Michael van Gerwen is targeting a record-breaking seventh Cazoo Premier League title in 2023, as he celebrates his ten-year anniversary in the sport’s biggest roadshow.
The reigning champion will begin his 11th Premier League campaign at Belfast’s SSE Arena on Thursday night, as he bids to create more history in the £1million event.
Van Gerwen made his Premier League debut back in 2013, finishing top of the league phase and defeating Phil Taylor in a thrilling final to lift the title on debut.
The Dutchman has been the dominant force in the Premier League throughout the last decade, winning six titles, reaching eight finals and shattering a host of records in the process.
“It’s not been too bad,” quipped Van Gerwen, who takes on World Champion Michael Smith in a blockbuster quarter-final clash in Belfast on Thursday.
“I can still remember winning my first Premier League title with the 132 finish!
“It was an amazing moment and it always sticks with me, because against such a big player in such a big tournament, to beat Phil in the final was amazing.
“You always need to be critical towards yourself and say ‘I could have maybe done better at a few stages’, but I think over the years, I have done really well in this tournament.”
Van Gerwen comes into this year’s Premier League in confident mood, having scooped five televised honours in a trophy-laden 2022 season.
The Dutchman’s sixth Premier League success last June sparked his return to winning ways, as he went on to secure World Matchplay, World Grand Prix and Players Championship Finals titles later in the year.
“I have played really well over the last 12 months,” declared Van Gerwen, who defeated Joe Cullen 11-10 in last year’s final to clinch the £275,000 top prize.
“Last year I had a lot of problems with my wrist, with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.
“At that moment you have to deal with the situation, because I didn’t have time to have the operation during the Premier League.
“I recovered a lot quicker than I thought I would. It could have been quite a dangerous operation for me, but luckily I’m still in a good place.
“Of course I could have won the World Championship, but outside of that, I think I had a phenomenal year, and I’m feeling good.”
The three-time World Champion has only once failed to reach the Play-Offs in ten previous appearances, topping the league phase on a record-equalling eight occasions.
Van Gerwen celebrated wins in Exeter, Brighton and Leeds during last year’s Premier League, and with his injury concerns banished, he’s hopeful of enjoying further success in 2023.
“I’m feeling confident, but you always need to be confident,” added the 33-year-old, who is level on six Premier League titles alongside Taylor.
“The main goal is to make the top four at the end of the season. It’s going to be a long journey so I need to make sure I’m sharp week after week.
“You have to be ready, or you shouldn’t be playing in the Premier League, and ten years after making my debut, I hope I can produce something special.”
Van Gerwen opens his defence of the title against World Champion Smith, in a repeat of their epic Cazoo World Championship final at Alexandra Palace last month.
Smith landed an astonishing nine-dart finish en route to glory in the capital, closing out a 7-4 success to seal his maiden World Championship crown.
However, the Dutchman has fond memories of playing Smith in the Premier League, having posted a remarkable 123.40 average in a 7-1 win over the St Helens star in the 2016 edition.
That remains the highest televised average in darting history, and Van Gerwen also sank Smith in the 2018 final, averaging 112.37 to prevail in another breath-taking tussle.
“Me and Michael always have great games,” admitted Van Gerwen, who has lost his last four televised ties against the new world number one.
“I have lost a few times to him, I have beaten him loads of times, but that doesn’t matter.
“This year’s Premier League is a fresh start, so I need to make sure I start strongly. I’m looking forward to it.”
The 2023 Cazoo Premier League will be broadcast live on Sky Sports in the UK & Ireland, through the PDC's worldwide broadcast partners including DAZN, Viaplay and VTM, and on PDCTV for Rest of the World Subscribers.
2023 Cazoo Premier League
Night One - Thursday February 2
The SSE Arena, Belfast
Dimitri Van den Bergh v Jonny Clayton
Michael Smith v Michael van Gerwen
Peter Wright v Chris Dobey
Nathan Aspinall v Gerwyn Price
Van den Bergh/Clayton v Smith/Van Gerwen
Wright/Dobey v Aspinall/Price
All games - best of 11 legs