Nathan Aspinall is hoping to continue his 'childhood dream' week in Blackpool by defeating Michael van Gerwen in their Betfred World Matchplay quarter-final on Friday.
Another classic contest could be in store at the Winter Gardens as Aspinall seeks a third win of the tournament, having overcome Mervyn King and Gary Anderson in the first two rounds.
The energetic Stockport thrower previously suffered back-to-back first round exits in his first two World Matchplay appearances, but is now just three wins away from lifting the Phil Taylor Trophy.
Aspinall bounced back from a disappointing end to 2020 by reaching the Premier League Play-Offs for a second successive year, and is determined to maintain his place among the sport’s elite by claiming a first TV title in two years.
“I've worked hard this week and I'm in the quarter-finals for the first time, and I can't wait to get back up on stage,” Aspinall said.
“I'm not here to make the numbers up, I'm here to win and if I can play like I did in the last nine or ten legs in my last game then I'll be hard to beat.
“But this is a new game and a completely different opponent, and I'll be bang up for it.
“It's a fantastic venue and the crowd have been amazing. As a kid you want to play in the biggest tournaments on the biggest stages in front of big crowds and I'm loving it.”
Standing between Aspinall and a semi-final berth is two-time World Matchplay winner Van Gerwen, who defeated Ian White 11-8 to reach the last eight for the first time since 2017.
The Dutchman is aiming to end a title drought stretching back to November 2020, and sent a message to Aspinall after his win.
“I like Nathan a lot but he knows I’m coming for him and I’m going to do everything in my power to make it as hard as possible for him,” Van Gerwen vowed.
“It’s always going to be tough against Nathan but I think he fears me more than I fear him. The format is getting longer and I prefer that but I still have to perform.”
Friday’s opener will see former World Matchplay runners-up Peter Wright and Michael Smith face-off for a place in the final four.
Smith came out on top of an epic tussle with Jose de Sousa, winning 13-11 in the first game to go into a tie-break, while Wright produced a 105.46 average, the highest of the tournament so far, in defeating Joe Cullen 11-5.
2021 Betfred World Matchplay
Friday July 23 (1900 BST)
Peter Wright v Michael Smith
Michael van Gerwen v Nathan Aspinall