It will be an unusual feeling for Mensur Suljovic this weekend, as he defends a major TV Darts title for the first time at the Champions League of Darts in Brighton.
The Austrian darting maestro may be known for his slightly strange style, but he’s had an amazing career upsurge of late climbing to number six in the world rankings.
However, his biggest breakthrough to date came at this tournament in 2017, when he saw off Raymond van Barneveld in the semis and toppled Gary Anderson 11-9 in the final to claim a long-awaited first TV crown.
Suljovic is looking to make it back-to-back wins on the Champions League stage this weekend, but he admitted the pressure to repeat the trick is not something he particularly revels in.
“The pressure is very high to deal with. I don’t always enjoy that, especially before the tournament starts,” said the defending champion.
“Once the competition gets going though, I welcome the pressure.”
The Gentle one faces up to Peter Wright, Rob Cross and Simon Whitlock in Group B and he’s under no illusions on how difficult it will be to get out of that talented group.
“It’s a tough group for sure, with the number two and three in the world rankings in it. Simon Whitlock and I have to chase them down. Hopefully I can progress like I did last year.”
Despite his views on the players ranked above him, Suljovic is a form horse heading into the competition having come within inches of winning the World Matchplay title in July. He was just pipped at the post in the final by Gary Anderson and he told us that contest has been a major benefit to him.
“That game was a big confidence booster for me, especially because with the way I played against Gary Anderson in the final. It made me think, ‘if I can play like that against Gary Anderson, I can do much more in the game’.”
When you ask Suljovic about his buddies in the game, world champion Rob Cross will always be one of the first players he mentions. However, given that Cross will face him in his opening Champions League tie, Suljovic believes friendship needs to go by the wayside in Brighton.
“It’s hard to start a tournament playing the World champion, it’s a very testing opening game,” said the Austrian.
“I’m friends with Rob Cross too, we always practice together. However, tomorrow we won’t be friends!”