'Smash' Lukeman vows to inflict damage on his Blackpool bow

Martin Lukeman in action (PDC)

Emerging star Martin Lukeman is one of four debutants set to feature at this year’s Betfred World Matchplay, and the man nicknamed ‘Smash’ is confident of inflicting serious damage at the Winter Gardens.

After securing his PDC Tour Card in February 2021, Lukeman pocketed a modest £9,500 in his first year on the professional circuit, underlining his potential with a run to a ProTour semi-final last August.

The Watford thrower has since gone from strength to strength during a sensational six-month spell, and he’s now set to compete in the biggest event of the darting summer.

“I always thought I had the talent, but I just couldn’t get going,” said Lukeman, who quit his construction job in December to become a full-time professional. 

“I was in and out of the Challenge Tour, but during lockdown I did so much practice because I wasn’t working, and it worked for me.

“I was probably playing two competitions a night online, every day throughout that whole year of lockdown, and then I went to Qualifying School and grabbed my Tour Card!”

Lukeman is no newcomer to the darting scene, clinching his maiden Challenge Tour title in 2015, before reaching the last 16 of the UK Open in 2017 as a Rileys Amateur Qualifier.

However, from a position of relative obscurity, Lukeman is now poised to feature in the remainder of this year’s televised ranking events, courtesy of his exploits on the European Tour.

The 37-year-old announced his arrival with a run to April’s German Darts Grand Prix final, before dispatching Michael van Gerwen 6-1 in Stuttgart just weeks later.

“The European Tour has done wonders for me this year, it’s got me right up the rankings and it has probably helped me keep my Tour Card,” said Lukeman, the world number 67.

“I don’t want to be waking up at 5am in the morning and going to cold building sites, I want to do this, and I’m going to work hard at it.”

“I’ve qualified for nine out of 11 European Tour events now, that’s not too bad! I’ve got two more left, and that would be a good year’s work!”

Lukeman faces a tough test on his Winter Gardens debut, as he takes on 2007 champion James Wade, also a five-time runner-up at the prestigious event.

No player in this year’s field has appeared in more Blackpool finals than Wade, but the prospect of taking on the decorated left-hander holds no fear for Lukeman.

“I’m playing well. I’m looking forward to the World Matchplay, we’ll have some of it,” he quipped.

“People don’t want to play me. I can see hands shaking in these venues now when opponents play me.

“I’m not there to make the numbers up. People know I’m a danger man now. I’m going to surprise a few people.”

Listen to the full exclusive interview with Martin in the latest edition of The Darts Show Podcast - available on Spotify and Apple Podcasts.

The tournament is being broadcast live on Sky Sports in the UK, through the PDC's worldwide broadcast partners including DAZN and Viaplay, and on PDCTV (excluding UK, Germany, Austria & Switzerland based subscribers).

2022 Betfred World Matchplay
Schedule of Play
Sunday July 17
Afternoon Session (1300 BST)
4x First Round

Dirk van Duijvenbode v Ryan Searle
Danny Noppert v Brendan Dolan
Gary Anderson v Daryl Gurney
Michael Smith v Andrew Gilding

Evening Session (1930 BST)
4x First Round

Joe Cullen v Damon Heta
James Wade v Martin Lukeman
Michael van Gerwen v Adrian Lewis
Luke Humphries v Nathan Aspinall