Gerwyn Price insists he can push on to become World No.1 and wants some "respect" on the oche.
The Iceman goes into the BoyleSport Grand Slam on Saturday night as defending champion in Wolverhampton.
It was the Welshman’s first major win against Gary Anderson 12 months ago and now he believes he can take an extra big step to the very top.
Price, who starts his defence against Mikuru Suzuki, said: “Two years ago I wouldn’t have thought I could get to World No.1. But now I believe that I can reach number one. Michael isn’t the player he once was and he’s there to be knocked off.
“I think the last three times I’ve played him I’ve lost last leg deciders. I probably deserved to win. In the Premier League I led 5-1 and couldn’t get over the line.
“People say it’s in the mind but it’s not, he does actually play well at those stages. I give myself leads and he plays well to come back.
“Sooner rather than later I will get a win and he’s knows that as well and that’s a good thing because in Holland in his own back yard I should have beat him.
“I’m feeling pretty good and scoring quite heavily but just missing a few opportunities at doubles. If I can practice and work on that I’ll be in better form for the Grand Slam.
“I’m full of confidence at the moment, probably this time last year I wasn’t. I just want to go there and enjoy myself.
“If someone plays better than me then fair play to them but I’m in a good place mentally and I’m doing alright.
“Defending it doesn’t really bother me, doesn’t really affect me. I was defending one of the Europeans this year and went on to defend it.
“So I will just go there and give it a fair crack and just be able to play darts and if I’m allowed to do that then if anything goes wrong it’s down to me. But I just want to be given a fair crack of the whip.
“I’ve managed quarters, semis and finals at most events over the past few months, I’ve earnt the right to be up there with the top boys and one of the contenders. On merit I deserve to be there and now I’ve just got to stay there over the next couple of months.”
Price has shown remarkable bottle over the past year to defy the boo boys following his controversial Grand Slam a year ago.
He added: “It’s tough and it’s difficult, at times it’s hard work especially last weekend when I was playing Michael (Van Gerwen), there were lots of difficult situations. I thought I coped pretty well. But I let myself down a bit in that game at one or two stages where I reacted to the crowd.
“But at times it’s hard not to let it go. I was playing the number one in the world and the crowd as well.
“Michael was doing things I thought he would never do and I think he’s edgy playing me as well now. He knows exactly where I’m coming from!
“I didn’t think the fans would be on my back week-in, week out, I thought it was a bit of pantomime villain and fun.
“I don’t mind the boos when I’m walking on. But at key stages to win matches or legs then you just need a little bit of respect I think.”
By Phil Lanning (@lannomedia)
Photography courtesy of Taylor Lanning (@taylanningpix)