Van Gerwen to play through pain ahead of Blackpool title defence

Michael van Gerwen (PDC)

Reigning champion Michael van Gerwen is prepared to play through the pain barrier in Blackpool this year, as he sets his sights on a fourth Betfred World Matchplay title.

The Dutch darting supremo returns to the Winter Gardens in ominous form, as he bids to cap off a stunning spell by claiming a fourth televised crown in the space of two months.

Van Gerwen kicked off his winning run with a record-breaking seventh Premier League title in May, before adding to his title tally with back-to-back World Series of Darts wins in New York and Poland.

The three-time World Champion underwent extensive pre-planned dental surgery just a few weeks ago, but he defied the pain to triumph in sensational style in Warsaw last weekend.

Van Gerwen produced averages of 110, 104 and 113 on Finals Day to celebrate victory in the Polish capital, and now he is eyeing further silverware at the Empress Ballroom.

“I have just come back from surgery, and I’ve had a really tough couple of weeks,” reflected Van Gerwen, the 4/1 pre-tournament favourite with title sponsor Betfred.

“It costs a lot of energy, but I always say if I am competing in something, I want to win it, and this tournament will be no different.

“I’m looking forward to the World Matchplay already. It’s one of the biggest tournaments we have, I want to play well and I want to defend my title.”

Van Gerwen is one of six former winners in this year’s 32-player field, and last year saw him become only the second player – along with Phil Taylor - to claim a hat-trick of titles in Blackpool.

The 34-year-old recovered from 9-5 down to defeat Gerwyn Price 18-14 in a memorable final 12 months ago, averaging 101, landing fifteen 180s and hitting five ton-plus checkouts to complete the comeback.

“After my world titles, last year’s World Matchplay probably comes on top with the first time I won the Premier League against Phil [Taylor]," Van Gerwen revealed.

“This is a massive trophy, and it was massive for me to win it again. I kept believing in my own ability and my own form, and to win it in the way I did, it was a great feeling.

“I always enjoy winning here, and I’m not done yet. I love what I do, and there’s more to come.”

Van Gerwen won four premier televised events in a prolific 2022 campaign, following up his Premier League and World Matchplay wins with victory at the World Grand Prix and Players Championship Finals.

The Dutchman is hoping for similar success in 2023, as he continues his bid to reclaim the world number one spot he occupied for seven years between January 2014 to January 2021.

The world number three will open his title defence with a clash against Northern Ireland’s Brendan Dolan on Sunday evening, in a repeat of their first round showdown at the Winter Gardens in 2020.

“Of course last year I had a phenomenal season, especially with the major tournaments, and I hope I can do exactly the same this year, it would be fantastic,” Van Gerwen continued.

“If you look at my last televised tournaments, I lost the World Championship final to Michael Smith, and the UK Open final to Andrew Gilding, which was very disappointing.

“Since then it has been much better for me. I have won the Premier League, I won in New York and I won in Poland, so I’m playing well and I feel comfortable. 

“Brendan [Dolan] is a very good player, so I need to make sure I am focused and do the right things at the right moments, but if I play like I did last weekend, then I am the man to beat again.”

You can read the full, exclusive interview with Michael in the official 2023 Betfred World Matchplay programme.

The Betfred World Matchplay will be broadcast live on Sky Sports in the UK, through the PDC's worldwide broadcast partners including DAZN and Viaplay, and on PDCTV (excluding UK, Germany, Austria & Switzerland based subscribers).

2023 Betfred World Matchplay
Evening Session (1930 BST)
4x First Round

Nathan Aspinall v Krzysztof Ratajski
Luke Humphries v Jose de Sousa
Michael van Gerwen v Brendan Dolan
Michael Smith v Steve Beaton

Monday July 17 (1900 BST)
4x First Round

Dimitri Van den Bergh v Ross Smith
Ryan Searle v Raymond van Barneveld
Peter Wright v Andrew Gilding
Jonny Clayton v Gabriel Clemens