World darts supremo Michael van Gerwen, who plays in the Auckland Darts Masters next week, is the man who has unplugged The Power. The Dutchman is living up to his teenage promise by taking over from the legendary Phil 'The Power' Taylor as the man everyone must beat but rarely do. At 27, he already has 15 premier titles. Van Gerwen was beaten 8-7 by compatriot Raymond van Barneveld in a thrilling Auckland quarter-final last year. Van Gerwen will be the favourite next week when he, Taylor, world champion Gary Anderson, last year's winner Adrian 'Jackpot' Lewis and Co return to the Trusts Arena. Van Gerwen chats to Chris Rattue from Holland.
Q: The world title apart, you are having another amazing season?
A: Of course I am disappointed in the worlds and it was difficult to get over that. But I've had a fantastic season so far. Unfortunately the World Cup was a bit of a disaster when we (Netherlands) lost the final (to England) but you can't win all the time. To be fair, I am playing fantastic darts.
Q: You have stated a desire to beat your total of 18 titles last year ...
A: I'm on track to do that and there are loads of tournaments left - I hope I can win another 10. But it is always difficult, never easy.
Q: What is the secret of your success over the past couple of years
A: I have made a lot of sacrifices because you have to - darts is my number one, I live for darts. You need to make difficult choices - it is nice to play in tournaments but all the travelling around is not always nice. Sometimes you have to do things like miss the wedding of a friend. I've got the right people around me, and a fantastic wife behind me. I have a good base to do well.
Q: What is your master plan to reclaim the world title?
A: Last year, I went on holiday before the worlds to make sure I was fresh. This year, I probably won't do that. I'm going to practise more and more and more to make sure I'm even better prepared. What is the perfect preparation? You have to try things sometimes. It might be better if you play tournaments beforehand and winning gives you greater confidence. I'm not lazy. I love to play darts - I love every bit of it. I love to play on the big stages, and I'm going to keep playing before the worlds. No more holidays for Mike.
Q: You had a spat with Adrian Lewis at the World Cup last week - what happened?
A: I didn't play my best and I never blame someone else for losing. But he was talking behind me and I didn't like that. You can't always be friends on stage. But if you are getting annoyed by someone else, it means you are not concentrating enough. It's one of those things - we see each other every week, so it's not really a problem. There's no point in talking about it with each other afterwards.
Q: The Darts Masters series has increased the travel factor. Shanghai is the latest new venue...
A: On Friday, I travel to Vienna in Austria, then to New Zealand, then we go to Shanghai, then I'm doing work in Thailand, then I'm off to Tokyo - it's something you have to do and I love to play those tournaments.
Q: How did you find your first trip to New Zealand last year?
A: I did enjoy Auckland, although not the way I played. I had a bit of a look around - I went to the wine factory at Waiheke Island. I only arrive on Wednesday morning this time, so won't have much chance to look around. But if I can get some time off, I'd definitely like to do something - New Zealand is such a beautiful country with a beautiful way of life and culture.
Q: Does the No1 ranking make it tougher?
A: No. I have played with high expectations for years and I'm quite used to it. When you are number one, people want to beat you even more. I don't really mind that.
Q: Any predictions for the Auckland tournament?
A: The crowd was really nice, really supportive last year. It was amazing to play in front of them. I hope I can give them something more this year, do something special for them. I can't afford to make any mistakes - I simply want to win the title.