Peter Wright has admitted he has been “down and miserable” playing behind closed doors.
The 50-year-old’s 2020 started with a bang as he won his maiden world crown, but he has spent the majority of his year as defending champion by playing in sterile bubbles in Milton Keynes and Coventry due to the coronavirus pandemic.
With his eccentric dress sense, which usually has a festive theme at this tournament, unique mohawk hairstyle and energetic walk-on, Wright is every inch the showman and feeds off playing in front of crowds.
He was looking forward to the prospect of returning to Alexandra Palace to defend his World Championship title in front of an audience, albeit not the usual sell-out.
But those hopes were ended with the news the capital and parts of Essex and Hertfordshire will face Tier 3 restrictions from Wednesday following “very sharp, exponential rises” in coronavirus cases.
It means the event. which starts on Tuesday, will be played out behind closed doors and Wright, speaking before Monday’s development, said: “I am definitely looking forward to it, defending champion as well is going to be pretty special.
“I have been down and miserable throughout this Covid. It is the same for all the players, we have all had to be in it and deal with it, being in the bubble and being tested every week, having sticks shoved down your neck and up your nose.
“It is horrible doing that and the hotel do their best by mixing up their food, but you are just having the same food all of the time, it just drives you nuts. You are not allowed out.
“We had a little crowd in the European Championship but I won that, it was only 250 people but they inspired me because I wanted to go out and entertain them. I needed the adrenaline.
“Yes, the other ones that have been behind closed doors have been TV tournaments and you should be up for it, there’s no excuse, but it’s difficult personally for myself, other players have said you should just deal with it, but for me it was just like playing darts at home. It was very strange.”
Wright, who will open against Steve West or Amit Gilitwala, comes into the tournament with a slight rib injury, suffered when he jumped over a fence.
“That would be great, but there is no pressure on me because I have achieved my dream of becoming world champion,” he said. “The pressure is on the other guys who haven’t won it.
“If I don’t win it this year, I will win it next year. I know before I retire I will win it another two times.
“I will be three-time world champion before I retire. Three times and if I’m still stubborn enough and want to upset the youngsters coming through and whatever I might stay around and get it five times, maybe. I don’t know. I’ll see how the body’s doing.”