“He’s your boy, isn’t he? I always used to be your boy, what’s that all about? Are you cheating on me? I’m going to smash your boy.”
By Josh Gorton
Last Updated: 07/10/20 8:50pm
Michael van Gerwen was in a jovial mood after prevailing in a last-leg decider against Krzysztof Ratajski on the opening night of the World Grand Prix, and he had playful words of warning for Sky Sports expert Wayne Mardle ahead of his clash with Devon Petersen.
‘The Green Machine’ is bidding to lift his sixth Grand Prix crown in nine years but he’s been under the microscope in recent months, having suffered early exits in the World Matchplay, Premier League and the recent World Series Finals.
The defending champion produced the performance of the evening to fend off the spirited ‘Polish Eagle’, although he had to survive a considerable scare, as he trailed in the third and deciding set.
Van Gerwen raced to the opening set with a spectacular 110 average, only for Ratajski to capitalise on some profligacy from the Dutchman to level up proceedings at one set apiece.
World Grand Prix – Thursday’s L16 matches
|Dimitri Van den Bergh||vs||Dirk van Duijvenbode|
|Gary Anderson||vs||Danny Noppert|
|Michael van Gerwen||vs||Devon Petersen|
Live World Grand Prix Darts
October 8, 2020, 7:00pm
Ratajski seized the initiative with an early break of throw in set three, only to squander three darts at double to extend his advantage, which MVG punished courtesy of a clinical 103 combination.
The pair exchanged convincing holds to force a dramatic last-leg decider but Van Gerwen kept his cool, producing a 15-darter to seal his progression to the last 16.
“It was a really tough battle. In the first round of the World Grand Prix it’s always tough, whoever you’re going to face, especially a guy like Krzysztof Ratajski,” Van Gerwen told Sky Sports.
“Krzysztof is phenomenal. He is a really quiet guy, doesn’t really socialise with anyone but he’s like a silent assassin.
“He is like a killer on that stage because he is a good player, and if you give him a finger he takes your hand, so you need to stay on top of him to make sure you keep him under pressure.
“You know what he is capable of and you need to do something special against him and I think I did the right things. I felt good.
“I gave the second set away and after that it was slipping out of my hands and I thought ‘this cannot happen’ and I’m really glad that I was able to produce something special when it really matters.
“That 103 finish – what a shot! It gives you confidence and I think I can’t really complain with my overall game.”
Despite Van Gerwen’s struggles over recent months, he has still triumphed in three of his last 12 events, following up a brace at the PDC Summer Series with a title at last month’s Autumn Series.
Nevertheless, his UK Open success in March is his solitary televised triumph of 2020 thus far and by the 31-year-old’s exceptionally high standards, that constitutes a slump.
“I know the pressure is always on my shoulders, even more so because I didn’t play my A-game in the last few months. Then you have to work harder and put effort in your game,” he added.
“You have to leave things and everyone has to suffer around me, because the only thing for me that counts is to perform well on that stage. I think it went down well today and I can be proud of myself.”
The world No 1 will take on an in-form Devon Petersen for a place in the quarter-finals on Thursday, after the South African defied eight maximums from Jose De Sousa to prevail in a battle of the debutants.
Petersen has made huge strides throughout 2020 and reaffirmed his progress by clinching his maiden PDC ranking title with victory at the German Darts Championship, defeating Gerwyn Price, Rob Cross, Ratajski, Danny Noppert and Jonny Clayton in the process.
It’s been well-documented that Petersen has been working alongside Sky Sports’ Mardle to refine technical elements of his game, but Van Gerwen fired a playful warning shot to ‘Hawaii 501’.
“He’s your boy isn’t he? I always used to be your boy, what’s that all about? Are you cheating on me? I’m going to smash your boy,” quipped MVG.
“I feel good now. Last month is all forgotten, it’s gone. I like this tournament because it is something different but to be fair, in the last few months my double tops were an absolute disgrace.
“I’ve been practising so much with Vincent [van der Voort] on my tops, my finishing, trying to do everything to make sure you start off well.
“People probably don’t know how much it takes to make sure you change that, you go for it and constantly do it, because it’s not that easy.
“You have to do that because there are a lot of phenomenal players here and you have to play at your absolute best if you want to beat them. I’m over the moon with this performance – simple as that.”
Darts is back on to Sky Sports throughout October with the World Grand Prix and the Premier League Play-Offs. Follow us @SkySportsDarts to stay up to date with all the news.