The Grand Slam of Darts gets underway on Saturday 9th November, with all the action from Wolverhampton live on Sky Sports. The competition brings together 24 of the best players from the PDC, who are joined by eight stars from the BDO. Qualification for the £125,000 top prize tournament is complicated and has its detractors, and big names such as Mensur Suljovic, Krzysztof Ratajski and Joe Cullen will all be missing this week, despite winning European Tour events this year.
However, the tournament has become one of the most popular on the tour, and this will be the 13th staging of the event. As you’d expect, Phil Taylor dominated the tournament in its early days, winning six of the first eight stagings, with Michael van Gerwen winning three of the last four. Scott Waites took home the trophy in 2010, Raymond van Barneveld was successful in 2012 and last year Gerywn Price scored a controversial victory.
The first round sees the 32 players split into eight groups of four – each group contains one of the top eight players in the World, two further PDC qualifiers and one BDO competitor. Each player plays each other once, with the top two players progressing to the second round, from which point on it’s a straight knockout competition.
The draw was always going to produce some interesting groups, and it didn’t disappoint. Group H looks particularly tough, with third seed Michael Smith being drawn alongside UK Open champion Nathan Aspinall, current men’s BDO Champion Glen Durrant and World Youth Championship runner-up Martin Schindler.
Group E looks interesting as well, with World Matchplay champion Rob Cross having to play Dave Chisnall, Jamie Hughes and Lisa Ashton. Current champion Gerwyn Price has been placed in Group C, and with runner-up Gary Anderson in Group D, the pair could meet again as early as the second round.
Michael van Gerwen (1), Adrian Lewis, Ross Smith, Jim Williams
James Wade (8), Ian White, Steve Lennon, Wesley Harms
Gerwyn Price (5), Dimitri van den Bergh, Robert Thornton, Mikuru Suzuki
Gary Anderson (4), Darren Webster, William O’Connor, Dave Parletti
Rob Cross (2), Dave Chisnall, Jamie Hughes, Lisa Ashton
Peter Wright (7), Danny Noppert, Ryan Harrington, Wayne Warren
Daryl Gurney (6), Brendan Dolan, Gabriel Clemens, Richard Veenstra
Michael Smith (3), Nathan Aspinall, Martin Schindler, Glen Durrant
All group games are best of nine legs, whilst second round matches are best of 19 legs. From then on, all matches are best of 31 legs, with the winner being crowned on Sunday 17th November.
The main contenders
Michael van Gerwen comes here as the favourite and as a three-time former winner of this event will be confident of another big week. The Dutchman won the World Series of Darts Finals last weekend, to add to the titles he picked up in the Champions League and World Grand Prix recently. Van Gerwen has a tricky looking group, but one that he should progress from; Ross Smith beat van Gerwen at the European Championships only a few weeks ago, whilst two-time former World Champion Adrian Lewis could be a danger in the short format group games. Jim Williams is the BDO representative in this group having won the BDO World Trophy in September.
The qualifiers from that group will face the qualifiers from Group B in the second round. Group B looks weaker on paper, with eighth seed James Wade facing Ian White, Steve Lennon and Wesley Harms.
The rest of the top half of the draw is made up of Group C and Group D competitors, and it looks like a good opportunity for Gerwyn Price to make a solid defence of his title. The Welshman has been throwing some big averages recently, and is arguably the second best player in the World right now. His biggest group challenge could come from Dimitri van den Bergh, with Robert Thornton and Mikuru Suzuki making up the rest of the group. Gary Anderson heads up Group D, but there are a few question marks over his game after averaging just 71 last weekend at the World Series Finals.
Into the bottom half of the draw, and Group E looks interesting. Rob Cross is playing well at the moment, but may not have it all his own way against an in-form Dave Chisnall, local favourite Jamie Hughes and the BDO Ladies World Champion Lisa Ashton. Group F looks easier, with Peter Wright a hot favourite to progress. ‘Snakebite’ missed match darts to win the Champions League a few weeks back, and has struggled to win since, but his averages have been good, and it’s only a matter of time before he goes deep in another tournament.
Group G could be a tight one, with both Brendan Dolan and Gabriel Clemens playing well at the moment. Daryl Gurney is the seeded player in this group, and will need to be at the top of his game to book his place in round two.
The final group looks like the most interesting though, Michael Smith is the third seed but looks to have the toughest job of all the seeded players. He’s been drawn alongside UK Open Champion and US Darts Masters winner Nathan Aspinall. ‘The Asp’ has been a bit unlucky in recent tournaments, he’s been hitting some massive averages, only for his opponents to raise their game as well. Group H also features Glen Durrant; ‘Duzza’ has taken the PDC by storm this year, and his performances in the big tournaments have been particularly impressive.
The first tip to win the Grand Slam of Darts is the defending champion Gerwyn Price. ‘The Iceman’ won the title against Gary Anderson last year in highly controversial fashion, but he looks to have a really good draw this year, and should make a decent fist of winning the title again. Price has been in good form recently, over the last few weeks he’s reached the semi-final of the Champions League and the final of the European Championships. He also reached the semi-finals of the UK Open earlier in the year, so has been playing well on some of the biggest stages this year.
It’s difficult to see how Price won’t progress from a group containing Dimitri van den Bergh, Robert Thornton and Mikuru Suzuki. None of those players are in particularly good form, and it should be a nice way for Price to find his feet on the Wolverhampton stage once again. The Welshman would face a player from a weak looking Group D next. Gary Anderson is the obvious threat from this quarter of the draw, but there have to be real concerns over ‘The Flying Scotsman’ at the moment following a very abject display at the World Series last weekend. It’s always dangerous to look too far ahead in the draw, but Michael van Gerwen is a potential semi-final opponent for ‘Gezzy’, which isn’t ideal. However, in four of their last five matches the Dutchman has needed a final leg decider to defeat Price, and the other match was a draw in the Premier League. Surely it’s only a matter of time before Price gets the better of the World Number One.
This will be Price’s fourth visit to the Grand Slam. In 2016 he made it through a tough group before losing a last leg decider to Brendan Dolan in the second round. He was unlucky not to make it out of his group in 2017, but made up for that disappointment last year when taking home the title.
‘The Iceman’ has a really good draw this year, and is playing better darts than he was this time 12 months ago. The only negative against Price at the moment is his portrayal as the bad boy of darts. He’s struggled with some very vocal crowds in recent weeks, but if he can block out some of the inevitable bad feeling towards the Welshman, he’s a real danger this week. ‘Gezzy’ is rated a 11/1 shot to defend his title, and looks certain to go deep this week.
Into the bottom half of the draw and Glen Durrant is selected to continue his good run of form. There’s no doubt that he’s been handed a tough assignment in Group H, but this is a tournament that ‘Duzza’ has been looking forward to, and he can make his presence felt once again this week.
Durrant is a BDO representative in this event and is used to tough draws in this event. Despite this, he’s made it out of his group in two of his three appearances, and last year was unlucky to go out in the group stages, despite averaging 100 across his three group games. The likeable Englishman put in his best performance in the 2017 Grand Slam, when he made the quarter-finals, eventually losing to Peter Wright.
Durrant’s first season on the PDC has certainly been one to remember. His highlights are semi-final appearances at the World Matchplay and World Grand Prix. In those events, two of the biggest on the tour, he beat Michael van Gerwen, James Wade, Mensur Suljovic and Rob Cross – so has raised his game on the big stage already this season.
He’ll need to be at his best to progress from a group that contains Michael Smith, Nathan Aspinall and Martin Schindler – but Durrant isn’t afraid of taking on the best that the PDC has to offer. He has a winning record against both Aspinall and Schindler this year, and with Smith not playing his best at the moment, has a good chance to progress from a tough group.
‘Duzza’ has performed well on some big stages so far this year, and if he brings his A-game to Wolverhampton has a chance of negotiating a tough part of the draw.