“Saturday was good practice. There was nothing on it, we were paid to do the exhibition so nobody was going to win big money. We went there knowing we could relax but play darts against some top players. That was really good and I enjoyed it.”
Darts fans can now get their hands on replicas of Justin Pipe’s Cosmo darts. For more information visit www.justinpipe.co.uk.