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Nicholson explains decision to opt out of 2019 Qualifying School

Jamie Shaw in PDC Darts News 02 Dec 2019
Nicholson departs the Ally Pally stage after defeat to Burness (credit:Lawrence Lustig/PDC)
Paul Nicholson has revealed he will not be entering 2019 Qualifying School in a bid to make an immediate return to the PDC circuit as he plans to regroup over the next 12 months.
Nicholson surrendered his Tour Card after finishing outside of the world’s top 64 at the end of the 2018/19 season as a run of unlikely results conspired against him at Ally Pally.
The former Players Champion and World Cup finalist, who balances playing commitments with regular broadcast work, has told Live Darts he plans to take a break from competitive action this year before returning to Q School in 2020.
“The end of the World Championship was a little bit odd and with defeats for the likes of Ian White, Gerwyn Price and Dimitri van den Bergh, I was pushed out to 65th in the world, which has taken me off the tour,” said Nicholson.
“My last chance saloon was whether Corey Cadby would renew his membership and I’ve since been told that he has.
“My decision is to not go to Q School in about a week’s time.
“I just don’t feel like I’m good enough at this point in time to get through Q School.
“I don’t want to go there and be absolutely flogged and see my confidence wither even more. 
“There were times in 2018 where I played really well, especially around May/June time but I think I need a little bit of time away to try and find a formula to almost get my invincibility factor back, because I don’t have that right now.
“I need to find out what was going right in 2010, 2011 and 2012 as opposed to the last few years where I’ve had a period of mediocrity and I’m not prepared to live with that.
“It’s not one of those times where I’m saying I might come back in 2020, I am going to Q School in 2020. If there was a form for me to sign right now, I would.
“It’s just a case of doing different things in 2019. Q School has come a bit too quick and we’ll work on the game, work on the head and go forward in 2020.”
Entries for this year’s UK Qualifying School, which takes place from January 17-20 in Wigan, have already reached 250 and are expected to double in the coming days.
Nicholson, who regained his Tour Card at Q School in 2017, looked likely to retain his professional status after securing a place in the William Hill World Championship, but a First Round exit, coupled with strong runs for the likes of Devon Petersen and Luke Humphries, ended his hopes.
The Asset was in the Talksport 2 commentary box when Humphries defeated Dimitri van den Bergh 4-1 in the Last 32 and admits calling in the winning double was one of the hardest moments of his broadcasting career to date.
“Calling the game in for Luke Humphries against Dimitri van den Bergh is possibly the hardest thing I’ve ever done media-wise in darts,” admitted Nicholson.
“I knew that when Luke was hitting that double that my card had been lost.
“It was very tough, I wasn’t right for a good week after that, it was a good job I had Talksport to work for because it kept my mind occupied.
“I was really down on myself, I felt like I made improvements in 2018 but they weren’t good enough and I’m man enough to say that the decision I’ve made since then has not been easy.
“The knee-jerk reaction that you would normally get is: “Let’s go to Q School and try again” but I don’t feel as though I can go to Q School and feel invincible enough, not just to get through, but to actually play this year.
“I feel like I need to pick and choose, work on my darts, my head and reboot myself as a person in my 40th year.”
Nicholson’s return to Ally Pally after a four-year absence ended in a straight sets defeat to Kevin Burness in Round One, a result which signalled a disappointing end to a resurgent year which saw him reach the Semi-Finals of a European Tour event and qualify for three televised majors.
The 39-year-old admits the defeat took time to shake off but believes he still has more to offer the sport in a playing capacity.
“The defeat to Kevin Burness hit me hard, I prepared perfectly but it just didn’t happen on the day,” he added.
“Especially with the lights going out and things like hitting double 15 when I’m going for 31, it was just a sign that things need to change.
“Averaging 85 in a World Championship game is horrifying to me, I can’t stand that.
“I’m not going to get beaten 3-0 and take it on the chin and say ‘let’s just move on’ – it’s not what I’m like, I have to find a way to correct the wrongs.
“I’m prepared to make those changes this year in order to shoot forward because I do believe that the best darts of my life are ahead of me.”