Inventive Heta believes ‘relaxed’ approach can inspire top ten tilt
Reigning World Cup champion Damon Heta believes his inventive walk-ons can elevate his game to another level, as he targets a place in the world’s top ten over the coming months.
Australian number one Heta has made terrific progress during his fledgling PDC career, and 2022 proved to be a breakthrough year for the 35-year-old.
Heta steered his country to a maiden World Cup of Darts crown alongside Simon Whitlock, while also scooping three ranking titles to cap off a memorable campaign.
The former Brisbane Darts Master produced some stratospheric averages in topping the 2022 Players Championship Order of Merit, before clinching his first European Tour title at October’s Gibraltar Darts Trophy.
Heta was unable to replicate that success in the sport’s premier televised events, suffering a string of first round defeats, with a run to the UK Open quarter-finals providing an exception to the rule.
However, Heta believes a more relaxed approach can inspire a change in fortunes on the big stage, evidenced by his recent resurgence on the European Tour.
The Australian has generated headlines with his entertaining walk-ons over recent weeks, and he sent the crowd at last weekend’s Austrian Darts Open into raptures with an unforgettable entrance in Graz.
Heta won the hearts of the Austrian public by donning ski goggles and holding skies on his walk-on last weekend, having performed a striking dance routine in Munich a fortnight earlier.
“In the first couple of walk-ons I just relaxed and wanted to be myself,” Heta told Dan Dawson on the Darts Show Podcast.
“Then it progressed and people started liking it, particularly on the Euro Tours. They love a sing-song, they love a dance, so I’ve just played along with it and I’m enjoying it.
“It’s getting me over the line. I get up on that stage and I want the best. I strive for perfection. I try to win every game and I try too hard.
“These walk-ons release that tension and I just relax, so I’m going to keep riding with it and see what happens. I’m enjoying myself and I’m entertaining the crowd.”
Heta’s new-found approach looks to be paying dividends, with the former World Series winner reaching at least the quarter-finals in three of the year’s opening five European Tour events.
He also came within millimetres of edging out eventual champion Michael Smith in the German Darts Grand Prix semi-finals, having dumped out Gabriel Clemens, Chris Dobey and Danny Noppert in Munich.
“I don’t think every player could do this,” added Heta, seeded fourth at this weekend’s Dutch Darts Championship in Leeuwarden.
“Everyone is engrossed in their game and focused on what they need to do, how they prepare, but in my own game, I feel it releases that tension and I’m relaxed straight away.
“I might not be producing the statistics I was last year, but I’m winning games, I’m doing it with a big smile, keeping everyone happy and I’m loving it.”
Heta believes this relaxed demeanour could be the catalyst for unlocking his potential in the televised arena, as he looks to continue his meteoric rise in the sport.
Having claimed a PDC Tour Card just over three years ago, he has already established himself within the world’s top 20, but he’s determined to make further progress in 2023.
“I said at the start of the year that top ten wasn’t out of the realms”, added Heta – currently ranked 17th on the PDC Order of Merit.
“In order for me to get into the top ten, I need to do something in the big TV tournaments. That’s the only way I’m going to step up.
“I think the top ten is a realistic goal for me. Not everyone gets there, but I feel I’ve set my bar too low in previous years, whereas now I’ve set that bar at top ten.
“It will be tough, but I’ve got to strive for that, and I believe it can happen.”
Listen to the full exclusive interview with Damon in the latest edition of The Darts Show Podcast – available on Spotify and Apple Podcasts.