HAVING reached his third major semi-final in a year, Justin Pipe believes he deserves his place at darts' top table.
The Force of North Curry returned to the practice board this week ahead of the Ladbrokes PDC World Championships having reached the last four of the Cash Converters Players Championship Finals for a second time at the weekend.
Beating close friend, practice partner and McCoys Premier League ace Gary Anderson along the way, Pipe finally fell to 16-time World Champion and eventual losing finalist Phil Taylor 9-4.
Taylor's 132 checkout to break throw and lead 6-4 at the second break proved pivotal as the sport's biggest name decisively upped a gear
Pipe – ranked 11th globally – has now set his sights firmly on a return to the Order of Merit's top ten and appreciates the importance of a career-best run at Alexandra Palace over the festive period.
Reflecting on another successful weekend at Butlins, Minehead, the World Grand Prix semi-finalist and World Matchplay quarter-finalist said: "With Phil you pick up the crumbs from the table and I was there in crumb-able distance, but that was it. He's something else.
"I had a 96 average, nearly, while he had a 106 and that's why he's 16-time World Champion. The 132 checkout was brilliant for 6-4, where he moved over to see the bull and hit it. He's brilliant and I'll watch him, learn from him and hopefully I can take the positives forward.
"I'm happy enough with the weekend but I'm disappointed to lose. You want to keep Phil honest, you want to lose 9-6, 9-7 or 9-8.
"You certainly don't want to lose 9-4 but it's Phil Taylor and I had my chances. I was on him and I can only take the positives as I will never take the negatives.
"The positives were that I was on Phil and I've got to take that away now and push on to the Worlds.
"There will be no time off now, that's it. I will be preparing for the World Championships. All I can hope for is a good end to the year.
"Every tournament is different and in all of the tv majors I've reached at least the quarter-finals so I'm really pleased with that and hopefully I can do the same in the Worlds. I'd be really happy with that.
"I feel like a top ten player now and that's what I tell myself. I need to push on and move like I am a top ten player. I've got to push on now, hopefully do well in the World Championships and cement myself in the top ten."
Pipe opened his bid for glory in front of a partisan local crowd on Friday by recovering from 4-1 down to beat Australian Simon Whitlock 6-4.
On Saturday he overcame Jamie Caven 9-4 in the £250,000 tournament that brought together the ProTour's top 32 players to book a clash with Anderson, who himself had survived a scare against Stuart Kellett to then knock out Jelle Klaasen.
Pipe took out 107 as he won the game's first three legs in a superb start, and he also led 4-1 with a 13-darter before Anderson got himself into the game by pulling back to 5-3 behind.
Pipe extended the lead to 7-4, but Anderson took the next three legs – including a 13-darter to break throw – to level the game, only for the world number 11 to finish 61 to regain the lead and tops for a 13-darter which sealed the win.
"It hurts (to knock out Anderson) and I would've much preferred that to have been the final, but it's not," said Pipe. "It was the quarter-final and I had to concentrate on the semi-final after that.
"I may have had three darts to go 8-3 and I think I was concentrating more on the win than the double and I can't afford to make that mistake again.
"Never underestimate Gary, never write him off. As it goes for raw talent he's one of the best in the world. He could well have a great World Championships, and I am sure he will. We will both be practicing together and working hard to make sure we both have good tournaments.
"I've never thought about us two playing each other, I never look beyond the round that I've got to play. On Saturday once Gary won and I realised I would have to play him was when I first thought about it. It really was a great game and I was just so pleased to come out the other end.
"Nobody knows Gary's game better than me and nobody knows my game better than Gary. When we play each other on the floor I stand back and don't look – we know exactly what each other will have done wrong.
"Although I'm slow, Gary and I get into a rhythm and we get that from when we practice together. I didn't really look at what Gaz was doing, to be honest, and in the first break I said to him 'I'll get the darts out of the board quicker' because I didn't want to hold anything up. It's a bittersweet victory."
Pipe faces 2011 World Youth Champion Arron Monk in the first round of the World Championships that starts on December 13.