Van Gerwen relishing added expectation ahead of Suljovic showdown

Michael van Gerwen (PDC)

Michael van Gerwen insists he will handle the pressure as he continues his bid for a fourth Cazoo World Darts Championship crown against Mensur Suljovic on Wednesday.

Van Gerwen headlines a star-studded cast at Alexandra Palace on Wednesday night, which also includes two-time runner-up Michael Smith, Masters champion Joe Cullen and World Cup winner Damon Heta.

However, three-time World Champion Van Gerwen will take centre stage in the capital, as he faces his old adversary Suljovic for a place in the last 16.

The Dutchman kicked off his campaign in style last week, posting his 34th ton-plus average on the sport’s biggest stage to breeze past Welsh youngster Lewy Williams in straight sets.

Van Gerwen’s 101.84 average was the highest of the second round, and he relinquished the solitary leg en route to victory, landing three 180s and converting 50% of his attempts at double in the process.

“I think it was definitely a good start,” reflected Van Gerwen, the only multiple World Champion left in the field with Peter Wright, Gary Anderson and Raymond van Barneveld all eliminated within the last 24 hours.

“I know there’s some things that could have gone better, but overall I played well and won the game, which is the most important thing.

“I’m trying to do what I’m good at which is playing darts at the highest level, but Alexandra Palace has a special place in my heart.

“I’ve played so many nice games over here, and to come back and have a great welcome, it meant a lot to me.”

Van Gerwen has returned to his brilliant best during a stunning 2022 campaign, claiming Premier League, World Matchplay, World Grand Prix and Players Championship Finals titles.

The 33-year-old also celebrated Queensland Darts Masters success in August, and he’s now aiming to cap off his remarkable revival by winning his first World Championship crown since 2019.

“This is the World Championship. You have to play well here,” declared Van Gerwen, who will regain the world number one spot by landing the £500,000 top prize on January 3.

“I’ve been preparing myself really intensely over the last few weeks and you want to show your best because on this stage you cannot fail and you can’t make mistakes.

“People know what I’m capable of and I’m feeling comfortable, and at this stage of the tournament that is really important.

“I want to win this tournament. That’s the standard I have created for myself. I know I’m capable of doing that.

“It puts more pressure on my shoulders, the target on my back is bigger, but it also makes my belief bigger.

"I believe in my own ability and I’m looking forward to the next one.”

Wednesday evening’s opener will see Cullen and Heta collide for the third time on the big stage in 2022, with Cullen looking to replicate his World Matchplay and World Grand Prix wins over the Australian.

Elsewhere, Grand Slam champion Smith rounds off an action-packed double session against German star Martin Schindler, who is bidding to join his compatriot Gabriel Clemens in the last 16.

2022/23 Cazoo World Darts Championship
Wednesday December 28
Evening Session (1900 GMT)
3x Third Round

Joe Cullen v Damon Heta
Michael van Gerwen v Mensur Suljovic
Michael Smith v Martin Schindler