The three-time world champion Michael van Gerwen sat down exclusively with bet365 to talk about his battles with Phil Taylor, how it felt winning the world title and his future ambitions.
I played football before I played darts, which was a long time ago because I’ve played darts for more than 20 years now, and it hasn’t gone too badly for me! But that’s what happens when you invest a lot of time into what you do and love the most, because if you’re good at something you like it more and more and more.
I never really watched it on TV but I loved to do it, and when you’re good at it it gives you confidence and you get better. I never really played weekly – I can’t remember when I first threw a dart – but I started playing more when I was 11/12 years old, playing with friends, and when you’re beating friends who are older than you, you get more confidence knowing you’re better than them.
The standard of the game compared to 20 years ago has increased massively. The playing field is much wider with much better players, a lot of players can average over 100. When I was started to come on the tour, 15 years ago, it gave me confidence beating the old boys and from there on you can only grow and you have to keep your focus and keep believing.
The first leg I played against a professional, there was a celebration and Wayne Mardle came over, and I only played one leg against him and I absolutely smashed him! At a young age I was playing in men’s tournaments, so I had to keep believing and looking towards the end goal.
My rivalry with Phil Taylor was huge, we had some great battles. The only thing I never did was beat him in a World Championship – I lost to him twice and I could’ve won them both and that’s the most annoying thing that’s eating me away a bit, but we played dozens of times and I beat him more than he beat me, but what Phil meant to darts globally was insane. He was the prototype of a professional.
People kept saying to me ‘when are you going to the World Championship?’ and I’d say ‘I’m trying! I’m trying!’ but I knew I had the capability, but you have to do it, especially when there’s pressure on your shoulders.
I'd already played a final, and it’s annoying when you lose, but from losing finals you learn the most, and that’s what I kept telling myself. Now I’ve done it three times, but I know there’s more in the tank, so I have to keep grafting.
Becoming world champion was an amazing feeling, especially when you’ve been trying for so many years and the pressure’s on your shoulders, you think ‘hey, I’ve done it’, and it’s like a stress relief coming off your body, and from there I’ve won a lot of tournaments since. It’s not always that easy, but it’s part of the game.
I still have goals and targets I want to reach. I’m not done yet. The Coronovirus period made me realise I miss this, and I want to do it more often. I’m not done yet. People know what I’ve got my eye on. I still want to win a few more World Championships, I’m too young to retire, and I just need to make sure I keep loving what I do and the rest will come automatically.
Raymond van Barneveld had a big part of the growth of darts in the Netherlands, especially when he was on the tour, but outside that he did a lot for darts. He’s been there and done it for so many years. He put darts on the map in Holland, fair enough, but some people have to take it over and that was me!