Clayton opens up on personal turmoil ahead of World Grand Prix bid

Jonny Clayton (Taylor Lanning/PDC)

Jonny Clayton is bidding to put a tumultuous period behind him as he eyes a second BoyleSports World Grand Prix title at Leicester’s Morningside Arena next week.

Clayton stormed to victory in the double-start event in 2021, landing five ton-plus checkouts to dispatch his fellow countryman Gerwyn Price 5-1 in a remarkable final.

The Welshman also saw off Callan Rydz, Jose de Sousa, Krzysztof Ratajski and Danny Noppert on his way to lifting the coveted title, to cap off arguably the finest week of his career.

Despite his haul of big stage titles, Clayton’s World Grand Prix victory remains his only televised ranking success, a record he’s intent on rectifying over the coming months.

“I’m not one to overthink anything,” admitted Clayton, one of five former champions in this year’s 32-player field.

“I just try my best in every tournament that I play. Sometimes they go and sometimes they don’t. That is what sport is all about.

“I am defending money from winning the World Grand Prix two years ago, so let’s see how it goes. 

“Hopefully, the Ferret will come out on the winning side again. I want to lift every trophy that’s going, and I will try my hardest to do that.”

Clayton has been one of the sport’s stand-out performers in 2023, winning titles on the European Tour and ProTour, before steering Wales to a second World Cup of Darts title alongside Price in June.

The 48-year-old also featured in this year’s Premier League Play-Offs, although arguably his most impressive achievement came during his run to July’s World Matchplay decider.

Clayton’s participation at the Winter Gardens had been cast into doubt due to the ill-health of his father, who passed away just days after the tournament’s conclusion.

However, Clayton defied the odds with some heroic performances at the Empress Ballroom, battling through his personal turmoil to become the third Welsh player to reach a World Matchplay final.

“It was a tough time,” conceded Clayton, who defeated Gabriel Clemens, Dimitri Van den Bergh, Ryan Searle and Luke Humphries before succumbing to Nathan Aspinall in the final.

“I couldn’t perform in the final, but I did something for my dad in his last days, and that means so much to me.

“I was going to pull out [of the tournament], but my dad was adamant that he wanted me to play, so what do you do?

“I kept on going and thank goodness I did, because that was the last tournament he ever saw me in and I’m so proud that I got to the final.”

Following the passing of his father, Clayton withdrew from August’s World Series of Darts double-header in New Zealand and Australia, before returning to competitive action earlier this month.

The world number seven is yet to recapture the blistering form he showcased in Blackpool, although he showed signs of promise at last week’s Hungarian Darts Trophy.

Clayton posted a ton-topping average in his last 16 defeat to Michael van Gerwen in Budapest, and he is hoping to replicate that level of performance at the Morningside Arena.

“It is still difficult,” added the Welshman, who takes on European Champion Ross Smith in his World Grand Prix opener on Monday.

“I can’t just forget about my Dad, but darts was his life and I just want to keep doing him proud.

“I’ve got to be honest; I didn’t throw a dart for nearly six weeks and it shows, but I’m back on the practice board now and I need to concentrate on this end part of the year.

“My mind is back now on the big-stage tournaments coming up. It’s an important part of the year so I want to do well, and fingers crossed I will.”

Listen to the full exclusive interview with Jonny in the latest edition of The Darts Show Podcast - available on Spotify and Apple Podcasts - or read in the official 2023 BoyleSports World Grand Prix programme.