World number one Michael van Gerwen has issued a rallying cry ahead of his Grand Slam of Darts defence next week, by declaring that he’s “the best of all time.” Van Gerwen defeated Phil Taylor to win his maiden Grand Slam crown twelve months ago, and has an interesting take on the comparisons drawn between himself and ‘The Power’.
In an exclusive interview with Sky Sports, the Dutchman insisted: “He [Taylor] is the greatest of all time, but I am the best of all time. It’s not possible to win more, or become the greatest ever, because I cannot 16 world titles. I will be retired before.”
Taylor has achieved unprecedented success in the game, winning an astonishing 16 World Championship titles and over 100 major ranking titles, a tally unlikely to ever be bettered. Nevertheless, ‘The Green Machine’ has raised the bar significantly over recent years, taking the game to unchartered heights.
MvG stormed on to the darting scene at the age of 17, beating Martin Adams, who he faces this weekend, to win the 2006 Winmau World Masters. Van Gerwen’s first competitive victory over Taylor came less than a year later, when he stunned ‘The Power’ with a 3-0 whitewash in the 2007 Masters of Darts.
The Dutchman’s rise to prominence was rapid, although after joining the PDC in 2008 he endured a rather lean spell. Van Gerwen acknowledged: “It’s not easy to change things around and actually be the best in the world. You get confidence, and try to play the best possible. I always believed in myself and you have to do that, otherwise you can’t win something.”
‘Mighty Mike’ became BDO world number one in 2007 at the tender age of 17 and he admits this period of his career was integral to his development, as it established the foundations for his future success.
“You learn to travel on your own, you learn to compete against people with a lot of experience which is hard to do. That’s hard to do, trying to become a winner. You first need to know what it’s like to lose before you can win something. I enjoyed it because, at that moment, it was a big thing. I was No 1 in the BDO rankings. It was good to start with but it was only the beginning.”
Nevertheless, it wasn’t always plain sailing for the Dutch darting demon. He endured a lean spell after joining the PDC, and psychologically he found it extremely difficult to come to terms with the fact he was losing to inferior players.
Van Gerwen admitted: “I had moments where I was better than 90 per cent of the field, but I lost to 90 per cent of the field. You need to ask ‘what am I doing wrong? Where can I improve? What can I do to change things around?
“I also had a couple of years like a beginner because I wasn’t confident and I couldn’t win a tournament. But you need to try and change that around. You need the confidence on your side, rather than the other way around. You need them to look up to you, not the other way around. If you look up to someone, you fear them,” he added.
However, that lack of confidence is a distant memory for Van Gerwen, who has enjoyed a staggering level of dominance over the last two years. MvG won eighteen titles in 2015 and has bettered that this year, having already won a staggering 23, just one behind Taylor’s all time record of 24, set in 2010.
Yet, MvG is not just making records based on his number of title wins. He’s also regularly producing stratospheric averages, which was evidenced in this year’s Premier League, where he averaged an incredible 123.40 in dismantling Michael Smith 7-1 in less than fifteen minutes.
Van Gerwen’s astonishing performances has led Snooker legend Ronnie O’Sullivan to label MvG as ‘the greatest sportsman on earth’ and the 27-year-old Boxtel ace is well aware of his sense of invincibility at present. “Sometimes it’s a bit unbelievable what I’m doing at the moment. You need to realise that because it makes you stronger.”
Despite this, the one blot on Van Gerwen’s CV is the fact that he has only won the solitary World Championship title, which came back in 2014. Van Gerwen dominated the world of darts last year, only to be beaten in the last 16 at Alexandra Palace by his legendary compatriot Raymond van Barneveld.
Michael has taken the game to new heights and is already considered by many as one of the best of all time. However, the pinnacle of any sport is to become world champion, which the likes of Taylor and Van Barneveld have done so multiple times. To assume the “best of all time” status, Van Gerwen must follow suit.
Yet in more pressing matters, MvG begins his Grand Slam defence with a tie against the legendary three-time Lakeside world champ Martin Adams on Saturday night, whilst he also faces Brendan Dolan and Max Hopp in Group A. Having won every major TV ranking title in 2016 thus far, is there any stopping ‘The Green Machine’?