Dimitri Van den Bergh won his first PDC Challenge Tour title, aged just 17. He topped the Youth Tour Order of Merit at 18, and by 22, was making an eye-catching debut at the World Championship, dancing on to the Alexandra Palace stage before defeating Ian White in the first round.
Since then, it has been a steady rise up the world rankings for the 26-year-old, but the question remained – did he have what it took to win a major?
The answer was a resounding yes at the 2020 World Matchplay, where he became the first debutant in more than two decades to lift the trophy. Along the way, he downed the likes of Nathan Aspinall, Joe Cullen and Adrian Lewis before seeing off Gary Anderson 18-10 in a one-sided final.
Ironically for a young man nicknamed ‘The Dream Maker’, it was Van den Bergh that was left rubbing his eyes in disbelief – “I’ve made my dreams come true”, he said afterwards.
The sense among the darting community is that if the Belgian can stay focused, many more titles will follow – the manner in which he has started the 2021 campaign suggests he will not be resting on his laurels any time soon.
He will, of course, have aspirations of clinching the big one – the World Championship – in January, and the poise he is starting to show on the TV stages suggests that is a strong possibility.
The bookmakers have taken note, and now in the World Championship betting from Space Casino, only Michael van Gerwen, Gerwyn Price and Peter Wright are considered to be more likely winners as he is priced at 10/1.
It was a strangely subdued Van den Bergh who rather meekly bowed out of the UK Open back in March, but since then, he has been in imperious form in the Premier League.
The 26-year-old has lost just one of his nine games played at the time of writing, which came back on Night Five against Portuguese thrower Jose de Sousa, and saw a three-game winning streak halted by a draw with James Wade last time out.
Darts is a sport of numbers, of course, and Van den Bergh’s are stacking up rather nicely. He has a tournament average of 98 – lowered artificially by one mad leg against Gary Anderson in which scores of darts at doubles were missed. He has scored more 180s than any other player bar De Sousa and has won more legs against the throw than anyone else.
It’s that last stat which is of the most interest. It reveals the Belgian’s immense scoring power, for starters, but more than that, it shows his innate sense of timing – knowing when to put his foot on the accelerator and produce a huge leg.
Those qualities will surely take Van den Bergh to new heights in the world of professional darts. In a year littered with major tournaments, his defence of the World Matchplay in July will be a huge moment for starters – 2021 could be the defining period in his career.