Column #CM 46 The Grand Slam of Darts – Preview
Wednesday, November 7, 2018
The Grand Slam of Darts – Preview
I don’t do predictions any longer…
This year, I have been off the mark far too often.
What the hell happened to the dartsplayers? It was rather easy in the past. For years, one could predict Phil Taylor would be the winner without a risk. Then, at least for a few years, it was almost dead sure the winner would be Michael van Gerwen. But Phil Taylor is history and Michael van Gerwen is just unpredictable this year. He’s still great in European Tour events but in the big TV tournaments it looks at the moment he’s beatable by more or less anybody. And usually that is not the player who’ll win the tournament later…
The winners of this year’s TV tournaments so far are Michael van Gerwen, Gary Anderson, Michael van Gerwen, Gary Anderson, Gary Anderson, Michael van Gerwen, James Wade, and James Wade….
I don’t know who’ll win the Grand Slam? I really don’t have a clue. So, I will not predict anything. Well, it might be I’d be on the safe side predicting that Joe Murnan, Gary Robson, Keegan Brown, Steve Hine and Andrew Gilding will not win it. But even there – one just can’t be sure!
But I’ve no problem with being not able to predict a winner. It is very interesting and rather exciting as it is at the moment. And very entertaining.
I am sure Michael van Gerwen feels rather frustrated despite telling everybody (after a win) that he’s thrown phenomenal darts and (when he has lost) that he has nothing to prove. My advice for him would be he should make sure he hits his doubles clinically again. His scores are often outstanding enough. But “enough is not enough” any longer because when he starts to miss his doubles other players are now up to capitalizing on the chances he gives them…
Of course, reigning champion van Gerwen is once again the favorite to win this year’s event and when you have a look at his group (A) he looks likely to be the group winner even before the tournament starts. But when you look at Group B from where his first opponent in the knockout stage will come there are two names that could make life difficult for van Gerwen – Michael Smith and Raymond van Barneveld who’s just beaten him in the World Series of Darts Final. And I dare to predict that it is rather likely those are the two players who will progress from Group B.
Group C is more difficult. I think James Wade should manage to progress but whether Keegan Brown, Mark Webster or Wesley Harms will join him I just have no idea. The same is even more applicable to Group D – I am only quite sure that Steve Hine will not be the player to progress. But the other three?
Anderson always can be on or off, Ian White seems to have some problems with TV tournaments at the moment and Michael Unterbuchner (who is one of encouragingly three German players who have qualified for the Grand Slam this year) is some kind of black horse having never before taken part in a big PDC event. Of course, he’s played a great year so far and was for a short time even the WDF #1, but he’s never played in such a tournament in front of such an audience.
Next, we have Group E which offers us Peter Wright, the German #1 Max Hopp, Josh Payne and BDO player Jim Williams. Josh Payne hasn’t played a great year, Max Hopp showed some great matches, but he is not really consistent yet, Peter Wright was completely beside himself in the World Series of Darts final and Jim Williams is quite a good player according to BDO standard – so we have here a might be a completely open group. Peter Wright should win it should he be back to normal but to be sure the World Series final didn’t help his confidence as it didn’t Max Hopp’s either.
In Group F we find with Glen Durrant – probably the strongest BDO player – and Simon Whitlock, Gerwyn Price and Andrew Gilding. Gilding will not be the player to progress but the other three all have a chance.
In Group G we’ve got Mensur Suljovic who didn’t have a great World Series final, Stephen Bunting who seems to be getting stronger again, the third German Martin Schindler who has proven to be rather consistent this year and Scott Mitchell who had taken a break from darts this year but is back. And he is already quite experienced in playing the Grand Slam. This group definitely could produce some upsets.
And last, but not least, we have the completely open Group H with PDC World Champion Rob Cross, Youth World Champion Dimitri van den Berg, the consistent BDO player Mark McGeeney and Ryan Meikle. Rob Cross is still searching for his World Championship form, Dimitri van den Bergh has had a bad year but won a Development Tour event last weekend and once again reached the Youth World Championship Final. I’ve no idea how good Ryan Meikle is – he is the outsider in this group but could turn out to be a surprise.
I am sure I will enjoy the tournament! I really hope for a lot of upsets!
The tournament will be played in a new venue which means the setting will be new for everybody, for the players, the officials, the crowd and even for me as part of the media. I will not stay all the time – only for the first round and the first evening of round two. The weather forecast is not bad – it will be not too cold, and no red weather alert is in sight.
But should I feel totally bored by the tournament I will just travel to Birmingham to do some Christmas shopping.