Michael van Gerwen has claimed that Peter Wright’s target of winning 20 titles in 2018 is ‘not really realistic’, after the world number one kicked off his Unibet Masters title defence with a 10-6 win over Kim Huybrechts in Milton Keynes on Saturday evening.
‘The Green Machine’ began his assault for a fourth straight Masters crown by defying an inspired fightback from ‘The Hurricane’, who reeled off five consecutive legs from 9-1 behind to give the Dutchman a minor scare. Nevertheless, Van Gerwen was in confident mood after his first-round triumph.
Van Gerwen’s closest challenger on the Order of Merit, Peter Wright- claimed earlier this week that he was aiming to win 20 titles this year in an attempt to ‘chase down’ MvG. However, ‘Snakebite’ trails Van Gerwen by over £1million and the Dutchman controversially claimed that Wright’s 20-title target was ‘for him not really realistic’.
Wright enjoyed the best year of his career in 2017- winning his first major televised title at the UK Open, in which Van Gerwen was absent due to a back injury. However, the Scot also lifted five European Tour titles, beating ‘The Green Machine’ in two of those finals.
Speaking to the PDC ahead of this tournament, Wright revealed: “My target is to win 20-plus tournaments this year and I want to be number one in the world. There’s no point in resting on my laurels, I’m going to chase Michael van Gerwen.”
Nevertheless, ‘Mighty Mike’ was in typically bullish mood, telling Josh’s Dartistry:“I think I’m going to win 20 this year, minimum of 20. I know Peter Wright said it, but for him it’s not really realistic. For me it’s realistic.”
The world number one secured an impressive haul of 18 titles last year, which saw him retain his Masters, Premier League, European Championship, Grand Slam and Players Championship Finals crowns. He also won his second World Cup alongside Raymond van Barneveld, and is targeting even greater success in 2018.
‘Mighty Mike’ bounced back magnificently from his previous World Championship defeat against Van Barneveld two years ago- going on to win an extraordinary 26 titles in 2016. Unsurprisingly, the Dutchman is confident of responding to his recent disappointment in similarly emphatic fashion.
MvG claimed: “That’s what I do all the time because that makes you a stronger person, a stronger player and I don’t care about other people. Of course you need to handle defeat sometimes, that’s part of the game. You can’t win all of the time.”
Van Gerwen was making his first televised appearance since losing out to Cross in that epic sudden-death leg in the semi-finals of the World Championship at the Alexandra Palace, but he insisted that he has put that defeat firmly behind him.
He admitted: “I feel comfortable for this year. Of course I had an annoying defeat to put away against Rob Cross in the semi-finals of the world’s, but things like that happen in the world’s, I had it before against Gary Anderson where I could have won, but things like that are part of the game. Now it’s time to look forward.
“There’s no point to look back, it’s the past and no-one gives anything about what happens last year, it’s now about this year and there’s so many tournaments to come and you want to perform well week after week and you have to because they will be behind your back to try and get as close as possible to you, but I don’t care about them.”
Van Gerwen made a blistering start to the new season against Huybrechts, racing into a 9-1 advantage with an incredible 111 average. However, the Belgian rallied superbly to reel off five consecutive legs, courtesy of two 11-darters and finishes of 107 and 160.
Nevertheless, MvG eventually fended off the fightback and admitted that he was satisfied with his performance. “It was alright to be fair, 9-1 up with a 111 average. After I played too poor to be fair but a win is a win and I can’t really complain- I didn’t play darts for three weeks so it’s a nice start to the season.”
The 28-year-old has won the Masters title for three straight years and has enjoyed an astonishing unbeaten run in televised matches on ITV4, and he was in determined mood when questioned about trying to clinch a fourth successive title in Milton Keynes.
He insisted: “Not try, I’m going to make it four in a row. It’s always nice to start off with a win and I’m feeling confident. I know I’m good enough to win tournaments and I also want to win this one.”
Photo Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC