In February, Dimitri Van den Bergh and Jose De Sousa were both unveiled as brand ambassadors for Phoenixdarts. Ahead of the start of the PDC World Championship, we caught up with Roque Grau, the business development director of Phoenixdarts Europe, to get an insight into the signing of the first-time PDC major winning duo earlier this year…
The year 2020 will be one that the world of darts will never forget. In the PDC alone, three players have won PDC major titles for the first time. In July, Dimitri Van den Bergh captured the World Matchplay on debut, while only last month Jose De Sousa lifted the Grand Slam of Darts crown in his very first appearance.
In-between those two title wins for Phoenixdarts ambassadors came Glen Durrant’s Premier League triumph, again on debut. Phoenixdarts Europe’s business development director, Roque Grau, explains first how Belgium’s number one became an ambassador for the company.
“We already had experience sponsoring some PDC players, but we wanted to look for top players,” Grau said.
“In the case of Dimitri, it is crystal clear. He’s a natural. One of the most gifted players in the PDC, no discussions about it.
“And also his image is clean and white. He’s so respectful, always nice and kind. In his interviews he always conducts himself so nicely.
“So it was clear to us to have him as an ambassador. In our opinion, he’s the future of darts and is going to be a top three player very soon.
“It’s very important to have a clean image and represent the values of Phoenixdarts. Always be respectful, humble and friendly. Dimitri is the son in law every mother wants for their daughter!”
Van den Bergh’s pedigree at youth level, winning back-to-back PDC World Youth Championships, made him an obvious choice for Phoenixdarts. Jose De Sousa, the newest major winner in the PDC, was not as clear cut a choice at first, but Grau believes, like Van den Bergh, they have another of the PDC’s most gifted players in their ranks in the Portuguese number one.
“Jose has been a Phoenixdarts player for many years,” Grau explains. “He’s very well known in the soft tip arena, not only in Spain, where he attends our events, but he’s been to our events in Korea and Hong Kong.
“He was strongly endorsed by our main distributor at Phoenixdarts in Spain. I would not say we had concerns, but we wanted to take a while to think about it.
“In the case of De Sousa, he was leaving a job to start in the PDC, which is what every player wants to do. But then you have to win, and that brings tremendous pressure.
“De Sousa is one of the most gifted players in the PDC and, after speaking with the main operator in Spain, and also speaking with Mac Elkin (his manager), we were very sure that he can handle the pressure. And you see now how he’s doing during this season!”
Despite not having yet won on the Alexandra Palace stage in his three previous World Championship appearances, De Sousa’s Grand Slam win placed him at 16/1 by title sponsors William Hill before the tournament got under way earlier this week. To put that into context, only the ‘big three’ of Michael van Gerwen, Gerwyn Price and Peter Wright, were ahead of him in the outright odds.
De Sousa will hope it is third time lucky tonight when he takes on Ross Smith, the world number 42, in the second round. Dimitri Van den Bergh a World Championship quarter-finalist in two of the last three years, was priced at 20/1, the joint sixth favourite, and opens his campaign against either Luke Humphries or Paul Lim next Tuesday.
“Absolutely, we’re excited,” Grau said. “Dimitri normally performs pretty well at the World Championship, so we believe he’s going to do well.
“Jose has not been playing that often in the World Championship. Last year was not so good, but now he has the confidence I think.
“He has been performing so well through the whole year. He won on the European Tour before the Grand Slam, and that was the turning point.
“He got that confidence that he needed and from that moment on he has been almost unbeatable. That’s the way I think it’s going to be from now on.
“A lot of it is confidence. He’s an unbelievably gifted person. You have seen his ability, it is amazing. The only thing he needed was a little bit of confidence to overcome the pressure.
“It would be a dream come true to see them play each other in the final. I know the bracket this time doesn’t make that possible this year.”