Cross set for world title defence
Rob Cross sometimes has to pinch himself to appreciate just how quick his journey from armchair darts fan to world champion was.
The former electrician went from watching the World Championship on TV to winning it in just 12 months, announcing himself on the world stage with a stunning fortnight.
And now Cross is plotting a defence to the title he won on New Year's Day when the action gets under way at the Alexandra Palace today.
"I can remember when I wasn't playing at Christmas we'd always put the darts on, it was always special to me even before I was a professional," said the 28-year-old.
"It is just phenomenal when you go there. It's the biggest one, it's the one that everyone wants and if you can get it then it's life-changing.
"I've always known that I could become number one in the world. But the timeframe takes some believing in how everything happened, it was very quick."
Life has changed for Cross and the demands of being one of the big guns took its toll as results in 2018 have not lived up to expectations.
"I'm not a person who craves attention and then all of a sudden you are getting it," he added.
"Things have changed. It's not all about throwing darts, it's about what's going on in the background. Next year will be better anyway.
"I am a better player, better mentally, but as there are more pressures put on I probably did dip through the year. I couldn't carry on at the same rate I was going, no-one can do that in sport."
Cross's defence could come under a stern test in the second round as he is likely to face Jeffrey de Zwaan - a man who has twice beaten Michael Van Gerwen this year.
He added: "I got a place at the Worlds last year and went on to win it, so you can't take anything for granted. You have to go there and perform well and if you don't anyone can bite you on the bum."