It’s ten years ago since Phil Taylor became the last player to successfully defend his World Grand Prix title. Michael van Gerwen gets his fourth chance in the coming week to retain the title in Dublin.

Van Gerwen claimed the title last year after beating Peter Wright 5-2 in the final. Mighty Mike also took the title in 2012, 2014, and 2016 at the World Grand Prix, where players must commence and finish each leg on a double.

The Dutchman awaits a tricky first round clash in the first round on Sunday evening as he drawn Jamie Hughes, who won one of the European Tour events this season.

”It’s a fine draw”, said the defending champion in an interview with Dartsnews. ”Hughes is a good player, but also has many matches in which he performs poorly. Of course he also played a few fantastic matches. It remains a short format and I have to be focused from the beginning.”

Lawrence Lustig/PDC

Michael van Gerwen claimed the title last year at the World Grand Prix. Photo: Lawrence Lustig/PDC

It seems the world number one has more fear for the short format (best of 3 sets) rather then his opponent in the first round. Although Van Gerwen says he likes the World Grand Prix, he is apprehensive about the dangers that come with such a format.

”I like this tournament. I only dislike the first round, which is a very short format. It’s over before you even realise it. I compare it with a match on the Pro Tour. Adrian Gray managed to beat Phil Taylor in the first round (in 2007) and I also have lost in the first round already (in 2017 to John Henderson). The first round at this tournament is just very dangerous. You have to be sharp from the beginning.”

Too much expectation

Dublin is the place where Van Gerwen won his very first major title in 2012. It turned out to be the start to a role as one of the most successful players in the history of the sport.

After winning the world title in 2014, he took over the world number one spot from Phil Taylor. Almost six years later, he is still sitting on the same throne, with three world titles in his bag.

The Green Machine claimed several titles in the first few months of the season. He won his fifth consecutive Masters title, while he also won the Premier League for a fifth time. In addition he also added four more European Tour titles to his name.

Lawrence Lustig/PDC

Photo: Lawrence Lustig/PDC

However, the momentum changed in June. He remained without titles for almost three months, while he was also unable to hit a ton plus average in sixteen consecutive matches.

Although Van Gerwen triumphed in August during two World Series tournaments, there are still doubts about his form. Still, Mighty Mike refuses to talk about a dip in form. As an example, he points to the Gibraltar Darts Trophy, where Van Gerwen was beaten by Nathan Aspinall in the third round.

”Last week in Gibraltar I produced a 103.5 average in my first match and then hit a 102.5 average. Why should I complain about my form then? People have been pampered (by my performances).”

Is there too much expectation from the three-time world champion? ”The last few months I have not played the way I want to play, let that be clear. I commit myself to win every televised tournament.”

”But sometimes I have spoiled myself and others too much. Played fantastic very often. When the results are not as good as usually, people are having a judgement very quickly. That’s not a problem for me, it’s because I have won many tournaments. I just have to work harder for it myself, it’s simple as that.”

Michael van Gerwen is prepared for a tricky first round clash at the World Grand Prix.

Photo: David Callow/PDC

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Author: Pieter