MICHAEL VAN GERWEN believes he is the man to beat in Blackpool ahead of the start of his BetVictor World Matchplay campaign.
The world number one has dominated the sport in 2018 so far, claiming victory at The Masters, Premier League and World Cup in addition to six ProTour and six European Tour titles.
Van Gerwen will look to take on Phil Taylor's mantle as the 'king of the Winter Gardens' this summer as he seeks a third World Matchplay crown and the newly-titled Phil Taylor Trophy.
"Of course, Phil did well there in the past but times change," said Van Gerwen, who was defeated 16-6 by Taylor in last year's quarter-finals.
I can't afford to think about the players of the past because I have to deal with the players who are around now.
"You can't stand still and think about the past, you have to move forward and try to win the tournament.
"I've had the pressure of being the best player on my shoulders for a few years now but I can handle it."
Saturday's opening night will mark Van Gerwen's 10th appearance in Blackpool, having come runner-up in 2014 before claiming back-to-back victories in 2015 and 2016.
"The World Matchplay is one of the biggest tournaments of the year," added the Dutchman.
The venue is phenomenal and there is always a great crowd in who get behind me every year.
"I need to do my job again this year and not make any mistakes, but I think the format suits my game.
"To win any trophy is nice but this is a huge tournament and it would be really special to win it for a third time."
The Dutchman will take on compatriot Jeffrey de Zwaan, who is making his Winter Gardens debut, in their first round clash.
"I know it will not be an easy game," said Van Gerwen.
"There are so many good players on the circuit now and you have to make sure you play well and don't make any mistakes.
"I will be huge favourite to win the game even though he beat me in the UK Open.
"Maybe he will be a bit nervous with it being his first time in Blackpool and I'm confident I will get the win."
Watch Michael in action at The BetVictor World Matchplay, which will be broadcast on Sky Sports from July 21-29. For tickets, call the Winter Gardens Box Office on 0844 856 1111 or buy online at pdc.seetickets.com.
Thomas Cook Sport Breaks and Hospitality Packages are also available. See www.pdc.tv/tickets for full details and ticket information.
2018 BetVictor World Matchplay
Schedule of Play
Saturday July 21 (7pm)
Adrian Lewis v James Wilson
Dave Chisnall v Keegan Brown
Michael van Gerwen v Jeffrey de Zwaan
Michael Smith v Jonny Clayton
Sunday July 22
Afternoon Session (1pm)
Darren Webster v Steve Lennon
Ian White v Max Hopp
Gerwyn Price v Joe Cullen
Daryl Gurney v Steve West
Evening Session (7.30pm)
Mensur Suljovic v Steve Beaton
Gary Anderson v Stephen Bunting
Rob Cross v Mervyn King
Raymond van Barneveld v Kyle Anderson
Monday July 23 (7pm)
Kim Huybrechts v John Henderson
Simon Whitlock v Richard North
James Wade v Jermaine Wattimena
Peter Wright v Jelle Klaasen
Tuesday July 24 (7pm)
Chisnall/Brown v Smith/Clayton
Gurney/West v Price/Cullen
Van Gerwen/De Zwaan v Lewis/Wilson
G Anderson/Bunting v Van Barneveld/K Anderson
Wednesday July 25 (7pm)
Whitlock/North v Wade/Wattimena
Suljovic/Beaton v White/Hopp
Cross/King v Webster/Lennon
Wright/Klaasen v Huybrechts/Henderson
Thursday July 26 (7pm)
Friday July 27 (7pm)
Saturday July 28 (7pm)
Sunday July 29 (7pm)
First Round - Best of 19 legs
Second Round - Best of 21 legs
Quarter-Finals - Best of 31 legs
Semi-Finals - Best of 33 legs
Final - Best of 35 legs
Winner - £115,000
Runner-Up - £55,000
Semi-Finalists - £30,000
Quarter-Finalists - £17,500
Second Round Losers - £11,000
First Round Losers - £7,000
Total - £500,000