Michael van Gerwen has ominously claimed that he can elevate his game to greater levels ahead of his Cazoo Grand Slam of Darts quarter-final clash in Wolverhampton on Saturday night.
Van Gerwen – who lifted three successive Grand Slam titles from 2015 to 2017 – has been in magnificent form at the Aldersley Leisure Village, boasting a tournament average of almost 105.
The 33-year-old booked his place in the last eight on Thursday, courtesy of a stunning 10-8 success against rising star Josh Rock, who struck a nine-darter in the second leg of a breathless contest.
Despite Rock’s heroics, he was unable to topple the imperious Van Gerwen, who averaged 107 and converted finishes of 142, 124, 110 and 100 to cap off an irresistible display.
The Dutchman has posted three ton-topping averages in four games this week, but he’s refusing to get carried away as he targets a fourth Eric Bristow Trophy.
“I’m still in the tournament, I’m going well, but I’ve not won anything yet,” insisted Van Gerwen, who has celebrated Premier League, World Matchplay and World Grand Prix success in 2022.
“I don’t see anyone as a threat because if I do my own thing, I can do a lot of damage, but you still have to do it time after time, and I’m not a robot!
“I am feeling good. I am comfortable, my family is well and that is all part of the journey, and I think I can produce even more.
“You have to do the right things at the right moments and that’s what I am doing, and I am already looking forward to the next game.”
Van Gerwen will face former UK Open runner-up Luke Humphries for a place in Sunday’s semi-finals, after the 27-year-old overcame European Champion Ross Smith in the last 16.
Humphries punished a profligate display from Smith on Thursday night to reach his first Grand Slam quarter-final, which provisionally takes up him to fifth on the PDC Order of Merit.
“I started from the bottom on the Development Tour and Challenge Tour and all of sudden I’m sat fifth in the world, so it’s an incredible rise,” reflected the former World Youth Champion.
Humphries will take encouragement from his recent record against Van Gerwen, which includes an 11-5 victory in last year’s UK Open semi-finals, and a 7-0 whitewash on the European Tour in April.
“I’ve got good memories of playing Michael which gives me that belief that I can win,” added the Newbury ace, who has scooped four European Tour titles in 2022.
“I know there’s a game in me that can win a major, but sometimes I doubt myself a little bit. I feel I will be more relaxed on Saturday though, because Michael is expected to beat me.
“I know I can do it, but I know I’m going to have to be on my A-game for 31 legs straight.”
Saturday’s opening quarter-final will see Nathan Aspinall and Alan Soutar lock horns in a repeat of their Group E tussle seven days ago, which saw Soutar come out on top in a last-leg decider.
Aspinall recovered to claim top spot in the group with emphatic wins over Fallon Sherrock and Peter Wright, before progressing to the last eight with a convincing 10-6 win over Jermaine Wattimena.
The Stockport star – a runner-up at last month’s World Grand Prix – is featuring in his third televised quarter-final of the campaign, and he believes he’ll be tough to contend with over the best of 31 legs format.
“I feel confident, I feel that it’s going to take something special to stop me over that format,” added the former UK Open champion, who is eyeing his first TV title since 2019.
“I’ve not been at my best in this tournament, but this is where I come into my own over the longer format.
“It was great to have my Grandad with me on Thursday. I have always loved playing in front of my Grandad and I’ve got a great record when he is here, so he’s got to come again on Saturday!”
Soutar is riding the crest of wave in Wolverhampton, and despite only sealing his qualification in Barnsley a fortnight ago, the Scot is now set to star in his maiden televised quarter-final.
The 44-year-old firefighter enjoyed runs to the last 16 at the World Championship and UK Open 12 months ago, and the Grand Slam debutant continues to grow in stature on the big stage.
“I’m getting better, I’m finding my feet and I know I can cause more upsets in these tournaments,” declared Soutar, who will break into the world’s top 32 with victory over Aspinall.
“I love the pressure. I love the buzz of being under the cosh and I felt like Thursday night was the first time I’ve turned up on a big stage playing a big player.
“Nathan will be absolutely gunning for me after the Group Stages. He played great the other night. He was banging in 180s galore and he was right up for it, so let’s see what happens.”
Cazoo Grand Slam of Darts
Saturday November 19 (1900 GMT)
Nathan Aspinall v Alan Soutar
Michael van Gerwen v Luke Humphries
Best of 31 legs