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From Muhammad Ali to Nathan Aspinall: The Asp opens up on Madison Square Garden and global darts

The growth of darts over the last few years has undoubtedly been one of the biggest success stories in sport.

Numbers are up in every department. Viewing figures, prize money, the number of events, the number of tours, the number of players – they’re all on the rise.

One player who has experienced the growth first hand is currently world number four Nathan Aspinall.

The World Matchplay champion is currently out in the Middle East for the second staging of the Bahrain Darts Masters.

The very thought of a Middle Eastern country hosting a high-profile darts tournament would’ve seemed unrealistic just a couple of decades ago. Yet here we are.

When asked about the Bahrain Darts Masters and whether it signalled the continued growth of the sport, Aspinall told Planet Sport: “I’m good friends with Michael Smith, Dave Chisnall, Chris Dobey. Every year we look at each other and go ‘bloody hell, it’s got bigger again’.

“Every year there seems to be a story. Obviously, we know what the story is this year. Last year it was Josh Rock, this year it’s Luke Littler. Four years ago it was myself. There are always stories that bring the media to appreciate the game of darts.

“It’s growing every year. With the growth of the game, it’s taken me to amazing places like Bahrain, Australia, New Zealand."

Another high-profile event on the calendar last year was the US Darts Masters which took place at Madison Square Garden.

The same building which hosted the likes of Muhammad Ali was taken over by thousands of darts fanatics.

Aspinall, who reached the quarter-final of that event, said: “Last year was a pinnacle for me, playing at Madison Square Garden. I watched fighters, boxers fight there and now I’m playing darts.

“It’s definitely a pinch me moment but it proves that Matchroom, PDC, the players, we’re all doing the right thing and darts is only going in the right direction and that’s up.”

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