Van Gerwen: The only man who can stop me is me
Michael van Gerwen will not rest until he has won every major tournament on the PDC calendar.
That is the ambition of a player who has already lifted the PDC World Championship trophy and overhauled the game's greatest player, Phil 'The Power' Taylor, as world No.1 before his 25th birthday.
"I want to win every tournament. It will take a lot of work, but why not?" Van Gerwen told ESPN. "Even if it takes me another couple of years to win a tournament, it doesn't matter. I live by my sport and never give up.
PDC World Championship gets prize boost
- Once again, the PDC has announced an increase in World Championship prize money and will award a total of £1.25 million at December's showpiece tournament at Alexandra Palace.
- While an extra £200,000 has been added to the kitty, courtesy of new title sponsors William Hill, the player who lifts the Sid Waddell trophy will still receive the same amount as last year (£250,000).
- That does not matter to defending champion Michael van Gerwen, though.
- When asked what he thinks every time he sees his trophy, Van Gerwen told ESPN: "It's mine. You need to work very hard for that but why not? Myself, Raymond van Barneveld, Phil Taylor and Adrian Lewis are favourites this year but you never know what's going to happen.
- "Maybe I'll be out of form before the World Championships, I don't know. It's too far away. I just need to concentrate on the tournaments before it because the schedule is so busy. I just need to stay relaxed and not make too big a thing out of it."
- The PDC's first World Championship, held in 1993-94 at the Circus Tavern in Essex, had a total prize fund of £64,000 with £16,000 going to the champion. In December, a third round loser will earn £18,000.
"I haven't won the World Matchplay yet, but it's on my list. I've won the three other big ones - the World Grand Prix, Premier League and World Championship - but now I want to win in Blackpool [beginning July 19]. It'll be quite a lot of work but it's something I really want."
According to the Dutchman, the only player likely to stop that happening is himself. While he acknowledged the likes of Taylor, Raymond van Barneveld, Adrian Lewis and James Wade as world-class players, Van Gerwen admitted he had been his worst enemy since announcing himself on the world stage in 2006.
That year, a 17-year-old Van Gerwen was crowned the youngest World Masters champion to date.
In 2007, having dismantled Taylor in the opening round of the Masters of Darts, Van Gerwen became the youngest player to throw a televised nine-dart finish in a semi-final loss to Van Barneveld.
However, his rise to world prominence did not come without torment. Despite being named the PDC's best young player in 2011, Van Gerwen failed to win another major tournament until he finally conquered his demons at the World Grand Prix in 2012.
"Confidence is very important. I had quite a long dip in form for a couple of years. I was playing against myself," Van Gerwen said.
"I knew I was a lot better than the players I was playing but I was still losing games. I was not strong enough mentally. I was weak at that moment.
"I'm doing well now because that confidence is there. Everything is there and I just want to keep it that way."
Lifting the World Grand Prix trophy in Dublin two years ago changed everything. Since that moment, Van Gerwen has added a Premier League, Players Championship Final, two Dubai Darts Masters, a World Cup and a PDC World Championship title to his major honours list.
Not forgetting his World Championship runner-up finish to Taylor in 2013, the same year he found himself one dart away from historic back-to-back nine-dart finishes at Alexandra Palace.
The tides have changed; every time he steps on stage, Van Gerwen displays the confidence once associated with Taylor while 'The Power' has been left to lick his wounds. The 16-time world champion, however, remains a threat.
"I don't have any idols but Phil is a pleasure to play against and a great sportsman," Van Gerwen said. "You have to show respect to people like Phil, who do and have done so many things for the sport. That, and he's still a fantastic player, isn't he?"
He is, but Van Gerwen has the potential and now the confidence to be even better.