Mensur Suljovic has revealed that he has spoken to the PDC to confirm that he does not want to be considered for a Premier League place in 2017. In an exclusive interview with Josh’s Dartistry, the world number seven discussed his stunning revival over the past few years and explained his reasons for rejecting a potential Premier League invitation.
The Austrian is somewhat of a darting veteran these days. He began his career in the BDO, making his World Masters debut in 1999. He then made his World Championship debut at the Lakeside in 2002, beating a certain Vincent van der Voort in round-one. Yet he didn’t appear in the PDC World Championship until 2008.
Nevertheless, it’s only within the last few years where Suljovic has really made his mark. He opted to compete full-time on the Pro Tour circuit in 2015 and he reaped the rewards, reaching two major semi-finals, two major quarter-finals and breaking into the world’s top 20 after some extremely consistent Pro Tour performances.
However, 2016 has been even better for the man nicknamed ‘The Gentle’. Suljovic’s consistency on the Pro Tour and European Tour saw him finish the year second on the European Tour Order of Merit, after he won his maiden PDC title at the International Darts Open in September.
Within the space of two months, Suljovic also reached the final of the European Darts Trophy before reaching his very first Players Championship final in Barnsley. Mensur also reached his maiden PDC major TV final at the European Championship in October, which saw him climb to a career high of seventh in the world.
On all three occasions, Suljovic was beaten in the final by world number one Michael van Gerwen, but his stratospheric rise over the last two years has left many people calling for the unconventional Austrian to be rewarded with a Premier League spot. However, Suljovic revealed he won’t be appearing in the Premier League, at least not next year.
“I have talked about this issue with my family, friends and even with my management. After all, I decided that I’m not ready for the Premier League at the moment. I’ve already sent a letter to the PDC declining the nomination.
“You have to show constant performances at a level that I do not have at the moment. I’m sure I could win some matches, but after all I’d be just a punch-ball and I’m quite sure that wouldn’t help anybody.
“Furthermore, this would mean that I have to travel to the UK for 6 days a week for several weeks and months. I couldn’t spend enough time with my family and it also means a bunch of costs for accommodation in the UK.
“Although Phil Taylor and even Michael van Gerwen told me to play the league, in the end the cost-benefit ratio is absolutely clear and I decided not to play in the Premier League.”
Suljovic’s remarkable darting revival is extremely difficult to explain and the Austrian himself believes there is no special formula behind his sudden success.”Things sometimes just happen – without having control over it. The same happened to Michael van Gerwen too. Once, he wanted to quit and shortly after he became world champion.
“Everybody is trying his best and so did I. I didn’t actually change anything special, just tried my best by training as much as possible, preparing for the tournaments and that’s it. Suddenly things worked out and I finally could take credit for my efforts.”
Suljovic has certainly received a number of plaudits over recent months, none more so than when he dismantled Phil Taylor 10-3 in the quarter-finals of the recent European Championship. ‘The Gentle‘ produced an inspired display to secure his first-ever win over his darting idol, averaging 105.50 and converting 53% of his double attempts.
Suljovic gushed: “This was definitely my best performance ever in a tournament. Mostly I’m quite proud of myself to have kept my nerves on this evening. It happened several times to me in the past when I would have had a chance to beat a better player, but in the end I didn’t succeed because I couldn’t hold my nerve.
“Yet this time it worked great – I stayed focused on my target, being sure to be able to win it and to be able to hit whatever I am targeting. The main thing to fight was the respectfulness I had for the status of Phil Taylor as the living legend of darts.
“This is quite emotional and therefore hard to overcome By they way, it is the same, when I play against my friends, like Rowby-John Rodriguez or Michael Rasztovits: It’s even harder to focus and stay focused all game through when you’re emotionally involved,” the Austrian acknowledged.
However, despite the growing list of scalps he’s claimed over recent years, Suljovic is rather level-headed about his prospects of rising further up the world rankings, and would rather focus on a period of consolidation.
“I hope I can stay within the top 10. I’m not dreaming of getting higher – I’m rather giving everything to stay there. I’m realistic and therefore quite sure that this is the end of my possibilities at the moment.
“Unfortunately I lack the consistency you need to get even higher, so I focus on keeping my position. It’s important to be honest – at least to yourself. So I’m enjoying the things I’ve reached and as I said before, everything that happens at the moment is a kind of “cherry on the cake“ for me.”
One of the biggest moments in Suljovic’s career thus far was his dramatic deciding-leg victory against Kim Huybrechts in the final of the International Darts Open. ‘The Gentle‘ admits he enjoyed some fortune after the Belgian spurned seven match darts, but he maintains that winning his maiden PDC title has not altered his mindset.
“Mostly it’s important for the Order of Merit and the consequences with seedings and invitations to following tournaments. It makes things even easier, but it didn’t impact my game or the manner I play. Maybe it changes the approach of my opponents, when they know; Mensur won the last tournament and is mentally in a good condition.”
Another aspect of Suljovic’s game that could affect the approach of his opponents is his more methodical throwing style. Yet, the 44-year-old insists he solely focuses on his rhythm rather than adopting tactical ploys to slow down quicker opponents.
“The most important thing in darts is playing “your game“ in your style; to get in your special flow regardless of what your opponent is doing. So I focus on my personal rhythm to achieve the best efforts possible.
“I always play the same way, whoever my opponent will be. It’s not a tactical ploy to influence the opponent. Sometimes I have – as every player has – difficulties to find my rhythm, so I have to reset to get into it. Furthermore, really good players do the same and you won’t get an impact on their behaviour or style or achievement in the game.
“Everything is about mentality and the better the player, the stronger he is mentally. So nobody would ever be able to influence Michael van Gerwen, Phil Taylor or any other player of the top 20 by the speed of playing. Every player is focusing on his own play and not on the opponent.”
Photo Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC
NB: Part Two of Josh’s Dartistry’s exclusive interview with Mensur Suljovic will follow soon. With thanks to Dietmar Schuhmann- president of Darts Control, for his translation.