Phil Taylor sure he has power to floor Michael van Gerwen
Phil Taylor will begin his quest for a 17th world championship title tonight at Alexandra Palace, knowing that Michael van Gerwen is even more determined to take his crown this year.
The rivalry between Taylor and Van Gerwen – 29 years younger than the reigning 53-year-old champion – has become one of the very best in sport.
In last year's world championship final, Mighty Mike raced into leads of 2-0 and 4-2 before The Power showed his stubborn experience, hauling it back and winning 7-4.
Since then Taylor has been relentless, winning the UK Open, World Matchplay, World Grand Prix, Championship League, and then last month the Masters and the Grand Slam of Darts.
Only one man has been able to stop him, Van Gerwen beating Taylor in the final of the Premier League Darts and then, earlier this month, coming from behind to win the Players Championship.
Looking ahead to tonight's first round, when Taylor will face the winner of the earlier clash between qualifiers Rob Szabo and Ian Moss, the champion said: "It's a hard game to prepare for because you're not sure who you'll be playing.
"Obviously they'll be on a high after winning so I've got to make sure I'm ready," explained Taylor.
"You've got to get out of the blocks fast because any top player is going to be vulnerable early doors.
"I'm very motivated and I'm really looking forward to this World Championship.
"My parents always told me that you're only as good as your last tournament, and I just got beaten in the final, so I've got to move on and enjoy it at Alexandra Palace.
"It should be a great tournament," he added.
Van Gerwen is buoyed by the confidence that the greatest darts player of all time might be within his reach.
"It's not been easy for the last six months," admitted Van Gerwen.
"He's won everything. He's only lost two finals this year and that's twice against me."
Van Gerwen was the star of the last World Championship, beating Adrian Lewis in a thrilling semi-final in which he was one dart away from throwing two consecutive nine-dart legs.
"I've got my confidence now. I want to do well in every tournament and I'm very consistent so I hope to do some more damage in the future," he said.
"I want to keep my form going and I think I can. I know exactly what you need to do to beat Phil."
But Van Gerwen acknowledged: "He's won so many titles. He's still the man – simple."