Michael van Gerwen could create further history at the 2023/24 Paddy Power World Darts Championship, as he bids to become the first player to win a fourth Alexandra Palace crown.
The Dutch supremo has contributed to some of the most memorable moments at the iconic venue, and victory in this year’s showpiece would see him reclaim the world number one spot for the first time in three years.
Van Gerwen has already enjoyed a successful 2023 campaign, with the highlight being a record-breaking seventh Premier League triumph back in May.
The 34-year-old also followed up World Series of Darts victories in New York and Warsaw by winning the season-ending World Series of Darts Finals title on home soil in Amsterdam back in September.
Nevertheless, early exits in the World Matchplay, World Grand Prix and Grand Slam of Darts have tempered Van Gerwen’s assessment of his exploits over the last 12 months.
“There were a few ranking events where I would have liked to do a lot better,” conceded the three-time World Champion, who is without a premier televised ranking title since November 2022.
“I could have done a lot more, but you can only blame yourself, and I cannot get it right all the time!
“Of course I am always trying. I am always looking to improve, and now I need to make sure I am focused for the World Championship.”
Van Gerwen lifted the prestigious Sid Waddell Trophy in 2014, 2017 and 2019, although a fourth title in January 2024 would rank amongst his greatest wins, given the adversity he’s faced throughout the last 18 months.
The Boxtel-born star was forced to undergo arm surgery in June 2022, despite playing through the pain of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome on his way to Premier League glory.
Van Gerwen then underwent extensive pre-planned dental surgery earlier this summer, which left him sidelined from this year’s World Cup of Darts in Frankfurt.
“It’s been difficult, and there is still another operation coming, so it’s not finished yet,” Van Gerwen revealed.
“That is the way things go unfortunately, but you have to accept it; it’s part of life.
“You need to deal with it and make sure you stand behind your decisions. If you go for something, you have to commit to it 100 per cent, which is also the way I play darts.”
Van Gerwen’s haul of three PDC World Championship titles is bettered only by the indomitable Phil Taylor, and the Dutchman has remarkably featured in six of the last 11 Alexandra Palace finals.
This year's extravaganza will mark the ten-year anniversary of his maiden World Championship success, which saw him fulfil his darting destiny with a 7-4 victory against Peter Wright.
However, having succumbed to Wright and Michael Smith in the 2020 and 2023 deciders, the world number two will hope his recent heartbreak can inspire his title challenge over the coming weeks.
“You want to keep that motivation going, because you need that drive to perform,” declared Van Gerwen, who will face either Keane Barry or Reynaldo Rivera in round two on December 19.
“I have probably deserved four or five [World Championship] titles in my opinion, but I’ve still got plenty of time.
“I try not to look back too much because it’s not going to change the past, and I’m fully focused towards this World Championship, because I need to be at my best."
Van Gerwen will be amongst the leading contenders for the £500,000 top prize this year, in a tournament which has been touted as one of the most competitive in World Championship history.
Luke Humphries has dominated the pre-tournament headlines following his blistering run of form; winning 20 of his last 21 premier televised matches in a record dating back to October.
Humphries has won the World Grand Prix, Grand Slam of Darts and the Players Championship Finals during a stunning two-month spell, recovering from 9-5 down to stun Van Gerwen in last month's Players Championship Finals decider.
Nevertheless, with only seven former champions involved in this year’s 96-player field, Van Gerwen insists the pressure of competing at Alexandra Palace is a completely different proposition.
“The World Championship is the World Championship,” continued the number two seed, firing a warning to his title rivals.
“It’s a different format, and the top boys will come out fighting, that’s the way I see it.
“I know I am one of the favourites, and you need to perform like a favourite. It’s important to put your opponents under pressure from the beginning and that’s my goal.
“I feel relaxed, I feel comfortable, and I believe if I play my A-game, nobody else beats me.”
You can read the full, exclusive feature with Michael in the official 2023/24 Paddy Power World Darts Championship programme, which is available to pre-order now.