2016 Grand Slam of Darts – Wednesday Preview

Following four action packed days of darting action which consisted of 48 matches, the field of players at the 2016 Grand Slam of Darts has been halved from 32 down to 16 and from here on in it’s a straight knockout tournament.

Here’s a look at the draw for the last 16.

grand-slam-last-16-draw

Next is a handy table showing the group record, tournament average and double success percentage of the 16 players still left in the tournament.

grand-slam-last-16-players-group-records

Tonight sees the first four knockout matches take place with the remaining four matches from the last 16 being played on Thursday night.

Here are my previews for tonight’s matches.

price-v-dolan

Gerwyn Price

  • Price recovered from losing his opening match of the tournament to finish top of his group and make it through to the knockout rounds. He lost 5-4 to Van den Bergh in his opener before defeating Scott Waites and Robert Thornton.
  • This is his debut year at the Grand Slam so the first time he has played in the knockout stage.
  • Price hit a total of 10x 180s over his 3 group matches, a total only bettered by van Barneveld who hit 11.
  • His highest checkout of the tournament so far is 60; all the other 15 players who are in the last 16 have registered higher checkouts.
  • Price hasn’t made it further than the last 16 in an individual PDC TV tournament since making the quarter-finals at the 2015 World Matchplay and he has played a total of 10 TV tournament since then (not including this one).

Brendan Dolan

  • Dolan finished behind van Gerwen in 2nd place in Group A, he defeated both Max Hopp and Martin Adams either side of a 5-1 defeat by MvG.
  • This is the 2nd time from 4 appearances at the Grand Slam that Dolan has made it through to the knockout rounds; back in 2012 at this stage of the tournament he lost 10-6 to John Part.
  • Dolan has the second lowest tournament average of the 16 group qualifiers. Only Darryl Fitton has a lower average.
  • He only managed a single 180 score in the group stage, that maximum came in his opening match and he has now played 17 legs without hitting one.
  • Dolan is bidding to reach his first individual TV quarter-final since the 2014 UK Open and only his second since the 2012 World Grand Prix where he reached the semi-finals.

Verdict

This is a great opportunity for both players to make it through to a major ranking quarter-final something which neither player has much recent experience of doing. There isn’t much separating them on their tournament average with Price having the edge on scoring and Dolan having the edge on finishing. Gerwyn Price has certainly played the more consistent darts over the last couple of years and has had some success away from the TV stage whilst Dolan is struggling to recapture the form which saw him have a spell in the top 16. The longer format will give both players longer to settle in but there may still be some nerves, I think a lot will depend on how Price copes with the pace of Dolan’s game especially if he falls behind. My prediction is that heavier scoring from Price will just pull him away and although Dolan will stick around I think Price will win 10-7.

 

taylor-v-smith

Phil Taylor

  • Taylor finished top of his group despite losing 5-0 to Darren Webster in his final match, it was only Taylor’s 5th ever defeat in the group stage and the first time he had failed to win a leg in a Grand Slam match.
  • He has now qualified in all 10 years at the Grand Slam and qualified as group winner 8 times.
  • Taylor has only failed to win 1 of his 9 previous matches in the last 16 at the Grand Slam, that solitary defeat was in 2012 against Michael van Gerwen.

Jeff Smith

  • Smith recovered from losing 5-1 in his opening match to Peter Wright to earn qualification via last leg deciding wins against both Ted Evetts and Simon Whitlock.
  • Smith hit a 170 checkout in the opening leg of his match against Whitlock and also went on to hit the bull on the end of an 82 finish which game him the crucial victory.
  • This is his Grand Slam debut so the first time he has reached this stage of the tournament.
  • There has been a ton plus checkout within the opening 2 legs in each of his 3 matches so far.

Verdict

It would be a big surprise if Phil Taylor turned up and played as he did against Darren Webster in his final group match, Taylor was already confirmed as qualified and although Webster did play well there was way too little in response. Smith has maybe exceeded expectations in reaching the knockout rounds, he came through a very tough match against Simon Whitlock late last night to make it through and realistically he is under no pressure and anything from here is a bonus. Smith is a very competent combination finisher but I don’t think he has the scoring power over this longer format to consistently pressure Taylor. I think it will be a 10-4 win for Taylor.

 

van-gerwen-v-thornton

Michael van Gerwen

  • Michael van Gerwen won all 3 of his group matches, dropping only 4 legs overall, in a group containing Dolan, Hopp and Adams.
  • Perhaps surprisingly for MvG he has only averaged over 100 in 1 of his 3 matches so far at this years tournament.
  • This is the 6th year in a row that he has made it through to the last 16 of this tournament. He has won 3 and lost 2 of the previous 5 last 16 round matches. The 2 defeats came against Ted Hankey (2011) and Adrian Lewis (2013).
  • Van Gerwen has only lost 2 of his last 23 matches at the last 16 stage in TV ranking tournaments.

Robert Thornton

  • Thornton was the last man to qualify for the knockout rounds having had to come through a 9 dart decider against Dimitri Van den Bergh to earn his spot. In his group matches Thornton beat Waites and Van den Bergh before losing to Price which forced the 9 dart decider.
  • He has an excellent record of reaching the knockout stages at this tournament; overall he has now qualified 7 times from 8 appearances.
  • He has won 3 and lost 3 of his matches at this stage of the Grand Slam, 5 of the 6 matches have all been very tight contests; the only match that didn’t go to at least 18 of the possible 19 legs was a 10-6 defeat against Wayne Jones in 2010.

Verdict

Thornton has defeated van Gerwen in a major ranking tournament over the last couple of years but it would be a big upset if he repeated his 2015 World Grand Prix final victory over MvG in this match. As has been widely documented Thornton just hasn’t reached the same levels since then and although he is showing some signs of improvement, beating van Gerwen in a first to 10 leg match doesn’t look likely. Van Gerwen hasn’t hit his peak yet during this tournament but now it’s a longer format and straight knockout he is likely to step it up a notch. My prediction is for van Gerwen to win 10-5.

 

wright-v-fitton

Peter Wright

  • Wright qualified from his group with 3 wins out of 3, only dropping 4 legs in defeating Jeff Smith, Simon Whitlock and Ted Evetts.
  • In terms of highest averages by players who qualified for the last 16, Wright’s tournament average of 99.86 is second only to van Barneveld’s 104.51. His checkout percentage of 50% is also only bettered by 3 players.
  • Wright hasn’t trailed in any of his matches so far in this tournament and has broken his opponent on their opening leg with throw in all 3 matches.
  • This is the 3rd time from 4 appearances that Wright has made it to the knockout rounds at the Grand Slam. He has yet to get past this stage of the tournament having lost to Phil Taylor in 2014 and Adrian Lewis in 2015.

Daryl Fitton

  • Fitton recovered from losing 5-1 to Phil Taylor in his opening match to win last leg deciders against both Darren Webster and Ian White to earn a place in the knockout rounds. In his crucial last group match against White he trailed 4-2 and had to survive White missing darts at double for the match in more than one leg.
  • He has the lowest tournament average of all the 16 players who qualified for the knockout stages.
  • This will be the second appearance for Fitton in the last 16 at the Grand Slam; he last qualified for this stage 8 years ago. On that occasion in 2008 he defeated Denis Ovens before losing to Gary Anderson in the quarter-finals.
  • Fitton had the throw in the opening leg in all 3 of his group matches and he was broken on all 3 occasions.

Verdict

Peter Wright has been consistently good in his matches so far and will start as a strong favourite against Darryl Fitton who certainly had to qualify the hard way having to come from 4-2 down in his final group match. It would take a big drop in form from Wright and a big rise in form from Fitton to give Darryl a chance to overturn the odds. The scoring of Fitton hasn’t been up to what he is capable of and if he isn’t at it from the off then Wright will pull away and prove tough to peg back. I’m going for a 10-5 win to Wright.

 

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