Darts is a game of fine margins, and nobody knows that better than Dimitri Van den Bergh, who was knocked out of his debut Grand Slam in the most dramatic of circumstances.
In 2016, he found himself in a group with Gerwyn Price, Robert Thornton and BDO representative Scott Waites. The Belgian star claimed two wins, but it wasn’t enough to see him through to the second round, as he finished level on points with Thornton, eventually losing a nine-dart shootout to the Scotsman.
He couldn’t help but curse his luck.
“[It was] weird enough,” he laughed, reminiscing on the Darts Show Podcast.
“I won 5-4 against Gerwyn Price, I lost 5-4 against Robert Thornton and I won 5-4 against Scott Waites and I still had to play a nine-dart shootout. I got 340 points, and I was still knocked out!
“Robert played a 345, and I was like, ‘oh my God’. I don’t know. I think the way I get myself up the ranks is the way my life goes – step by step, slowly.”
Grand Slam of Darts Schedule
Champion Price returns with No 1 ambition
Three years on from that dramatic exit, as luck would have it, the ‘Dream Maker’ finds himself grouped with Price and Thornton once again.
However, in the interim he has garnered real experience on the Grand Slam stage, throwing a nine-dart finish at last year’s competition – just the fourth ever perfect game in the tournament’s 13-year history. That paved the way for a run to the quarter-final, which he eventually lost to Mensur Suljović.
But does that 2018 streak buoy him upon his return to Wolverhampton this year?
“Yeah, definitely,” he said. “You come up there, you know you’ve already done good, you know you’ve already played well, against players that are good. Great names. You still manage to get through, you still manage to win against them.
“It gives you a mental push. It actually does.”
And despite some rocky form in recent months, he believes the foundations are there for a big finish to the year.
“I didn’t have great weeks behind me,” he explained. “I only started this week with hard work, and it really works. I can really see my game coming out on the stage. So it’s positive. I’m going to be ready for the Worlds. I really know, I really feel I’ll be ready for the worlds.
“My biggest problem ever was playing on the floor tournaments, the Players Championships. It never really worked out. I always know that I can play well, but all of a sudden, I’m playing in finals – I’ve played twice this year.
“I was like, ‘come on Dimi, you’re finally getting there’, and all of a sudden I get a mental breakdown. That’s just what it brings. I’m 25, I cannot expect that I am a machine of course, but I wish I was!”
2:03 Van den Bergh says he’s ready for Gerwyn Price
And so he will face Gerwyn Price on Tuesday evening, knowing a win will see him through to the last 16.
“It’s a knockout game, it’s a knockout tournament for me,” he said, simplifying the permutations.
Tuesday night’s fixtures
|Group A||Michael van Gerwen v Ross Smith|
|Adrian Lewis v Jim Williams|
|Group B||Ian White v Wesley Harms|
|James Wade v Steve Lennon|
|Group C||Robert Thornton v Mikuru Suzuki|
|Gerwen Price v Dimitri Van den Bergh|
|Group D||William O’Connor v Dave Parletti|
|Gary Anderson v Darren Webster|
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November 12, 2019, 7:00pm
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“I’ve known Gerwyn now for the last couple of years, He’s been on the tour, I know how he can play. But he also knows how I can play on the stage. So it’s just going to be [about] who has the moment, when we play. I’m going to believe in myself the way he’s going to believe in himself, and hopefully we’re going to produce a great game, and at the end I hope I’m going to be the winner!”