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Article: JAMES HUBBARD has admitted that qualifying for the Betfair World Matchplay is a ^pretty amazing achievement^.

JAMES HUBBARD has admitted that qualifying for the Betfair World Matchplay is a ^pretty amazing achievement^.

The teenager only turned professional last November and won the PDC Unicorn World Youth Championship title in May.

Having joined the senior PDC circuit full-time in January, he has made a huge impression to follow up his qualification for the Speedy Services UK Open by winning a Betfair World Matchplay place.

He secured his spot in Blackpool by reaching the quarter-finals of the European Darts Open last weekend, and was left in tears of joy on stage in Dusseldorf after ensuring his place in the £400,000 summer spectacular.

Hubbard had to defeat World Championship finalist Andy Hamilton in the first round - winning 6-5 despite the Stoke ace hitting eight 180s - and also defeated Steve Brown in a deciding leg in the last 32, before picking up a 6-3 win over Mark Walsh which put him into the quarter-finals and sealed World Matchplay qualification.

"For my first year as a professional, it^s a pretty amazing achievement," he told BBC Radio Norfolk.

"I went there knowing I^d have to win three, maybe four, games. Luckily a couple of people lost around me in the places for the Matchplay and I managed to win three and sneaked in.

"These European tour events are played in front of thousands of people, but I^m taking it step by step and hopefully I^ll get used to playing on TV soon."

Hubbard will take on number five seed Wes Newton on his Blackpool debut on Tuesday July 24, and added: "I^ve known Wes since I was a kid and it will be nice to play him.

"He^s obviously going to be favourite, he^s playing really well at the moment but I^ve just got to enjoy it.

"I^ve been put on the Tuesday night, which is my 20th birthday, so it will be quite a good present if I win!"

Hubbard practices on a regular basis with Norfolk rival Mervyn King, who has drawn reigning World Matchplay champion Phil Taylor in Blackpool, and he believes that his training partner can cause an upset in their first round game.

"Mervyn King^s got Phil Taylor and he^s playing really well at the moment, so it wouldn^t surprise me if he did beat Phil," said Wymondham^s Hubbard.

"Obviously Mervyn^s going to be going in as the underdog, like everyone does against Phil, but it will be a good one to watch."

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