PETER Wright has praised the influence of Michael van Gerwen in helping to save his darts career – but the Scot is looking to thank the Dutch star by knocking him out of The Coral Masters on Friday night.
West Lothian-born Wright has forged a place amongst the PDC’s elite world top 16 this year following a string of impressive displays on the PDC circuit, winning one ProTour event, reaching three other finals and his first major PDC semi-final at the UK Open in June.
His rise up the PDC Order of Merit to a career-high 15th has seen him qualify for the inaugural Masters event at the Royal Highland Centre, where he faces Premier League champion van Gerwen in the first round.
However, “Snakebite” Wright has revealed that the Dutch star has become his inspiration in the past year, having seen van Gerwen jump from outside of the world’s top 32 at the start of 2012 to second in the rankings, reaching the World Championship final and winning more than a dozen titles in the process.
Wright had been on the verge of slipping out of the top 32 last year, and revealed that he almost quit the sport ahead of the 2012 World Cup, where he represented Scotland in an event which restored his enthusiasm.
“Michael’s been fantastic in the last year or so, both for darts and also for me,” said Wright. “He’s taught me a few things, personally, about what to do and I’ve followed what he’s done with interest.
“It should be me telling him really, he’s only 24 and I’m 43! But he’s magic and I look up to him. I want to do exactly the same as him, and there’s no reason why I can’t. I’d been slipping down the rankings and the 2012 World Cup was a turning point. I’d had a really bad World Championship, losing in the first round to Jelle Klaasen, and I was struggling with my darts.
“I had considered giving up darts, withdrawing my membership and pulling out of the World Cup, which would have put Robert Thornton back in, because I wasn’t in the right frame of mind.
“But I spoke to Gary Anderson and went to the World Cup with him and the rest is history. But Michael’s rise has been massive – seeing what he’s done in the last 18 months made me think that, if he could do it, why can’t anyone else do it?
“If you put the hard work and the practice in, then eventually it will pay off. Although I’ve got into the top 16 now, I want to push on towards the top ten and win major titles.”
The pair went on to meet in the second round of last year’s World Championship, when Wright led 2-0 in sets before van Gerwen took the next four without reply on his way to the final at Alexandra Palace.
“He showed me what darts is about that night,” reflects Wright. “I was 2-0 up in sets and he played brilliantly and won 4-2, but we’ve had a few fantastic games since.
“We’ve played a dozen times already this year – I’ve beaten him three times and they’ve been good games.
“If you take Michael out of the equation for this year, I could have done even better than I have done!
“I’m in great form and it will be a good game on Friday night. I’m really excited and I can’t wait to get on stage in Edinburgh.”
Tickets for The Coral Masters are still available, a