ROB CROSS believes his re-found enjoyment of the sport could hold the key to Unibet Premier League success ahead of his clash with Michael van Gerwen on Night Three in Dublin on Thursday.
Despite reaching the Play-Offs in his first Premier League campaign since being crowned World Champion in 2018, Cross admitted that he struggled to get to grips with the tournament's week-on-week demands.
Night Two in Glasgow saw Cross produce a second ton-plus average in as many weeks in his 7-4 defeat of James Wade, and the Hastings man explained his up-turn in form.
"I lost my smile last year, everything felt difficult during the Premier League but I'm feeling a lot more positive this year," said world number two Cross.
"I'm a lot happier off the oche, I'm seeing my kids a lot more regularly which is playing a big part; I feel fresh now and like my old self again.
"I walked into the Premier League last year in the whirlwind of becoming World Champion and i didn't have a clue what I was doing week to week which wasn't an ideal situation to be in.
"The Premier League is a ruthless competition and I'm here to play properly; I've been working hard on my game and it's paying off, I feel great at the moment."
Thursday's meeting with Van Gerwen will see a replay of the classic World Championship semi-final which Cross memorably won en route to being crowned World Champion.
The Dutchman gained his revenge by defeating Cross three times in last year's Premier League, including a win in the Play-Offs semi-finals, but their last meeting in August 2018 saw Cross pick up his second TV title in the final of the Brisbane Masters.
"Michael is on a high right now but I'm looking forward to giving it my best shot," Van Gerwen added.
"I've played him many times so I know how relentless he is but the way I'm playing at the minute I feel confident and I'll go into the match with a fearless mindset - if you want to win it you’ve got to beat the best players.
"I've played well the first two nights of the Premier League but I know I'm capable of even better and hopefully I will show that on Thursday and the weeks beyond that.
"One thing's for sure, if we're both on our top game then it could be another amazing game between us on Thursday."
Night Three of the Unibet Premier League in Dublin will be shown live on Sky Sports, worldwide through the PDC's broadcast partners, and through PDCTV-HD for Rest of the World Subscribers.
Night Three - Thursday February 21
Gerwyn Price v James Wade
Steve Lennon v Peter Wright
Michael van Gerwen v Rob Cross
Michael Smith v Daryl Gurney
Mensur Suljovic v Raymond van Barneveld
Tickets: 0818 719 300 (Ire) or click here