He may be the world champion, but every week, every tournament provides Rob Cross with another opportunity to learn and another chance to win – as he tells Paul Prenderville, that’s all he wants.
“I watched a bit of it. I was practising hard and stuff and that’s probably what I need to get back to now. You look at last year – the rise and everything. The pressure wasn’t on and there was nothing there so I had the free roaming to go and do what you want to do and love doing what you’re doing.”
This time 12 months ago, Cross was watching the Premier League Darts semi-finals on TV and practising hard as he took his first steps into life as a professional.
If that sounds familiar it’s because it is. Cross wasn’t even on the Pro Tour or in the event when he watched the World Championship final between Gary Anderson and Michael van Gerwen in January 2017.
Less than a year later, he made his debut at Alexandra Palace and walked away with the Sid Waddell Trophy and one of darts’ greatest triumphs when he beat Phil Taylor in the final, having edged out Van Gerwen in a thrilling semi-final.
On Thursday, he will again line up against Van Gerwen in a high profile semi-final – the Play Offs at a packed O2 in London’s Docklands.
Premier League Darts – Play Offs Order of Play Michael van Gerwen v Rob Cross Michael Smith v Gary Anderson Best of 19 legs The Final Best of 21 legs
“There’s two more games. I go into those games and empty the tank, whatever I’ve got left will go into them,” he tells Sky Sports.
“It’s all that matters. I think it’s gone well really considering I have been in phases, as green as the grass.
“It’s been a lot different but in fairness the way it has gone to qualify obviously, that was the main plan coming in. The way I opened up, to qualify after two losses has been brilliant.”
Playing in the Premier League adds an extra layer of work to the regular weekends of Players Championship and European Tour events, and Cross admits it hasn’t all been plain-sailing.
Rob Cross Premier League Results
- Week 1 – L2-7 v Van Gerwen
- Week 2 – L1-7 v Whitlock
- Week 3 – W7-4 v Wright
- Week 4 – W7-3 v Van Barneveld
- Week 5 – W7-5 v Smith
- Week 6 – W7-2 v Suljovic
- Week 7 – W7-1 v Price
- Week 8 – L5-7 v Gurney
- Week 9 – W7-5 v Anderson
- Week 10 – W7-5 v Smith
- Week 11 – L3-7 v Anderson
- Week 12 – D6-6 v Wright
- Week 13 – D6-6 v Van Barneveld
- Week 14 – L2-7 v Van Gerwen
- Week 14 – D6-6 v Whitlock
A tough start and finish to his Premier League campaign reminded everyone, including Cross, that everything is still rather new: “I think the Premier League has definitely took control of most things – even when I’m playing at the weekends it’s been tough.
“I think the hardest thing I’ve had to deal with is the time that I am spending away from home.
Cross admits the Premier League has taken it's toll but is ready 'to empty the tank' on Finals Night
“You get a day or day-and-a-half, and I’ve never ever been away from my kids like that, so it probably hurts you mentally.”
There are no complaints from Cross, who knows that’s what comes with success – he will also be jetting off around the world for the World Series events that underpin the middle of the season.
So to Thursday and another new experience for Cross, who is undaunted by a date with Van Gerwen and perhaps a different pressure, having gone in as the underdog in his World Championship semi-final with the world No 1.
He added: “I think there’s a bit of pressure but not being funny – I’ve got to learn to deal with that so whatever you get thrown at you, you’ve got to deal with it. I am looking forward to next week – you can see a bit of light at the end of the tunnel after 15 weeks.”
He will head to London alongside Anderson as MVGs main competition, that in itself is a remarkable testament to his progress and as he says himself all he needs is an opportunity.
“I’d have bitten your hand off for fourth place at the start, so I’ve got a chance…..and that’s all I need, that’s all we all need.”
Having watched him take almost every chance that has come his way so far, who would bet against him lifting another major trophy to cap another memorable debut?
The tungsten action continues for the conclusion of the Premier League season with the Play-Offs on Thursday, May 17 at The O2 in London
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