The expectation of Dimitri Van den Bergh is not so much a homecoming, but perhaps more of a long-awaited greeting as he heads to Blackpool as the only defending World Matchplay champion in history of the tournament to have bowed out again at Winter Gardens.
It has been almost a year since the Belgian made a dream debut in the competition, beating Gary Anderson 18-10 in what marked his first-ever major PDC final, with the only negative being the lack of fans after the moving the event behind. doors closed in Milton Keynes due to the coronavirus pandemic.
In celebrations a little more low-key than a Matchplay winner might expect, a victorious Van den Bergh retreated to his hotel room with sizzling garlic pizza from a fast-food take-out. across the road and with the Phil Taylor Trophy.
Serenaded by the imitations of Pharrell Williams of a highly anticipated crowd, The DreamMaker will finally receive the welcome of champion it deserves.
“I know I was introduced as the youth world champion in front of a crowd and it gave me goosebumps, but this time it will be at the Winter Gardens in front of a crowd,” he said. told Sky Sports. “I don’t know, I think it will be one of those creepy times again and just a lot of pride and knowing that the hard work you put in can pay off.”
Van den Bergh recalls listening to Matchplay as a fan to watch compatriot Kim Huybrechts before he appeared on the circuit; it cites exciting battles between Phil Taylor and Adrian Lewis, the average ton-plus majestic of The Power, the fairy tale story of Rob Cross, the 2012 nine-darter of Michael van Gerwen.
He may be a newbie, but the 27-year-old knows what it means to step into the historic amphitheater.
“I’m really, really excited because I only hear good things about the place and many players say Winter Gardens is their favorite place, the atmosphere, the building, they love it so I’m very curious about it. knowing how it feels to me and how much I love her, “he said.” Hopefully I can make history repeat itself. “
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We’ll be live with regular World Matchplay updates, plus a full preview en route soon.
The year has been a whirlwind for Van den Bergh in more ways than one. At the height of the lockdown, he was living with Peter Wright as travel restrictions denied him the opportunity to return home to his native Belgium, before experiencing matchplay glory, reaching the Grand Slam semi-finals followed by quarterfinals. of the World Championship and thrive in his first Premier League campaign, in which he topped the table on five of 16 nights and was in the top four after 11 nights in total.
In the meantime, he has also made a permanent move to the UK with the aim of continuing his flourishing career.
When he can, Van den Bergh allows himself a moment to soak up it all as he witnesses the hard work paid off.
“This is what I did 100% during those three months last year, the three months where we had nothing to do and everyone had to be locked up, I thought very well about life and thought about where I came from, how far I would come, what best I could do, what are my dreams, what I want to achieve and all of that definitely made me realize who I am a young man very lucky to make his hobby his professional career, “he added.
Watch the moment Dimitri Van den Bergh won World Matchplay with a victory over Gary Anderson at the Marshall Arena.
At the same time, the justified self-esteem is balanced by recognition of the incredible depth of talent that surrounds him as well as the young hopefuls rising through the ranks to challenge the elite of the sport, the latter of which he knows everything.
He’s seen players move up and down steadily enough to realize there’s no rest at work, not if you’re going to stay.
“No matter what you just won, you know the next thing is coming right away, so you have to stay focused, you have to keep working hard because if you don’t, you know someone else. will, ”he explained.
“I’ve been told that the PDC is like a train, if it misses your stop it’s hard to catch up, so you just have to keep going and make sure you don’t miss that train and keep working hard and whatever happens, comes.
“I learned something from someone I always accept that is ‘hard work beats talent if talent doesn’t work hard’ and that’s why I just want to keep working hard.
“You don’t want to be one of those players who succeeded at one point and then slip away and no one talks about it anymore. You just want to continue to be successful at what you do and what you love, because otherwise it will hurt a lot if you don’t. “
“I always think of the PDC that allows us to play tournaments at a time that the world is going through. We’re here for darts, we’re here for this career, so if anything can go wrong, it’s the coronavirus that can stop us and that’s something I want to avoid. Every tournament we can play, I really thank the PDC for making this possible. “
Van den Bergh thanks the PDC
The ‘one game at a time’ mentality remains common, especially in an age when anyone can beat anyone. But Van den Bergh is not afraid to look at the big picture or plan for the years to come; he knows what he wants and plans to go get it.
“I once had the question of how many times I saw myself winning the world championships in 20 years and said that maybe three times wouldn’t be a number that would make me arrogant or arrogant, but also one of them who says if you want to win, you have to believe it, “he said.
“In 20 years, who knows how many times? I’ve done it in the Development Tour, obviously it’s a little different there but the last 16 is like the Pro Tour, all these guys are over 100 medium and large finishes and keep your under pressure and most of them play Pro Tour so if I can do it there why can’t I do it in the future? “
For now, although his focus is only on Blackpool, where he begins his crown defense against fellow forms thrower Devon Petersen in a fitting welcome to the fans.
“I know Devon and I are those kind of players who have a bit of fun before the game starts, so it’s going to be really cool bringing smiles to people, but as soon as the Mastercaller says ‘I’m going on’, we’re there to do a job, ”he said.
“It’s something that I learned and that I can’t forget. I’m going to do some entertainment, I’m going to entertain the crowd and then it’s back to business.
Dimitri Van den Bergh lifts the Phil Taylor Trophy after being crowned World Matchplay Champion.
“I don’t underestimate anyone and if you qualify for World Matchplay that says enough about you and the way you play. In this case, I take Devon like I would take Van Gerwen or Gerwyn Price, I don’t do any. difference.”
From pre-match dancing and down-to-earth personality to his steely composure and exquisite technique, Van den Bergh has become one of the most popular touring figures among those who take him on the road. look.
This worship is really a two-way street.
“If I do tournaments, if I do exhibitions, it doesn’t matter where I am, if the fans come to me, it’s just great that I can make them smile with a signature or a photo or a quick chat and it ‘for me is what makes him special and beautiful just to make people happy with what I do, “he said.
“If I can be someone’s inspiration, why not? I do my best to be a good example for my younger brothers, so why can’t I be for others? On top of that, I love it and always thank the fans who support me. “
“I just know what to do and how to feel. I know how many hours of warm-up I need, I know how many hours of sleep I need and I think that’s it. is exactly what I’m going to focus on, especially with a goal and it’s the first in 10 games in the first round, that’s how I have to start. I don’t have to look any further than that. “
Van den Bergh on what he will postpone from 2020
This is not quite a case of “been there and done” for Van den Bergh, when only the last part of this sentence really applies.
He enters Matchplay with a new kind of pressure, that of a defending champion.
“I don’t know how I’m going to handle this,” he said. “This will be my Winter Gardens debut so I have no idea how I’m going to react and handle this, but at the end of the day I’m just going out there and I have to do my job and focus. on and we’ll just see what happens. “
Darts are back on your Sky Sports screens this month, with nine days of coverage of the iconic Winter Gardens and World Matchplay – the action begins Saturday, July 17.