The third to last TV event of the darts year as far as the PDC are concerned gets underway on Saturday when 32 players head to Wolverhampton for the Grand Slam of Darts, one of the better events of the year.
Michael Smith won this title a year ago on his way to building up the head of steam that saw him land the World Championship a couple of months later. He’ll be looking for a repeat here but a decent field is out to deny him.
2022 – Michael Smith
2021 – Gerwyn Price
2020 – Jose de Sousa
2019 – Gerwyn Price
2018 – Gerwyn Price
2017 – Michael van Gerwen
2016 – Michael van Gerwen
2015 – Michael van Gerwen
2014 – Phil Taylor
2013 – Phil Taylor
The 32 players have been placed in eight groups of four based on their ranking in the PDC setup. The group stage sees each player playing the other three in the group over the best of nine legs after which the top two go through to the knockout stages. Leg difference is used to separate players tied on points and a nine dart shootout will be used if points and leg difference are the same. The last 16 is the best of 19 legs and then the remainder of the event is the best of 31 legs with the champion being crowned on the second Sunday of the tournament.
The reigning champion and world number one Michael Smith will begin his title defence in Group A of the competition this week. He has a decent enough record in the group phase and will be confident of making the knockout stage of the event. The former finalist James Wade has a bit of a love-hate relationship with this tournament but he is the second seed in it with the European Tour event winner Krzysztof Ratajski being the third seed. The youngster Nathan Girvan completes the quartet in Group A.
Group B of the competition is headed up by Jonny Clayton. He arrives in Wolverhampton not in the best form of his career so that will certainly interest the remaining trio in this group. Chris Dobey already has a TV tournament win to his name this season having come out on top in The Masters and he is the second seed in this section. The exciting young star Josh Rock is a very good third seed in this group and there is also a return to the tournament for the Development Tour star Berry van Peer.
The World Grand Prix champion Luke Humphries will have the honour of being the top seed in Group C this week. Humphries reached the semi-final here last year and he’ll look to go a couple of steps further this time around. He has a tricky looking section to come out of though with Dirk van Duijvenbode a lively second seed and a very much back to form Gary Anderson one of the more dangerous third seeds that he could have drawn. Steve Lennon isn’t exactly a mug as the lower ranked player in the group either.
Gerwyn Price has a wonderful record in this tournament having won it on three occasions but he is going through a bit of a quiet spell in terms of TV events. He certainly won’t lack for motivation here though as he is defending the money he won when claiming the title two years ago. Ryan Searle will be hoping to take advantage of that as he is the second seed in this group. Gian van Veen is getting plenty of admirers for his play these days and he will be a danger as a third seed while Nathan Rafferty showed this time last year that he too can provide a threat.
We move into the other half of the draw when we get down to Group E of the competition and it is the recently crowned European champion Peter Wright who will be the top seed in what has to be said is something of a ‘Group of Death’. That is because the second seed is the man who dominated the European Tour this term in Dave Chisnall while the third seed is Stephen Bunting, who has looked back to something close to his best recently. The section is made up by the CDC Continental Cup winner Stowe Buntz who will be competing at this level for the first time.
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The former UK Open champion Danny Noppert had to come through the qualifiers for his spot in the Grand Slam this year but having done so his world ranking gets him into Group F as the top seed. He is joined by the man who took the UK Open crown from him in the form of Andrew Gilding while Brendan Dolan will be looking for a chink in the armour of the big two to capitalise on and make it out of the group. The Japanese star Haruki Muramatsu completes what could be quite a competitive group throughout.
There is going to be plenty of attention on Group G of the competition this week because it is where the former champion Michael van Gerwen is housed. He hasn’t won this title since 2017 though so there is quite a drought going on which will certainly keep the other three players in the group interested. The leading ranked player of those is Rob Cross who will feel he is in a good part of the draw to do some damage but Martijn Kleermaker might be suited by this format. The section is completed by the ‘Queen of the Palace’ Fallon Sherrock.
Lastly we get to Group H, which will also have a good deal of attention on it and not necessarily because the World Matchplay champion Nathan Aspinall is the top seed in it. He will fancy his chances of making it through having gone all the way to the final here last year but three other players will be out to stop that from happening. They are the Australian qualifier Damon Heta, German Darts Championship winner Ricardo Pietreczko and the winner of the Women’s World Matchplay in Blackpool in Beau Greaves, who we won’t be seeing at Alexandra Palace so we might get extra attention on her here.
I’ll go with a couple of outright bets over the course of the week with Chris Dobey being the first of them. I think The Masters champion has landed himself in a lovely section of the draw. You could argue that his group isn’t the easiest with Jonny Clayton and Josh Rock in it but Clayton has only won six of his last 20 matches so he isn’t exactly firing on all cylinders and generally the shorter the format the more a struggle when out of form. Rock is only 18-14 over the last couple of months so he isn’t pulling up trees either. Dobey has reached the quarter final of the last two TV events and has got over the line in one right at the beginning of the year. He had a good run in the Premier League too and with a positive draw I think there’s a big run in him here.
In the other half of the draw Danny Noppert looks to have landed a nice group to come out of and we’ve seen before in this tournament that anything can happen from there. Noppert is in a group with Andrew Gilding, Brendan Dolan and Haruki Muramatsu and it would be a monumental shock if he doesn’t come out of that and disappointing if he doesn’t win the group. If he does win the group then he is into the longer format against a runner up and things could kick into life from there. In the last six weeks Noppert has won a Players Championship, made two other quarter finals and reached the semi-final of the European Championship so he has clicked into decent form at the right time. He feels overpriced at 40/1 in a section which could easily open right up.
One way to make a bit more money in this tournament is through the group betting and there are a couple of bets that I like the look of over the course of the weekend. We begin in Group A where Michael Smith has to be vulnerable despite his excellent record in the group phase of the event. Firstly he defends a TV major for the first time here which brings about extra pressure but since he changed his bats the results just haven’t been there and in best of nine sprints you only need to be 10% off it to come a cropper. The question is who to take him on with and James Wade has a decent record in these sprints too and the 11/4 that he wins the group looks fair to me. Wade looked in really good order at the European Championship where he made the final before being outclassed by Peter Wright. We know the leg format suits Wade and while Ratajski is a danger the more consistent Wade looks the better play to me.
In Group E we could have some real fun and games with Peter Wright, Dave Chisnall and Stephen Bunting all in there and that is no slight on the American raider Stowe Buntz. I’d imagine he’ll be a little out of his depth though but the three matches involving the other three could easily all end 5-4 so the prices of 13/8 Wright, 15/8 Chisnall and 7/2 Bunting look well out of line to me. Bunting has been in good nick for a while. If he clicks on the doubles you could argue he is the form man of this trio even allowing for all the other two have won this year. I expect this to be very competitive but at the prices I just can’t ignore twice the price on Bunting to the other two when there is a fag paper between the three of them.
Back C.Dobey to win Grand Slam of Darts (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 34.00 with Spreadex (1/2 1-2)
Back D.Noppert to win Grand Slam of Darts (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 41.00 with Bet365 (1/2 1-2)
Back J.Wade to win Group A for a 2/10 stake at 3.75 with Boylesports
Back him here:
Back S.Bunting to win Group E for a 2/10 stake at 4.50 with BetVictor