De Zwaan issues bullish World Championship target

Even at the tender age of 24, Jeffrey De Zwaan has enjoyed notable success during the fledgling stages of his career, but he believes that he can become world champion within the next couple of years.

The talented Dutchman is closing in on a place in the world’s top 20 and with two Pro Tour titles under his belt – coupled with an appearance in a major televised semi-final – the foundations are firmly in place for the man nicknamed ‘The Black Cobra’.

However, its been a frustrating period for De Zwaan, with the coronavirus pandemic curtailing the prospect of another Rotterdam Premier League homecoming. To compound matters, he was also ruled out of the inaugural PDC Home Tour due to a shoulder injury.

However, in an exclusive interview with Josh’s Dartistry earlier this month, the 24-year-old revealed that he had continued to work at home in the Netherlands during the crisis, which has eased financial concerns that may have emerged due to the lack of competitive darts.

“I still have my work so I don’t need my money from the darts. I can still pay everything from the salary I have earned with work,” De Zwaan told Josh’s Dartistry.

“I am keeping busy because luckily we can still work in Holland so I’m lucky to do that. I am working at a stock department, packing parts to ships that we’re sending over to repair.

“It’s a strange time for everyone. It’s sad for me that I can’t play the Premier League in Rotterdam and also the World Cup but we will see what happens when everything is going in a good way.”

De Zwaan would have been due to partner world number one Michael van Gerwen in the aforementioned World Cup and represent his country for the first time, although June’s event has been rescheduled for November and will now be held in Graz, Austria for the very first time.

Jermaine Wattimena competed alongside Van Gerwen last year as Raymond van Barneveld’s ever-present record in the competition came to an end, although De Zwaan has since leapfrogged Wattimena on the PDC Order of Merit, and admits it would be a dream to don the famous Dutch shirt.

“Of course it has been a dream. When I was young I always watched Raymond [Van Barneveld] playing with Michael [Van Gerwen] and of course it’s a dream to participate in that kind of tournament. It will be lovely if it could be this year, maybe later on.”

De Zwaan featured as one of nine ‘contenders’ in last year’s Premier League double-header in Rotterdam, narrowly losing out to Rob Cross in a pulsating showdown, which saw both men average over 100.

He was one of four ‘challengers’ to return for the 2020 edition with world champion Peter Wright his designated opponent, and although he is still set to lock horns with ‘Snakebite’ when the roadshow returns, it appears unlikely that he will be competing on home soil.

The former World Matchplay semi-finalist has been touted as a future Premier League regular and he possesses all the attributes – a great pace to his game, a prolific maximum-hitter and the ability to challenge the world’s best.

Despite this, De Zwaan concedes that he needs to establish himself within the world’s top 16 to make that ambition a reality, which would also force him to become a full-time professional – a decision he continues to contemplate.

“The Premier League? It depends on if I get into the top 16 or maybe a bit above. I really don’t know, because the tournaments are postponed to another date, so I don’t know if I can get into the top 16. We will see if Barry Hearn selects me. You never know.

“If I can maybe reach the top 16 or top eight then you can’t work when you are going to the Premier League or World Series. There is no more time to work. If I’m playing the Premier League or playing the World Series, then I think it’s time to quit work and start playing darts professionally.”

However, whilst the Dutch number two eyes a potential top 16 spot, he faces the prospect of sliding down the PDC Order of Merit if July’s World Matchplay does not go ahead as planned.

The PDC are expected to confirm a decision on the tournament within the next week, but having reached the last four at the Winter Gardens in 2018, De Zwaan is due to defend £30,000 on the two-year rolling Order of Merit.

There have been some calls for the world rankings to be temporarily frozen until competitive darts returns and De Zwaan acknowledges it’s a difficult call to make, but trusts the PDC to make the correct decision for the majority.

“I really don’t know what they are going to do about that. Of course if the World Matchplay doesn’t go ahead this year I don’t know what is going to happen with the money.

“I think it’s maybe not fair because you cannot do anything about it because of the coronavirus period, but I’m not sure what is the fair thing for everyone.”

If the World Matchplay does go ahead it will almost certainly be played behind closed doors and not necessarily at the iconic Winter Gardens in Blackpool. Nonetheless, it’s a tournament that holds particularly fond memories for De Zwaan.

It marked his major breakthrough in the PDC, as he stunned Van Gerwen in round one, before defeating two-time world champion Adrian Lewis and Dave Chisnall in thrilling tussles, only to succumb to an imperious Gary Anderson in the semi-finals, who went on to lift the title.

Just months earlier, De Zwaan had been facing the prospect of bankruptcy having relinquished his PDC Tour Card at the end of 2017, but he regained his place on the circuit immediately at Qualifying School, before underlining his credentials to some tune on the seaside.

“That was a big big turn in my career. People have seen me playing all the time to that good level but to reach a semi-final is good for your confidence and it gives you an opportunity to think: ‘Yeah I am here, now let the people see what I can do’.

“That year [2017] was really tough for me because I didn’t earn much with darts, I didn’t work that year as well, so the money was going down and down. I started to get nothing and I was almost bankrupt.

“At the end of that year, my manager said: ‘Come and work at my company, you have got a salary to pay everything’ and then I started playing well again and it helped me a lot.”

Despite winning a brace of Pro Tour titles during the course of the last two years, De Zwaan has since failed to progress beyond the quarter-finals of a televised event, but he reaffirmed his pedigree at last year’s World Championship.

The 24-year-old posted the highest average of the tournament [106.09] in edging out Dave Chisnall in a seven-set thriller, only to lose out in another decider against eventual champion Wright in the last 16, rallying from 3-0 down to level before the Scot regained his poise to prevail.

De Zwaan is unable to pinpoint the reason for his recent ‘drought’ on the big stage and although he alludes to a potential missed opportunity at Alexandra Palace, he remains confident of fulfilling his destiny, issuing a bullish target in his pursuit of World Championship glory.

“Darts is such a strange thing. Sometimes you are playing so well, but sometimes you cannot hit the right things at the right moments. You never know what can happen. If I had beaten Peter, maybe I would have lifted the trophy on January 1.

“I think I can be world champion in a couple of years time. I think I am capable of it. It’s all about timing. Hopefully I can do what I am doing now and keep moving forward.”

Image: Lawrence Lustig/PDC

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