VAN GERWEN HOPING FOR FAN-TASTIC WEEK
On-form Michael van Gerwen is hoping the “brilliant” Wolverhampton crowds can help inspire him to a first Grand Slam of Darts title and continue his sensational run of form.
Within the last month the 25-year-old Dutchman has won the European Championships and World Grand Prix, as well as reaching the semi-finals of The Masters.
Now van Gerwen, who is sponsored by leading trade paint manufacturer Leyland Paints, has his sights set on a first success in the Grand Slam having reached the final in 2012.
“The Grand Slam of Darts is a great tournament because it has players from both the BDO and the PDC,” said the world champion and world number one.
“The venue is also one I really enjoy and you always get brilliant fans in Wolverhampton.
“My form is good at the moment. It was disappointing not to win The Masters last weekend but I am now fully focused on the Grand Slam of Darts.
“It’s a very important time of the year with the World Championships coming up and it would be great to get another big title.”
As the number one seed for the tournament, van Gerwen finds himself in group A alongside compatriot Jan Dekker, Belgian Kim Huybrechts and Norwich qualifier Darren Webster for the round-robin opening stage.
“The first round is best of nine legs so it’s a very short format but the good thing it’s not just decided over one game – everybody gets three matches,” added van Gerwen.
“All the groups are very difficult because of the quality of players and mine is the same.
“If I can keep up the form that I’ve had over the last month then there is a good chance I can do well in the tournament but it’s very important I keep working hard.”
WHITLOCK RELISHING TOUGH CHALLENGE
Determined Simon Whitlock is relishing the prospect of being in one of the toughest groups at this year’s Grand Slam of Darts – and believes it could spark a return to peak form.
Australian-born Whitlock, who now lives in Waterlooville near Portsmouth, has struggled to mark an impact in televised tournaments over the last month.
He has been drawn in a demanding group F for the round robin stage of the Grand Slam alongside fellow Premier League star Peter Wright, Northern Ireland’s Brendan Dolan and Michael Smith, who knocked Phil Taylor out of the World Championships last Christmas.
Only the top two qualify for the knockout stages, but Whitlock is confident he can progress in Wolverhampton.
“It’s one of the hardest groups in the draw but I’m pretty pleased with it,” said Whitlock, who is sponsored by leading trade paint manufacturer Leyland Paints.
“We are all good players and it’s going to be a case of who performs best on each of the days.
“It’s a great challenge for me and one I’m relishing and hopefully it will bring out the best in me.”
Whitlock is confident he is close to returning to top form and is eyeing a strong performance in the three remaining majors this year, the Grand Slam, the Players Championship Finals and the World Championships.
“I don’t feel as though I have performed too badly in the matches I’ve lost,” added the 45-year-old Wizard of Oz.
“Most of them have been close matches which I’ve just been on the wrong side of. I will keep plugging away and one or two results will make a huge difference and give me a big confidence boost.”
Whitlock forms part of an all-star darting ‘Team-Leyland’ with current world number one Michael van Gerwen, who is also in action in Wolverhampton, and former world champion Mark Webster also both sponsored by Leyland Paints. Leyland Paints was founded in 1922 and has a long and distinguished history for affordable trade quality paints. For further information, go to www.leylandtrade.com