Michael van Gerwen expecting tough opening match at the World Matchplay

Michael van Gerwen: Hot favourite to reclaim the title (Picture: Lawrence Lustig/PDC)
Michael van Gerwen: Hot favourite to reclaim the title (Picture: Lawrence Lustig/PDC)

Michael van Gerwen believes he is the man to beat in Blackpool ahead of the BetVictor World Matchplay campaign - but accepts he has a tricky opening match.

The world number one has dominated the sport in 2018 so far, claiming victory at The Masters, Premier League and World Cup in addition to six ProTour and six European Tour titles.

Van Gerwen will look to take on Phil Taylor's mantle as the 'king of the Winter Gardens' this summer as he seeks a third World Matchplay crown and the newly-titled Phil Taylor Trophy.

The Dutchman, who was defeated 16-6 by Taylor in last year's quarter-finals, told www.pdc.tv: "Of course, Phil did well there in the past but times change.

"You can't stand still and think about the past, you have to move forward and try to win the tournament.

"I can't afford to think about the players of the past because I have to deal with the players who are around now.

"I've had the pressure of being the best player on my shoulders for a few years now but I can handle it."

Saturday's opening night will mark Van Gerwen's 10th appearance in Blackpool, having come runner-up in 2014 before claiming back-to-back victories in 2015 and 2016.

"The World Matchplay is one of the biggest tournaments of the year," added the Dutchman.

"I need to do my job again this year and not make any mistakes, but I think the format suits my game.

"To win any trophy is nice but this is a huge tournament and it would be really special to win it for a third time."

The Dutchman will take on compatriot Jeffrey de Zwaan, who is making his Winter Gardens debut, in their first round clash.

"I know it will not be an easy game," said Van Gerwen.

"There are so many good players on the circuit now and you have to make sure you play well and don't make any mistakes.

"I will be huge favourite to win the game even though he beat me in the UK Open.

"Maybe he will be a bit nervous with it being his first time in Blackpool and I'm confident I will get the win."

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