Doubles really are for dough in the darting world this week as the leading lights in the game head to Leicester for the World Grand Prix, the tournament which asks the players to start a leg on the outer ring as well as finish it there.
This is always a competitive competition and one which Michael van Gerwen enhanced his good record in last season when he defeated Nathan Aspinall in the final. He is back to attempt to defend the title against a top drawer field.
2022 – Michael van Gerwen
2021 – Jonny Clayton
2020 – Gerwyn Price
2019 – Michael van Gerwen
2018 – Michael van Gerwen
2017 – Daryl Gurney
2016 – Michael van Gerwen
2015 – Robert Thornton
2014 – Michael van Gerwen
2013 – Phil Taylor
This is the one tournament of the year where the format is completely different. In every leg players have to hit a double to start scoring and then hit another to finish the leg. We are at set play in this tournament as well. The first round is a bunfight over the best-of-three sets while the second round and quarter finals move up to the best-of-five. It is the best-of-seven for the semi-finals and then the champion will be decided over the best-of-nine sets in the final on the Sunday. Each set throughout the tournament is the best-of-five legs and the deciding set will be settled in the fifth leg rather than a tiebreak.
This is a tournament where we have just the eight seeds and they are placed into the draw on the status of their world ranking so with the world champion Michael Smith being the number one in the world he is the top seed this week and the leading man in the top half of the draw. He is seeded to run into former champion Gerwyn Price in the semi-final but the finalist from last year, Nathan Aspinall, and the former world champion Rob Cross are the other two seeds who will have something to say about that.
The thing about this tournament is with just eight seeds we have some seriously strong unseeded players lurking in the draw creating significant first round action. UK Open champion Andrew Gilding would be one of those while Danny Noppert and Gary Anderson won a Players Championship event as recently as last week. Dirk van Duijvenbode is a former finalist of this event while Stephen Bunting, Raymond van Barneveld and James Wade have all had decent runs in this tournament. Krzysztof Ratajski has won a European Tour event recently so the top half is absolutely loaded.
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This is the position of the draw where the defending champion Michael van Gerwen will attempt to make a successful defence of the title. He is the top seed in the bottom half of the bracket and if everything does go to the ranking, which in this event it very rarely does, then it would be Peter Wright who would oppose him in the semi-final. The former champion Jonny Clayton and the European Tour ace Luke Humphries are the two men who will be looking to stop that from happening.
As with the top half of the draw, the bottom half is loaded with great unseeded players. Josh Rock is regarded as the bright young prospect and he has a tasty first round clash with Michael van Gerwen while Dimitri Van den Bergh, Chris Dobey, Ross Smith, Joe Cullen and Daryl Gurney have all won big TV tournaments in the last few years. Dave Chisnall comes in here having won a European Tour event and a Players Championship tournament in the last fortnight while Ryan Searle and Gabriel Clemens are dangers for anyone on their day.
There aren’t many players heading into this tournament in better form than Dave Chisnall after he won a Players Championship event last week and the European Tour tournament the week before and that is particularly appealing here because he has a fine record in this competition. Chisnall is seen as someone who scores heavily but can be loose on the doubles so you wouldn’t have expected him to have reached two finals, two semi-finals and a pair of quarter finals in just 12 goes in this tournament. He would have made the last eight at least last year had he not lost a deciding leg against the throw in the second round against Dimitri Van den Bergh. Chisnall has won three tournaments on the European Tour this season and made another final and looks to be in the best form of his life. I think he’s a massive chance in a fairly open part of the draw this week.
The other player who interests me here is Stephen Bunting. I always think he is a much better set player than a leg one and his record in this tournament where he has twice made the semi-final and in the World Championship he won at the Lakeside and has reached the last eight or better in three of the nine PDC World Championships he has played. He is a twice BDO World Masters champion too. He took Michael van Gerwen to a deciding set in the second round here last year and was unlucky not to get the better of his man but he won’t be seeing him until the final this time around. Bunting reached the semi-final of the latest Players Championship event and just three weeks ago he made a final on the European Tour so his game is certainly in the right position to launch another big assault on a first PDC TV title.
Back D.Chisnall to win World Grand Prix (e/w) for a 1.5/10 stake at 19.00 with Sky Bet (1/2 1-2)
Back S.Bunting to win World Grand Prix (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 81.00 with Coral (1/2 1-2)