Josh Rock insists his confidence is ‘sky-high’ as he prepares to take on Callan Rydz for a place in the third round of the Cazoo World Darts Championship on Wednesday afternoon.
The Northern Irishman has been touted as a potential contender for the title on his Alexandra Palace bow, after marking his World Championship debut with a hard-fought 3-1 win over Jose Justicia.
Rock wasn’t at his blistering best against the Spaniard, but a sublime 150 checkout midway through set three sparked him into life and helped set up a fascinating tie against last year’s quarter-finalist Rydz.
“Everybody said the pressure was on me. I said I didn’t feel the pressure, but when you go up on that stage, I felt it,” admitted Rock, who averaged 93 and converted 48% of his attempts at double.
“I know what I can do, and a 93 average is not my game.
“I think that is the first time I’ve shown frustration on the stage, because I knew what I could produce, but I was putting too much pressure on myself.
“I know in the next game there will be a different Josh Rock on that stage because there is no pressure on me anymore.”
Rock has been a revelation since securing his PDC Tour Card in January, breaking records and establishing himself as one of the sport’s brightest stars.
The 21-year-old posted a sensational 121.88 average in a Players Championship event earlier this year, before scooping his maiden ProTour title in October to accompany his haul of five Development Tour crowns.
He then landed a nine-darter in a thrilling last 16 tie against Michael van Gerwen at last month’s Grand Slam of Darts, before winning the World Youth Championship title to cap off a stunning debut season.
“I’m 47th in the world, so being sixth favourite to win the World Championship, that feels a bit surreal,” admitted the Ballymena ace.
“My confidence is sky-high right now. I know I didn’t play my game against Jose, but the monkey is off my back and I will perform next time.
“My main goal was to win my first game, and I’ll just go on from that. I believe I can win it now.”
Rock’s next assignment will see him take on Rydz in an intriguing tie, for the right to play two-time semi-finalist Nathan Aspinall after the Christmas break.
Rydz defeated Brendan Dolan, Aspinall and Alan Soutar to reach the quarter-finals 12 months ago, and while he’s not hit those heights in 2022, he returned to form with a run to the last eight at last month's Players Championship Finals.
“I am really good friends with Callan. He’s had a difficult year and I respect the way he’s been dealing with it,” added Rock.
“I’m going to try and do my job, he will try and do his, and the better player on the day will win.”
2022/23 Cazoo World Darts Championship
Wednesday December 21
Afternoon Session (1230 GMT)
2x First Round, 2x Second Round
John O’Shea v Darius Labanauskas (R1)
Martijn Kleermaker v Xicheng Han (R1)
Callan Rydz v Josh Rock (R2)
Dave Chisnall v Andrew Gilding (R2)
Evening Session (1900 GMT)
4x Second Round
Mervyn King v Danny Baggish (R2)
Gabriel Clemens v William O'Connor (R2)
Michael van Gerwen v Lewy Williams (R2)
Stephen Bunting v Leonard Gates (R2)