Josh Rock made his debut at the Alexandra Palace last year, reaching the last 16, before being knocked out by Jonny Clayton; Rock and Nathan Aspinall are in action for the second round of the World Championships on Saturday – live on Sky Sports from 12.30pm
Last Updated: 23/12/23 8:00am
Josh Rock says the best is yet to come for him and expressed satisfaction at going under the radar at his second World Darts Championship with more experience under his belt.
Despite making his debut at the Alexandra Palace last year, Rock found himself as the bookies’ fifth favourite going into the competition.
That was perhaps not surprising after he hit a nine-darter against three-time world champion Michael van Gerwen at the Grand Slam of Darts in Wolverhampton a month prior to the tournament.
With huge expectations on his shoulders at his first PDC World Championship, Rock didn’t disappoint, as he beat some big names on his path to the last 16. He handed defeats to Jose Justicia, Callan Rydz and Nathan Aspinall, before losing to Jonny Clayton in a fourth-round cracker.
Rock was critical of his showing but insists with more time under his belt, he is feeling better than 12 months ago heading into this year’s competition where he takes on Dutchman Berry van Peer.
“Yeah, I performed well last year. Personally, I think I should have got to the quarter-finals. I missed far too many darts against Johnny, but that’s my own problem,” said 22-year-old Rock.
“My favourite dart is double top but I wasn’t hitting it so it was my own fault. I didn’t play my game, it was nerves and a thick temper. I was probably letting it get the better of me as well, but I’ll be more controlled this year.
“You haven’t seen the best of Josh Rock yet, definitely not. It’s all comes down to experience. Whenever the time is right, the real Josh will come out.
“I’ve been a lot more consistent this year, getting to semi-finals, quarter-finals and finals.
“I’m a lot more consistent this year than I was last year, so I just need to take that consistently back to Ally Pally.”
Littler and Van Veen great talents, but lack experience
After having experience of being the next big talent coming through, Rock insisted he has not missed the attention from the media, with Luke Littler and Gian van Veen taking the spotlight this year.
But Rock believes young players should bide their time with plenty of years in the game, using the example of Phil Taylor’s two World Championship titles at aged 50 and 52 as reference.
“Someone else can have the pressure of being talked about all the time because like Gian van Veen, a year younger than me and then you have Luke Littler who is 16. Good, good player, but inexperienced as of yet when it comes to playing with the big boys, Rock said.
“Gian, he’s obviously been about, he’s experienced that obviously this year. So, Luke will get that next year but it depends how he copes with it.
“The standards are going higher, apparently there’s seven- or eight-year-olds that are doing nine-darters now. I’ve seen it on Facebook and stuff, that’s just what it’s going to be now
“I would say to any youngster, don’t expect anything too quick because you could be hitting nine darters at eight or nine [years old], but you can be about 6ft tall and not throw darts.
“Luke Littler has coped very well because I don’t think he’s changed much in height over the last couple of years. So they shouldn’t rush anything too quick.”
Rock revealed his expectations and how he thinks he will fare at this year’s PDC world Championship.
“It would mean the world to me [to win the World Championship] because I don’t think it will be this year,” Rock admitted.
“If it is this year then bonus, but me and my manager talked about and I think 2025 is the year I lift it. If I do lift it obviously.
“It all comes down to whatever happens. Because we don’t know what will happen but I’m more focused for next year than I am for this year.”
Aspinall: No reason why I can’t win this year
Nathan Aspinall comes into this year’s World Championships having made the semi-final stage previously but he is more motivated than ever to win it, insisting its just a matter of when.
“If I was to win the World Championship, I think it would be one of the greatest wins in darts,” said Aspinall.
“I’ve had the injury problems with my throw and the knockbacks, but there is no reason why I can’t pick that trophy up this year.
“It will happen. Whether it’s this year, next year or the year after, it will happen.
“Even if I’m 60 and I’m still playing, I will be here until I win the World Championship.”
He added: “I’m in the best headspace I’ve ever been in. I won the second-biggest tournament in the world (2023 World Matchplay), and I didn’t even feel like I played that well.
“I’m provisionally world No 4 going into 2024, and now I’m thinking: ‘How good can I actually be at this game?’
“I know I have so many more gears to go through, but the only way I’m going to get to that level is by working harder than I ever have before.”
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Source : Sky Sports