Grand Slam of Darts 2015 – Group Previews
Here is my preview for the Grand Slam of Darts, it covers all of the players in all the groups.
Michael van Gerwen
PDC number one and tournament favourite Michael van Gerwen comes into the Grand Slam on the back of winning the European Championship last week. This is the only current major tournament in the PDC that has eluded him so far so his motivation will be very high. He has finished top of his group in each of the last 4 years. His best performance in this tournament previously was runner-up in 2012.
Huybrechts has had a good run of results on the PDC tour over the last 4 months, having reached 4 ranking finals, including winning a Euro Tour event in October. He has qualified from his group both times he has played in the tournament, both of those times in 2nd place behind van Gerwen. He was a semi-finalist last year and hit a 9 dart finish in his defeat of van Gerwen in the quarter-finals.
West has been a regular on the PDC tour over the past 4 years but has yet to get to the quarter-final of a ranking event during this time. He did reach the Last 16 in 3 out of 4 pro tour events at the end of September/early October, including wins over Dolan, Suljovic and Peter Wright. West has experience of the TV stage from his BDO days having competed at the World Championships five years in a row. His best run in a PDC major ranking tournament was a Last 16 appearance at the UK Open in 2013. He qualified for the Grand Slam through the PDC qualifiers.
Oosterhuis is a novice on the big TV stage, having not featured in that later stages of a major tournament previously. He came through the NDB qualifiers to reach the Grand Slam and will enter the Grand Slam with no real expectations.
White has enjoyed a very consistent season on the PDC tour reaching 8 semi-finals, going on to reach 4 finals from those semi-finals and win a tour event as recently as October. His previous appearance at the Grand Slam came back in 2011, in his group he defeated van Barneveld, before losing to Winstanley in a last leg decider and then losing in his final group match to Ted Hankey.
Klaasen is returning to the Grand Slam for the first time since 2007 which was the first year the tournament took place. On that occasion Klaasen finished 1st in his group and reached the quarter-final before losing to Kevin McDine. 2015 has been an excellent year for him so far, wining 2 ranking tournaments and he also reached the quarter-finals of the last two PDC TV ranking tournaments.
1996 BDO World Champion Beaton qualified for his tournament through the PDC qualifiers; he has appeared at the Grand Slam on 4 previous occasions, having qualified from his group 3 times. He was the first player to beat Phil Taylor in the knockout rounds of the tournament having won 16-14 in the 2010 quarter-finals. He has won just 1 of his last 16 matches in TV tournaments
After turning down a place at the Grand Slam on many occasions Adams has accepted this year which adds extra interest to the tournament. There can be no doubt over his pedigree; he has won 3 World Championships and 3 World Masters (although the last of those 6 wins came in 2011). He reached the final of the BDO World Championship last January and the semi-finals of the recent World Masters and still has the game to be a main contender to progress from his group.
Lewis is a 2 time semi-finalist at the Grand Slam (losing to Phil Taylor in both semi-finals). He has only qualified from his group on 3 occasions though and finished 4th in his group in 2 of the last 3 years. Most recently last week he reached the semi-finals at the European Championships beating Phil Taylor in the quarter-finals before losing to Gary Anderson.
Smith is making his 3rd consecutive appearance at the tournament. Having finished 3rd in his group in 2013 he finished top of a group containing Wright, Whitlock and Dolan last year (winning all 3 matches), he beat Kist in the Last 16 before losing very disappointingly 16-3 to Phil Taylor. That quarter-final appearance is the furthest Smith has progressed in a TV tournament.
Jones has featured at the Grand Slam on 4 previous occasions, progressing from his group twice from those four attempts. He has gone as far as the semi-finals in this tournament, that was in 2010 when he defeated Robert Thornton and Gary Anderson in the Last 16 and QF respectively before losing to James Wade in the semis.
Former BDO World Champion and World Masters Champion Fordham is a popular qualifier for the Grand Slam and came through the BDO qualifiers to reach the tournament. There are no doubts he will have the support of the crowd and it would be good to see him play some of the quality of darts he played when at the top of his game.
Wright has been a major contender in PDC TV tournament over the past 2/3 years but has yet to get past the Last 16 at the Grand Slam, though it is worth noting the players who have eliminated him. On his debut in 2013 he finished behind James Wade and Gary Anderson in the group. Last year he finished behind Michael Smith to qualify in 2nd place which meant a Last 16 match against Phil Taylor, a game Wright was to lose 10-4.
Chisnall went all the way to the final of the Grand Slam last year and gave a good account of himself in a final he lost 16-13 to Phil Taylor (the closest anyone has got to Taylor in a Grand Slam final). Perhaps surprisingly last year was also the first time Chisnall had progressed from his group, having failed to do so in 3 previous attempts.
King has been an ever present at the Grand Slam since it started in 2007. His record of match wins in the Group Stage is only bettered by Phil Taylor. Only once has King failed to progress from his group and he has won his group on 6 occasions. Last year he matched his best overall placing in the tournament when he reached the semi-finals before losing to Taylor.
Current BDO World Champion Scott Mitchell is making his first appearance at the Grand Slam. In individual tournaments since then he hasn’t quite reached the levels he did at the Lakeside. He has been drawn in a very tough group and faces a tough task to qualify.
Reigning PDC World Champion Gary Anderson has appeared at the Grand Slam in every edition since it started in 2007. He has an excellent record of progressing from his group, having done so on all 8 occasions. He has only won all 3 group matches once though. Anderson’s best performance has been reaching the final in 2011, he was also a semi-finalist in 2007 and 2008, but he has lost in the Last 16 in each of the last 3 years.
Raymond van Barneveld
Apart from Phil Taylor Barney is the only player in the current field who has won the Grand Slam, he did so in 2012 beating van Gerwen in the final. He has progressed from his group 6 times from 8 appearances. The only time van Barneveld has gone past the Last 16 in the last 5 years was when he won the tournament.
Boulton is making his debut at the Grand Slam and came through the PDC qualifiers. His previous best performance on the PDC tour this season is a quarter-final in a pro tour event in May. He has reached the Last 16 the UK Open, BDO World Championships and World Masters during his career.
The experienced Larry Butler was the first ever winner of the PDC World Matchplay back in 1994. He has enjoyed a great resurgence recently having qualified for this through the BDO qualifiers (notably defeating Glen Durrant and former Grand Slam Champion Scott Waites) and then he reached the final of the World Masters in October, along the way he beat 3 World Champions in Mitchell, Adams and Waites.
Wade is another player to have featured in all of the 8 previous Grand Slams. He has progressed from his group 7 out of 8 times and is a former finalist. He has only been past the Last 16 on two occasions though (2010 when he reached the final and 2013 when he lost in the quarter-finals).
Brown reached the quarter-finals on his debut at the tournament last year; he defeated Adrian Lewis in the group stage and won impressively against van Barneveld in the Last 16. His run was ended by Chisnall in the quarters but Brown was 8-2 and 12-6 up in that match.
Webster has played at his tournament 7 times previously, missing out for the first time last year. He has qualified from his group 4 times from the 7 appearances. His best run at the tournament has been to the quarter-finals in both 2008 and 2011.
Michel van der Horst
This is his debut at the Grand Slam and he qualified through the NDB qualifiers, van der Horst has limited experience on the big TV stage, though he did play in the BDO World Championships last January. He does have wins against Scott Mitchell and Scott Waites on his record having qualified from a group containing them both at the Zuiderduin Masters last year.
World Grand Prix Champion Robert Thornton has appeared at the Grand Slam on 6 previous occasions, only failing to get out of his group once. In 2013 he had his best run at the tournament when he went all the way to the final before losing to Phil Taylor. Last year was the only year he failed to progress from the group and he also failed to win a match.
Jenkins has only missed one year of participating in the tournament and has only failed to progress from the group on one occasion. He is a former finalist and reached at least the quarter-finals in each of the first 5 years. 2011 was the last time he was in the quarter-finals though.
Clayton came through the PDC qualifiers to earn his place at the Grand Slam and his debut at the event, amongst the players he beat to get here were Justin Pipe and an impressive win against an in-form Jelle Klaasen. His best performance on the PDC tour this season is a quarter-final appearance at a Players Championship tournament in May. He is very much a rookie in terms of big TV stage experience.
Geert de Vos
This will be his first appearance at the Grand Slam, he qualified having won the BDO World Trophy earlier this year. He has appeared at the BDO World Championship for each of the last 4 years, exiting at the Last 16 stage on each occasion.
Taylor is a 6 time Grand Slam Champion, including each of the last 2 years. He has never failed to qualify from his group and has finished top of his group 6 times. Although he hasn’t won a PDC TV ranking tournament since the World Matchplay of 2014 he is still very much one of the men to beat this week.
Rowby-John made his debut at the Grand Slam last year, although he didn’t get out of his group he did earn a notable win against Adrian Lewis. Rodriguez best tournament performance this season was a semi-final on the PDC pro tour back in July.
Green was another player to make his debut at the Grand Slam last year. He qualified from a tough group containing van Barneveld, Thornton and van der Voort before losing to eventual finalist Dave Chisnall in the Last 16. Green hasn’t enjoyed a consistent season since moving across to the PDC in January, though in October he did reach the quarter-final of the final pro tour event, the other quarter-final he made on tour was in September so results have picked up over the latter part of the season, including winning 5 games in a row to qualify for this tournament.
Phillips has no lack of experience having first competed in the World Championships back in 1991. He has appeared in the Grand Slam on 3 previous occasions, reaching the Last 16 one time, when he lost to Mark Webster. Phillips won the World Masters in 2014 and is a two time World Championship semi-finalist (losing both times to eventual winner Martin Adams).
And finally here is the order of play for Saturday.
Saturday Afternoon Session (From 1pm)
Groups E-H First Games
Rowby-John Rodriguez vs Robbie Green (H)
Terry Jenkins vs Jonny Clayton (G)
Robert Thornton vs Geert De Vos (G)
James Wade vs Michel van der Horst (F)
Keegan Brown vs Mark Webster (F)
Gary Anderson vs Larry Butler (E)
Phil Taylor vs Martin Phillips (H)
Raymond van Barneveld vs Andy Boulton (E)
Saturday Evening Session (From 7pm)
Groups A-D First Games
Kim Huybrechts vs Steve West (A)
Jelle Klaasen vs Steve Beaton (B)
Michael Smith vs Wayne Jones (C)
Dave Chisnall vs Mervyn King (D)
Adrian Lewis vs Andy Fordham (C)
Michael van Gerwen vs Mark Oosterhuis (A)
Ian White vs Martin Adams (B)
Peter Wright vs Scott Mitchell (D)
Enjoy the darts!