MICHAEL VAN GERWEN set his sights on defending his status as world champion and admitted: The journey starts in Pompey.
The Dutchman will be among a star-studded line-up at the Guildhall tonight for the 2014 Untouchables (7.45pm) – an event he sees as the perfect preparation for the PDC World Championship, which starts at Alexandra Palace later this month.
The 25-year-old became the youngest man to claim darts’ most prestigious title last time out – aged 24 – after defeating surprise-package Peter Wright 7-4 in the grand final.
And van Gerwen is eager to taste success again on the biggest stage of them all.
But first ‘Mighty Mike’ has the small matter of an entertaining evening of arrows tonight against familiar adversaries, including Raymond van Barneveld, Adrian Lewis, James Wade and Simon Whitlock, in a city that holds fond memories for him.
‘The Untouchables is a massive event with good players – that’s why it is such great preparation for the World Championship,’ said van Gerwen.
‘Everyone wants to do well in the exhibition to get their form going – no-one wants to lose in the first round.
‘It’s the best exhibition I have played in – I really enjoy playing in Pompey.
‘The crowd always like me and I always try my best for them.
‘Everything always goes so well.’
Van Gerwen has certainly enjoyed previous visits to Portsmouth – winning on his past two south-coast outings in the Untouchables and May’s Night of Champions. While a World Championship double holds greater importance, the planet’s No1 player is in the city to complete a treble triumph – in style.
He said: ‘The past two times I’ve come to Pompey I have won, so I want to get the treble done.
‘I will need to put on my best performance to do so and I always do in exhibitions. I always go for it 200 per cent and I will again this evening.
‘It promises to be an entertaining night and everyone who is coming will really enjoy the show.
‘I always try for the nine-darter.
‘Last time I was here I missed double 12 in the final for one against Wadey (James Wade).
‘It’s a good personal target.
‘Winning is the most important thing but I’m going to hit a nine-darter sooner or later in an exhibition.’
Van Gerwen, who begins the defence of his World Championship title with a first-round clash against Joe Cullen in a fortnight’s time, has admitted his prized maiden Alexandra Palace victory has only strengthened his desire to win again.
‘I want to win it even more – I don’t want to lose,’ he added.
‘The feeling of being world champion is incredible.
‘But if someone else wins, I’m not the world champion any more and I want to keep the trophy!
‘And this World Championship I’m going for it and feel ready.
‘I always play with confidence that I am the best in the world.
‘If you don’t you might as well stay at home.
‘I’m a winner and I will try to do everything to win it again.’
n A select few tickets, priced £20, remain in the upper tier for tonight’s show at Portsmouth Guildhall. Those interested are advised to act fast as the event will sell out.
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