Column #CM115 It is November and time for the Grand Slam!
Wednesday, November 9, 2022
It is November and time for the Grand Slam!
After a really astonishing and interesting European Championship with Ross Smith as the surprise winner (and the no longer surprisingly losing finalist, Michael Smith) it is time for the next big PDC TV event – the Grand Slam of Darts in Wolverhampton.
The Grand Slam of Darts started as a tournament in which tournament winners from both the PDC and the BDO took part – but the BDO is history and so far the WDF not really picked up pace. While the World Masters are still firmly established (and currently played) it is not known whether another WDF World Championship will take place at all.
So, the Grand Slam now-a-days is an all PDC tournament including all winners and finalists of the big PDC TV events and some other winners like the first of the Development Tour ranking or the first two of the Women’s Series ranking. This year (with Christian Perez and Leonard Gates) two international players were added who won PDC-associated Championships. And of course we have some Tour Card holder qualifiers.
There were already two big upsets in the runup to the tournament as neither Gary Anderson nor James Wade will be in the field of participants. While Anderson chose not to play the qualifier, Wade just missed out qualifying – as did Dimitri van den Bergh and Kim Huybrechts, and Jose des Sousa who won the event in 2020.
Instead – surprise, surprise – we’ll see Raymond van Barneveld who managed to qualify via the qualifier (though, besides one win on the Pro Tour in the very first event he played after winning back his Tour Card, he hasn’t really impressed in the last two years.
As always, there are a few debutants in the mix like already mentioned international players Perez and Gates or the upcoming Josh Rock – but I tend doubt they will be the players who will dominate the tournament.
The Grand Slam is the only PDC tournament which starts in a Round Robin format played in eight groups of four players – which means the first round is a little bit more relaxed for the players as you can lose one match without being eliminated. Sometimes a player can even lose two matches and still progress into the next round.
In some years we had some “easy” groups in which it was quite clear from the start which players would progress into the second round (the top two players of the group). This year it doesn’t look so clear. In each group it could be at least three of the players who’ll battle for the top two places.
At the moment, we don’t see the one outstanding player who dominates all tournaments – we see instead a lot of players who are capable of playing on the same level. More than ever the key to winning a tournament is consistency in hitting doubles, as scoring power often is very much the same. Hitting a lot of 180s is not enough – you need some highfinishes as well.
Again Lisa Ashton and Fallon Sherrock qualified for the event. Ashton hasn’t won a single match against the men in the big tournaments though she in parts dominated the Women’s Series (at least before Beau Greaves turned up). She didn’t look as good on the Women’s Series recently while Fallon Sherrock seemed to get stronger again. She was far from convincing in the World Series events but she won the Women’s World Matchplay in July. She was great in last year’s Grand Slam so maybe she can build on it this year.
We’ve got seven debutants in this year’s Grand Slam beginning with Perez and Gates – the two international players for whom the tournament is a great preparation for the World Championship but who probably will not survive the Round Robin phase.
Then there are Ritchie Edhouse, Alan Soutar and Luke Woodhouse who all qualified by the qualifier. They are all capable of winning a match or two against the big names but will play no part in the battle to win the event.
And we have Josh Rock and Scott Williams. Williams dominated the Challenge Tour and celebrated one win on the Pro Tour. In the same way, Josh Rock dominated the Development Tour and recently won his first Pro Tour event. Both were drawn in the same group – Group H – and each could turn out to be too much for Luke Humphries and Ryan Searle.
Of course, we have the Top 3 in the world who as usual are the top favourites to win – Gerwyn Price, Peter Wright and Michael van Gerwen. None of the three are in really top form – Price just won a Players Championship but it seems he likes the big TV events better and he can improve when under pressure. Michael van Gerwen is sometimes quite sloppy on his doubles which can have dire consequences – as he is not the only player with power scoring abilities. Peter Wright is an enigma for me and a player I just can’t assess.
So, who might win?
Perhaps it will be Michael Smith’s chance. It should be possible for him to win the tournament – if he can somehow leave all his problems behind.
It could be Jonny Clayton’s comeback to the winners circle or Rob Cross could surprise – it could even be that Raymond van Barneveld has a good run (though I doubt it).
And it could be we’ll see again an outsider win – someone who uses his chances well, is tenacious and consistent and, of course. clinical on his doubles throughout.
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