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Darts Preview – Grand Slam of Darts 2018

Darts Preview – Grand Slam of Darts 2018
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The cold nights may be drawing in, but for darts fans the tournament calendar has picked up apace in recent weeks thanks to the European and World Series championships in quick succession. And the road to the World Championships next month continues to accelerate thanks to the bwin Grand Slam in Wolverhampton.

The tournament continues to hold a special place in darts fans’ hearts. Firstly for its unique group stages format (eight groups of four players in each), but also it is the only major televised tournament to have at least eight BDO players also taking part, aside from our favourite tournament here at Rileys – the UK Open.

Here is all you need to know ahead of the tournament, which you can follow in all our clubs up and down the UK.

The Favourites

There have only been four winners of the Grand Slam in its dozen year history. Phil Taylor leads the way with six wins, while the next on the list is three-time reigning champion Michael van Gerwen.

The World number one’s winning run stretches to 18 games and his last defeat came in the quarter-finals at the hands of Belgium’s Kim Huybrechts back in 2014. Van Gerwen has of course been dominant this year, with 18 titles to his name. He has scooped the Masters, the Premier League, the World Cup and the World Gran Prix amongst others. But, the Dutchman has shown signs of weakness in the previous two TV tournaments with defeats to Steve West and to Raymond van Barneveld in the European and World Series championships respectively. Van Gerwen takes on Johnny Clayton (whom he leads 6-1 on head to heads), Joe Murnan (whom he has never lost to) and the BDO’s Gary Robson.

James Wade is surely the man to beat at the moment, having picked up two TV titles in as many weeks. The Machine has been dubbed as one of the most talented players never to win the Worlds. Picking up the European and World Series titles has certainly reminded everyone that he is not to be written off. Wade’s best run in this event is his famous final in 2010, where we squandered a healthy lead against the BDO’s Scott Waites who’d eventually take the title. Wade lines up in Group C, where he faces stiff competition against Keegan Brown (whom he lost his last three games), Mark Webster (whom he has beaten nine times in his past 11 games) and the Netherland’s Wesley Harms.

The Flying Scotsman Gary Anderson has been the 2nd most successful on Tour this year, winning the UK Open (our favourite tournament!) and World Matchplay amongst other titles. He has reached the semis for the past two years in this tournament, and reached the final in 2011 where he was swept aside by Phil Taylor. Anderson is in Group D and takes on Michael Unterbuchner, Steve Hine (who he has beaten in his last four games) and the Ian White.

The Debuts

Among the debuts in Wolverhampton include Andrew Gilding, Martin Schindler, Steve Hine and Ryan Searle who all battled through qualifying on Monday evening.

Stats

Van Barneveld, Wade and Anderson all maintain their 100% appearance record at the Grand Slam. They’ll be making their twelfth appearance in as many years.

Mark Webster came through three rounds of qualifying on Monday night to book his 10th Grand Slam appearance. Only six players have more appearances in the tournament than the Welsh former Lakeside champion.

The BDO Big Guns

The fascination of the BDO in a PDC event never subsides. The “will he won’t he” switch debate of Glenn Durrant still rumbles on despite the reigning Lakeside champion pledging his allegiance to the BDO after his quarter-final win in January.

However with the BDO securing a TV deal with Eurosport perhaps he’ll be staying put after all.

He has made it out of his group for the past two years and reached the last eight last year.

Wesley Harms, Scott Mitchell and Mark McGeeney return to the Grand Slam. Only Harms has made it out of his group however, and that was in 2012.

World Master Smith-Neale, the ever improving Michael Unterbuchner, Jim Williams and Gary Robson all debut.

The Missing

Arguably, the Grand Slam is one of the hardest tournaments to qualify for, with only title winners being guaranteed entry if you are a PDC player.

Resultantly there were some big name casualties on Monday evening at Wigan with Adrian Lewis, Darryl Gurney and former finalists Dave Chisnall and Robert Thornton all missing out.

Corey Cadby was forced to withdraw from the tournament in what has been a frustrating year for the young Australian after reaching the final of the UK Open in March.

Tips

Jim Williams to qualify from Group E looks like great value at 7/4. The Welshman has four BDO titles to his name this year. He looks evenly matched with Max Hopp and Josh Payne, in a Group which Peter Wright is hot favourite. Glenn Durrant at 4/1 to hit the most 180s in Group F may be another good shout, while Martin Schindler at 4/1 could well come through given the German’s excellent form and Mensur Suljovic’s early exits from recent TV tournaments.

You can catch all the action at Rileys Sports bars from the 10th-18th November.

Matthew Kiernan Multimedia Journalist. Passionate about darts.