Grand Slam of Darts 2019: Darts experts make their predictions

Who will win the final? Who will be the player to watch? Which seeds are most in danger of going out in the first round? A host of darts journalists, pundits and commentators tackle these and other questions on the eve of the 2019 Grand Slam of Darts.

Who will reach the final – and who will win it?

Stuart Pyke: Difficult to see past Michael van Gerwen. He looked unbeatable at the World Series Finals and he seems to be timing his run at the Ally Pally perfectly.

John Gwynne: MvG and Peter Wright in the final. MvG to win.

Dan Dawson: I’m going to go out on a limb here and say Michael van Gerwen wins it, but I think he’ll be severely tested by Gerwyn Price in his half of the draw. From the other half it could be a number of guys who make the final, but in the exact moment that I’m typing this – I’m saying it’ll be Michael Smith.

Jay Shaw: The Grand Slam is probably one of the most difficult TV tournaments to win given the combination of long and short formats and round-robin/knockout phases, but if you look back at the history of the event, the cream usually rises. Michael van Gerwen is heading to Wolverhampton in one of his trademark purple patches; he’s won five of his last six TV tournaments and three of the last four Grand Slams, making it pretty hard to look past him here. In terms of competition, the bottom section of groups is jam-packed with quality, but I’ve just got a feeling Rob Cross could mount a strong challenge for another major. He’s made the final of three of his last four ranked majors, winning two, and providing he can come through a tough group in top spot, he should have a favourable route to at least the quarter-finals – where he can press home his quality over the long format.

Josh’s Dartistry: Michael van Gerwen has been in ominous form over the last month and if he progresses from Group A as expected, it would take a heroic performance to dethrone him over the elongated format in the knockout stages. Peter Wright has suffered back-to-back first round exits over recent weeks but he’s still throwing some fine darts and I fancy Snakebite to bounce back in Wolverhampton and reach a second Grand Slam final. However, I cannot look past van Gerwen for the title.

FDI: Michael van Gerwen will win the final against Peter Wright MvG is the player to beat and I can only see him losing against Gerwyn Price in his half of the draw. Peter Wright has been in brilliant form before falling off a bit a few weeks ago. I’m hoping Peter can find his form again in Wolverhampton and get to the final although Cross would be a big challenge in L16/QF.

Ben Hudd: Michael van Gerwen and Nathan Aspinall, with Aspinall picking up his second major title.

Pieter Verbeek: Michael van Gerwen to beat Dave Chisnall in the final.

Listen to Episode 130 of the Weekly Dartscast podcast with special guests Dave Parletti, Ryan Harrington and Adam Gawlas via the player below

Who will be the player to watch?

Stuart Pyke: Rob Cross, Peter Wright and Michael Smith look dangerous in the bottom half of the draw. Smith though in a tough group with Aspinall, Durrant and Schindler. Mind you, Cross will have to be at his best against Chizzy, Jamie Hughes and Lisa Ashton. Those two groups look crackers!

John Gwynne: Ian White is my unseeded player to watch.

Dan Dawson: MvG – coz he’s the best. Mikuru and Lisa – coz they could make some headlines. Jamie Hughes – coz half of Tipton will probably be down Wolvo going mental for him and maybe Gabriel Clemens – I’m a big fan of the big man… he could surprise a few people, particularly in the short format of the group stage games.

Jay Shaw: Gerwyn Price has now established himself a key contender in every tournament he competes in, and as the defending Grand Slam champion, will be extra keen to maintain his consistent run of from. He won this title in controversial circumstances last year and will look to let his darts do the talking on his return. With four ranking titles to his name this season and a runner-up spot in the European Championship, the Welshman is playing the darts of his career and will fancy his chances of beating anyone on any given day, including his nemesis MVG.

Josh’s Dartistry: Brendan Dolan has enjoyed a remarkable resurgence over recent months and he’s arguably playing the best darts of his career right now. He averaged 112 to seal Grand Slam qualification on Monday and having scooped two Players Championship titles in 2019, he should be full of confidence. He’s up against World Cup partner Daryl Gurney and although Gabriel Clemens and Richard Veenstra are both very capable players, on current form I’d fancy the Northern Irishman to progress to the knockout stages.

FDI: My player to watch would be Wesley Harms. He is BDO’s number one at the moment and has been playing some brilliant stuff throughout the year. I’m curious to see whether he can take that form to the stage in Wolverhampton. His group is a tough group but we all know White can be iffy at times on stage and he also has chances to do well against Steve Lennon.

Ben Hudd: Brendan Dolan. The History Maker’s resurgence has been there for all to see in recent months, winning two ProTour events, and he could well enjoy a deep run in Wolverhampton. Gabriel Clemens and Jamie Hughes are another two, and from the BDO, Wesley Harms. He’s always a threat at the Grand Slam, and has lifted six BDO titles this year.

Pieter Verbeek: I think Nathan Aspinall will reach the semi-finals if he gets out of his group.

How far will the defending champion Gerwyn Price go?

Stuart Pyke: Gerwyn Price is in the top half of the Grand Slam draw. His win last year will always be shrouded in controversy because of what happened in the final. Deep down, he knows he crossed a line but he is a character. The sport needs characters like Price and I hope he continues to show that passion and emotion. It is part of his darting DNA and he shouldn’t change.

John Gwynne: Gerwyn price will make the last four.

Dan Dawson: I think Gerwyn can quite comfortably make the semis, but he may have to break his duck against MvG at that point. It’s going to happen at some point… I just don’t know if it’ll be in Wolverhampton.

Jay Shaw: I would expect Gerwyn to collect maximum points and top Group C ahead of Dimitri van den Bergh, after which there could await a potential show-down with a certain Gary Anderson in either the last 16 or quarter-finals depending on where the Scot would finish in Group D. Given Anderson’s recent injury woes and his unrecognisable performance in Amsterdam last week, you would have to side with Price to deny the Flying Scotsman revenge over a long format should that meeting materialise. If all went according to the form book, Price would be on a collision course to face MVG in the semi-finals, and with 19 unsuccessful attempts to date, it’s hard to envisage the world champion not adding to that ruthless record. Admittedly, Price has pushed him all the way to a deciding leg in their last four meetings, but I just can’t see him stopping the green machine quite yet.

Josh’s Dartistry: I fancy Price to reach at least the semi-finals, but the inevitable stumbling block will be van Gerwen. I would expect the Welshman to comfortably progress through Group C and he could face Gary Anderson in a repeat of last year’s infamous final en route. However, van Gerwen would potentially await ‘The Iceman’ in the semi-finals. He’s yet to beat MvG in 19 meetings and although the last five have gone to deciding legs, it would be a huge ask to claim a first win over the Dutchman in a best of 31 legs tussle.

FDI: Price will be stopped in the semi-final by MvG. I think he has a fairly good draw to do so; the biggest thread to reaching the semi-final is Ando and well all know that he isn’t in the best of form lately.

Ben Hudd: He’ll comfortably come through his group and then get to the semi-finals, losing out to Michael van Gerwen once again.

Pieter Verbeek: He will win his group and lose to Michael van Gerwen in the semi-finals.

Which of the eight groups are you most looking forward to?

Stuart Pyke: I’m really looking forward to seeing Lisa Ashton and Mikuru Suzuki. There is no doubt that the women’s game has never been stronger and this pair are out to cause a shock or two and I reckon they will.

John Gwynne: I am most looking forward to Group E.

Dan Dawson: Group E for me: loads of narrative. Cross looking to win a third TV major this year; Chizzy in some of the best form of his life; the supremely dangerous Yozza in front of his home crowd; and perhaps the most talented female darts player ever. Every single one of them is box office.

Jay Shaw: Like everyone else, Group H and Group E are the ones that leap off the page. You have to feel for Martin Schindler in Group H, he’s had a disappointing year and has drawn Michael Smith, Nathan Aspinall and Glen Durrant. It doesn’t get much tougher. I’m really looking forward to seeing how Lisa Ashton fares against Rob Cross, Dave Chisnall and local hero Jamie Hughes. Ashton is making her Slam debut off the back of her World Masters success and could really put the cat among the pigeons in a short format, just as she showed in the first set against Jan Dekker at Ally Pally. Chizzy is in the form of his life, and Hughes, despite his recent injury problems, will have a huge Black Country backing behind him, so the dynamic in that group is fascinating.

Josh’s Dartistry: Group E and Group H both look absolutely incredible. Poor Martin Schindler, up against Smith, Aspinall and Durrant in Group H! That has to be this year’s group of death. I’m really looking forward to seeing how Lisa Ashton fares in Group E. She couldn’t have asked for a tougher draw in the shape of Rob Cross, Dave Chisnall and Jamie Hughes but we know how capable she is and in a race to five, Lisa certainly possesses the firepower to cause a major upset. It should be intriguing.

FDI: Group H is my favorite group by far. Nobody in this group is a lock for the next round. Smith has the most chance at 62%. That tells you how close this group is. Schindler is the underdog of this group but can cause a upset on his day. I see Smith and Duzza going through though.

Ben Hudd: Group H is certainly the ‘group of death’, with the World Youth Championship finalist, a major finalist and two major champions being involved. However Group C will be enthralling for several reasons. Price taking on Suzuki, will the celebrations still feature? And Robert Thornton being back on the TV amid a race to keep his tour card.

Pieter Verbeek: Group H for me, as that’s the only group where I have no clue which two players are going through. A flip of coin for me.

Which of the eight PDC seeded players are most in danger of going out in the first round?

Stuart Pyke: As regards the seeds, it’s always like a rollercoaster in the group stages with the best of nine format. Smith could be vulnerable in Group H but he he gets through, I reckon he will go far in the tournament.

John Gwynne: Michael Smith is in the most closely fought group and so the most likely to suffer a first round exit.

Dan Dawson: Groups G and H look very tough for the seeded players. Michael Smith has got his work cut out with Duzza and Aspinall as well as an underrated Schindler. But Gurney has to handle the excellent Clemens, a resurgent Dolan, and a handy talent from the BDO in Richard Veenstra.

Jay Shaw: James Wade has just bombed out of his two title defending tournaments in the first round with unconvincing displays and could be vulnerable in a group that also houses the ever-dangerous Ian White, a poker-faced Steve Lennon and BDO star Wesley Harms – a player no stranger to this competition. Michael Smith is a part of the so-called ‘Group of Death’ and it looks extremely tough to pick which two of the three between himself, Durrant and Aspinall, will come through.

Josh’s Dartistry: Michael Smith has been handed the toughest assignment out of the eight seeds in my opinion, as he’s up against two major champions. Rob Cross could also be troubled in Group E, although I’d expect him to progress alongside Chisnall. There’s uncertainty surrounding Gary Anderson following his nightmare showing at the World Series Finals, although I’m led to believe he isn’t struggling with injury and he couldn’t have asked for a much kinder draw.

FDI: Michael Smith is the seeded player that has to watch out. Aspinall and Duzza (and in a lesser degree Schindler) are simply to good to say that he will definitely get out of his group.

Ben Hudd: Gary Anderson is the obvious choice after his performance last weekend and that is despite him having easier groups than the other seeds. But Michael Smith and Daryl Gurney are also under threat. Smith is involved in the group of death, while Gurney is perhaps under the cosh against the in form Brendan Dolan and Gabriel Clemens.

Pieter Verbeek: Michael Smith and Gary Anderson for me. If Gary plays like he did in Amsterdam, he will go out without a doubt. Michael Smith didn’t play badly at the World Series of Darts Finals but I won’t be surprised if Nathan Aspinall and Glen Durrant will go through.

There’s been a lot of talk recently about the qualifying criteria for the Grand Slam. If you could make just one change to the Grand Slam what would it be?

Stuart Pyke: As regards the future of the Grand Slam, I know it won’t go down well with the pro’s, but a Sky Sports wildcard would be a great shout for me. However the player would not be allowed to count the tournament to the world rankings.

John Gwynne: Changes? More qualifiers from the European Tour and fewer BDO invitees.

Dan Dawson: I’ve said it for ages – get rid of the qualifiers. We’ve got Euro Tour winners not competing, whereas people who’ve never even made a ranking quarter-final can find themselves playing a minimum of three games on telly. Put in people who’ve won events over the course of the year, and hold a qualifier for the remaining spots if necessary. Either that… or make them all play in silly hats or something… I dunno.

Jay Shaw: For me, the winners of ranked events, predominantly European Tours, should get preference over runners-up in non-ranked events such as the World Cup and World Series Finals. That’s just one of a few changes I would make because I think the criteria really does need addressing now this is a PDC ranked event.

Josh’s Dartistry: I know the inclusion of the eight BDO representatives polarises opinion, but I really enjoy the unique cross-code aspect and the BDO players usually provide good value. However, I really feel for those who have won ranking titles, particularly European Tour titles – yet still haven’t qualified. I don’t necessarily agree that reaching the final of an invitational event or a pairs event merits automatic qualification and the fact that a player can qualify by virtue of winning three qualification games in Wigan doesn’t sit right with me, particularly those that have struggled throughout the year. You’ve got a player in Mensur Suljovic – world number nine and a semi-finalist last year who’s missed out. His absence is a real blow for the competition.

FDI: Only winners of TV-events, Euro events and multiple PC’s are getting in. No more finalists. And especially no more places earned at the World Cup of Darts which is a pair event.

Ben Hudd: Definitely making sure the European Tour winners get a spot in the tournament. Krzysztof Ratajski and Joe Cullen should be heading to Wolverhampton this weekend. It’s as simple as that. There are other changes that in my honest opinion need to be made, for instance the World Cup of Darts shouldn’t be used as a qualification route, but the European Tour winners are top of the changes list I’d make personally.

Pieter Verbeek: I would say either kick the BDO players out of the tournament, or make it an unranked event. As I want to see more TV ranked events, I would pick the first one.

Picture: PDC

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