Darts prodigy ‘practices as little as possible’

Josh Rock is one of the favorites for the World Cup
Darts prodigy ‘practices as little as possible’

By Kevin Schulte, London

If you want to be as good at darts as Josh Rock, don’t listen to the 21-year-old himself: the Northern Ireland darts prodigy says ‘practicing as little as possible’ is key to his success . At his first World Cup, “Rocky” is already in the round of 16.

These are the moments that turn a talented rising star into a top player at the start of a career: in the second leg of the deciding set, Josh Rock rocks London’s Alexandra Palace, the Eldorado of darts fans. Rock still has 80 points but only two darts. Without further ado, the 21-year-old decides to shoot his two arrows towards the double 20 in a matter of fractions of a second. And the feat that was only achieved at show events a few years ago, dart time succeeds. Rock is just one step away from advancing to the next round by defeating fellow World Championship favorite Nathan Aspinall. Five minutes later, “Rocky” qualified for the round of 16.

Rock and Aspinall, world number ten, put on the much-awaited spectacle in their World Cup third-round match. Rock wins the first set with a bang: triple 20, triple 19, double 12. 141 check out to make it 1-0 for “Rocky”. But Aspinall was undeterred, winning sets two and three 3-1. This is the first time that Rock has fallen behind in his first world championship. And it should be the last time this afternoon.

Rock grabs sets four and five, set five in particular should always be important, after all Aspinall also has the chance to regain the lead in the decision round. But Rock remains stable and shows no nerves. Not even in the deciding seventh set, after Aspinall won the sixth round 3-0 in quick succession. Rock wins two runs, which Aspinall starts. 99-point checkout with two double throws, the match dart is on the double eight on the first attempt.

Only the “Fab Four” before Rock

Aspinall vs. Rock – it was the duel between two not-so-secret secret favorites, and his win catapulted “Rocky” into the circle of title contenders. With bookmakers in England, the 21-year-old is now number five in the title race behind superstar Michael van Gerwen, world number one Gerwyn Price, defending champion Peter Wright and two-time runner-up Michael Smith. Only the “Fab Four” are trading higher than “Rocky”.

Success over Aspinall won’t make the Northern Irishman’s title chances any more lucrative. On the other hand, whoever predicted the 21-year-old’s winning streak at the start of the year has long been rich. A year ago, even the most connected darts experts didn’t know his name. When Josh Rock was able to win the tour card, the right to play on the professional tour, in January, the Northern Irishman was one of many. A surprise man who is allowed to play in the elite circle of 128 professionals for two years and then disappears again. This scenario was the most realistic.

Less than a year later, it’s the opposite. Rock is in the last 16 of the world championship. His next opponent, world number seven Jonny Clayton, will also have to dress warmly. But what is ‘Rocky’s secret’, how did he go from no-one to title contender in less than a year? “I train as little as possible, not at all for a total of six months,” the 21-year-old told when asked about his secret to success.

The darts prodigy who doesn’t practice? Rock flirts with that again and again. Asked, the Northern Irishman clarified: “When I’m on a professional tour, I’m at home two or three days maximum because we are constantly traveling. In England, Germany and elsewhere. It’s not worth training for two or three days. When I play on the circuit, I still train. Matches against others are the best training.”

What the competition shows for a training workload doesn’t interest him at all. “I don’t let that pressure me. I don’t watch what other people are doing. I focus on my game. I know what I can do,” Rock says in the ‘Ally Pally’ newsroom.

Van den Bergh in front of a special round of 16

Also still in contention for the title at the 30th edition of the World Darts Championship, Belgian Dimitri Van den Bergh. In the first match after the Christmas break, the 28-year-old easily beat Poland’s Krzysztof Ratajski 4-1. At first, there was no indication that it would be such a clear success for Van den Bergh. The match started with a double debacle. Ratajski missed four chances to win the opening set, Van den Bergh only hitting the crucial eight-millimetre-wide double field on his seventh attempt.

After the stuttering start, the encounter finally picked up speed. Van den Bergh was the better player, Ratajski could only follow in the third set. The decisive factor for the victory was the solid finish. After his first six penalties in the deciding opener of the opening set, Van den Bergh only missed four more doubles in the next 14 innings. An exceptional value.

A special match awaits the best Belgian player: in the round of 16, the match will oppose either defending champion Peter Wright or Dimitri’s Belgian compatriot Kim Huybrechts. “Of course I would like to play against Kim. It would be a very special game,” says Van den Bergh. But a duel with the double world champion Wright would also be special. After all, the Van den Berghs let him live with him at the start of the corona pandemic.

In confinement at the Wright farm

When suddenly no more flights left the British mainland for Belgium at the start of the Corona lockdown, Van den Bergh quickly found refuge on the farm of Peter Wright and his wife Joanne. For eleven weeks, Van den Bergh trained in the world champion’s darts hall to later become a great champion. “Peter Wright taught me a lot. I’m grateful to him and his family for everything they did for me during this difficult time,” Belgian darts podcast ‘Checkout’ said after his triumph. in the World Matchplay in the summer of 2020.

The special relationship between Van den Bergh and Wright has meanwhile cooled noticeably. At World Matchplay, when the two met in the quarter-finals, the cordiality had completely evaporated. At the time, it looked like Wright took the loss to his former protege personally and couldn’t cope.

Van den Bergh admits things have gotten complicated between the two recently. But there is no bad blood, the Belgian tells “I would describe our relationship as professional. We are focused on the World Cup and both really want to win this tournament.”

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