Michael van Gerwen is bidding to win the Grand Slam of Darts title for a record-breaking fourth year in a row.
The Dutchman has seen off Phil Taylor, James Wade and Peter Wright in recent years and can move to within two of The Power’s feat of six wins in this tournament.
This event features the top stars from the PDC and BDO codes, with each player initially hoping to get through the group stage and reach the knockout rounds.
bwin caught up with Van Gerwen, Gary Anderson, world champion Rob Cross and an in-form Wade to get their thoughts.
It’s been a great 2018 for yourself winning the Champions League and the World Matchplay but this tournament is one that has always seemed to evade you. I’m guessing you’ll be desperate to win this year?
I’d love to win the Grand Slam. That’s the one tournament I’d love to have under my belt. If I win it, I’m going to treat the family and myself.
I always enjoy playing that tournament, I’ve come close to winning it before in 2011 and it’s one that I’m determined to win before the end of my career.
The Grand Slam of Darts was won by Phil Taylor a record six times. What is it like without him on the tour?
Of course Phil was one of the greatest players the game has ever seen and if it wasn’t for him, along with Barry Hearn and Sky then I don’t think the sport would be where it is now, we certainly wouldn’t be playing for such big prize money.
I don’t think there are many sportsmen on the planet who have been 16-time world champion at anything so he will always command respect for that.
Without Phil it’s been a bit quieter in the players’ room, and it’s made me a bit richer as well!
He is missed because he’s been a part of the game for so many years but now is his time to rest and enjoy life.
Michael van Gerwen
You’ve won this tournament three years in a row. Does that give you the confidence you will make it four?
To win this tournament four years in a row would be really special and I am really determined to do it.
Nobody ever did that before so that gives me extra motivation to set a new record but I will make sure I focus for one game at a time.
But just because I’ve won it three times already doesn’t make it any easier to win number four and as always I will need to make sure I do the right things at the right moments.
How do you anticipate the venue change and do you think the atmosphere will be different?
The atmosphere at the Wolves Civic was always great, even though it was a smaller venue that we normally play in.
I‘ve never played at the new venue so I don’t know what the atmosphere is like there but I’m sure we will have a great crowd in as always, I love playing and performing for my fans.
2018 has been another fantastic year for you with wins at the Masters and the World Grand Prix but would you trade these to win your third World Championship?
I am proud of every trophy I win but of course the World Championship is the biggest event on the calendar so that is the one I really want to win.
Players are always remembered for how many world titles they have so I want to win as many as I can, but you have to be realistic because there are so many good players around now and the field is so strong.
After a great start to this year, you’ve had a series of early exits at some big tournaments. Is there anything you’re doing differently to turn your form around?
I recently changed to a new set of darts which are feeling a lot more comfortable.
I would say they feel even more comfortable than the ones I won the World Championship with and I’m glad to have the right darts now because I’ve been looking for that extra something since the start of the year.
I’ve not been doing too badly, though, and I’m in a period of the year that I know from 2017. A lot of this year has been a new experience for me but I’ve had the Grand Slam before so I know how to approach it.
The Civic Hall was famous for its atmosphere. Do you think the new venue will be just as loud?
I’ve only played at the Grand Slam once, which was last year, but it was a great experience and I’m sure the new venue will be great too.
I always appreciate the support from the fans no matter where I play.
Michael van Gerwen has won this tournament three years in a row. Is he the man to beat?
To win any tournament three years in a row is a magnificent achievement and of course Michael is a terrific player.
But there are so many good players in the field that you can’t just look at one player as a threat.
For me, I could only play him if I reach the final anyway, so it’s not as much of an issue and I’ve just got to concentrate on getting that far first.
After recently becoming a father for the first time and winning two successive TV titles, you must be feeling on cloud nine?
I couldn’t be happier right now – to have a new-born son followed by back-to-back TV titles is an amazing feeling.
I’ve won TV titles before and I’ve never made the most of it, but these two titles were special.
They were for Arthur. I’ve been feeling emotional about my title wins, they felt amazing and I made the most of the moments.
What do you put your recent resurgence down to?
Becoming a father has been a big thing for me. Arthur’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me and I’ve got a new focus now. I’ve got someone to do it for so that I can give him the best possible life.
How frustrating has the past few years been for you?
I’ve gone through some tough times. Recently I’ve been a lucky boy but perhaps that makes up for some of the misfortune I’ve had in recent years, and it’s a step in the right direction.
I go into every game battling, I’ve shown that I’m dangerous and everyone needs to watch out.
I’ve proved a lot of people wrong and I want to keep doing so.
With the World Championships around the corner, do you feel you can challenge for the title?
I always feel I can win every tournament I can play in, but talk is cheap and I have to go and do it.
But I also have to be realistic and not get ahead of myself, I need to take each game as it comes and make sure the best James Wade turns up every match.
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