Michael van Gerwen is arguably the most promising young talent in darts. The Dutchman, who capped off 2011 by being named as PDC Young Player of the year, is aiming to make this year his most successful yet.
The 22 year-old has started 2012 in typically explosive style. He won a UK Open qualifier in Crawley in February, hitting a nine-dart finish and a 170 checkout in the final. ‘Mighty Mike’ has continued to play fantastic darts in the floor tournaments so far, and he hopes that his impressive start to the year is a sign of things to come.
He said: “I played very well in Crawley and it was brilliant to hit the nine-darter, especially in the final. That meant a lot. It was special. These floor tournaments are very important for qualifying for the TV majors and building confidence, so it was a massive boost to win and I hope I can win a few more.”
Van Gerwen exploded onto the circuit in 2006, when he won the World Masters, aged just 17, becoming the youngest player ever to win a major title. The Dutchman has shown flashes of his electrifying ability at times, notably a nine-darter against Raymond van Barneveld at the 2007 Masters of Darts, but is starting to enjoy more consistency in his game after a year of mixed fortunes.
“Last year was very strange for me,” said van Gerwen. “In the first half of the year I didn’t get any good results. I failed to qualify for the World Matchplay and the World Grand Prix, which was very disappointing for me. I am a winner, but if you don’t qualify, you can’t win. For me to show what I can do I need to qualify for the televised tournaments.
“The second half of the year was so much better. I played very well in the floor tournaments and had some good results, which got my confidence levels up. I played well in the Grand Slam, finishing top of my group, and reached the last 16 of the World Championship too. I was happy with that. My confidence grows with every match I win on the big stage and the end of last year set me up nicely to do even better this year.”
‘Mighty Mike’ is set to compete on the biggest stage of his career, when he takes on James Hubbard in the final of the World Youth Championship at the O2 Arena in May. The match will be played in front of a humungous crowd on the night of the McCoy’s Premier League Final and van Gerwen is desperate to win the competition, after losing out to Arron Monk in last year’s final.
He said: “I’m looking forward to the final, especially to playing in front of such a big crowd. I’ve never been to a venue in the Premier League since I joined the PDC, so it’s even more exciting that the first time I do, I’ll have the chance to win a title. James (Hubbard) is a nice lad and I’m looking forward to playing him but I want to beat him on the night.
“The youth final is very important to me as it’s my last chance to win it. Last year Arron (Monk) was a bit too good for me in the final. I didn’t play my own game, so now I want to show everyone what I can do on the main stage.”
Van Gerwen hopes that victory in the youth final can act as a catalyst to bigger and better achievements this year, and the ambitious youngster is taking a wise and measured approach.
“I want to take small steps, not giant leaps,” said van Gerwen. “I want to improve game by game, leg by leg, step by step. Everybody knows how good I can be and I’ve shown it many times, but this year I really want to establish myself as a top player. I want qualify for all of the TV tournaments and improve in each one. One of the main things is to win the youth final. Confidence is the most important thing for me, but that only comes with winning games. I am getting there slowly but surely. I just have to keep focused and I know I can achieve a lot.”
By Chris Murphy