Rob Cross interview: Voltage on bouncing back from 2018, how to deal with Michael van Gerwen and keeping fresh

Rob Cross (Picture: Lawrence Lustig/PDC)
Rob Cross (Picture: Lawrence Lustig/PDC)

Rob Cross has still got enough energy in the tank for another 16 weeks of Unibet Premier League Darts as he bids to end the campaign with a sprint finish for glory.

Voltage heads into tonight's Play-Offs at the O2 on the back of a superb season and although he just missed out on becoming the third player behind Phil Taylor and Michael van Gerwen to top the table, he feels as sharp as ever to lift what he believes is the hardest trophy in darts to win.

His form this year compared to 2018, when he struggled with the pressures and hectic schedule following his meteoric rise to world champion, has put the doubters in their place.

Cross, who plays James Wade in the semi-finals, averaged over 100 on 10 occasions which was more than anyone else while he also matched MVG's 10 victories and his impressive legs difference of +26 underlines his dominance in many games.

The Hastings man has tried to learn from his difficult yet eye-opening experiences last year and believes the key to his consistent performances over such a long weekly tournament against the world's best players has been about staying as fresh as possible.

This has meant missing eight of the 16 Players Championship tournaments which have taken place so far while he hasn't played in any of the last seven as he instead chose to prioritise the Premier League and European Tour events.

He told Sporting Life Darts: "The experiences I had last year have really helped me this year, learning about myself, the game - and my own game. I've taken more time off to stay fresher and I think that's shown in the Premier League this year.

"From where my game and my head was last year - maybe it could have broke me. But coming through this season's Premier League the way I have shows it hasn't - and there's still better to come. No matter what happens on Thursday night I'm only going to take the positives because I have played well.

"Most of all I've enjoyed myself this year, going out in front of the lights, cameras and big crowds. So to get to the end of this 17-week season and still feel fresh, shows I've done something right.

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"To be in a tournament with nine of the best players in the world and 'only' have top spot to worry about in the final week of the regular season was a nice situation to be in and showed how well I'd been able to pull clear and keep momentum.

"Overall I could do another 16 weeks...but wouldn't want to! I still don't think I'm at my best and I've been doing a few things wrong for the past few months. But it's about how you deal with the setbacks.

"I believe it's harder to win the Premier League than the worlds, so to lift that trophy on Thursday night would mean everything.

"Last week was disappointing but that's life - it's all about this week with finals night. It's the big one."

The downside to missing a good chuck of tournaments is reducing your chances of winning titles and Cross is yet to open his account for 2019, while it can potentially harm your rankings.

However Cross is fully intending on committing to the sport's 'bread and butter' events once the endurance test of the Premier League is over.

He said: "I have missed around half of the Players Championship events to keep myself fresh but it's still disappointing not to have won anything this year.

"I can't put myself down because I'm playing a lot better than last year and if I carry on maintaining that then I will win some. There's not many players in the Premier League who take much time off - but it's down to your own choice.

"It can bite you as you're obviously missing out on ranking points and after the Premier League is over I'll need to compete in a few and make some good runs to make life easier for me.

"But I have put the Premier League first and then the European Tour events above the Pro Tours.

"If you're only 80% and can't give it your all, then what's the point in playing? I've tried to ensure that every time I go to the board I'm at least 95% and that's helped my consistency.

"I found it a little bit hard last year being on a big stage on the Thursday nights then walking into a Pro Tour event on a Saturday - it's such a contrast.

"But those tournaments are our bread and butter to improve our one-year ranking so they are very important. Although I've sacrificed some so far, I will play in more from now on."

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Cross doesn't believe his semi-final opponent Wade has any edge after last week's victory in Leeds which denied him the £25,000 league leaders' bonus.

He said: "I didn't really turn up last Thursday and James didn't play that well either - he just put me away when he had to. All areas of my game have to better on Thursday night and if I do that then I believe I'll win.

"James has built a career on great timing and hitting big finishes when it counts so it'll be a tough one, for sure."

If he gets past the Machine then many will expect him to take on the four-time champion Michael van Gerwen, who faces underdog Daryl Gurney, in the final.

Since that incredible victory over MVG in the 2018 World Championship semi-finals, Cross has lost seven of their last eight meetings including all four in 2019 by an aggregate score of 30-11.

But Voltage insists he's not put off by this record and is fully aware of what he needs to do.

He said: My biggest problem is when I play Michael I go too fast and chase his tail. If I don't do that and play properly then I'll have a much better chance.

"I've got to at my own pace and play my own game. It sounds simple but I've been roped in the last few times, gone too fast and tried to fight fire with fire. And it hasn't gone well!

"When Michael plays Michael Smith, the averages are usually huge because of their styles. I need to go my own speed, like I did against him in the World Championship semi-finals.

"I've got the semi-final first and if I get through that and come up against Michael, there's £250k up for grabs so I'll be giving it my all!"

Finals Night fixtures

Play-Offs - Thursday May 23
The O2, London
TV Channel: Sky Sports (1900 GMT)

Semi-Finals (Best of 19 legs)

  • Michael van Gerwen v Daryl Gurney
  • Rob Cross v James Wade

Finals (Best of 21 legs)

  • Winner SF 1 v Winner SF 2
  • Tickets: 0844 856 0202 or click here

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