WITH the Grand Slam of Darts around the corner, another opportunity presents itself for those within the Professional Darts Corporation to win a televised title.
So far, the year has been mainly dominated by Michael van Gerwen who has returned in triumphant style, winning the Premier League, World Matchplay and Grand Prix. However, both the UK Open and the European Championships went to first-time ‘Major’ Champions.
The talent pool is as deep as it has ever been with many players with premium darting ability who are yet to taste glory on our screens. Here are half a dozen of high-profile names whose day could well come at the Aldersley Leisure Village next week:
Cool Hand has certainly enjoyed a fantastic 2022 campaign, becoming the most successful player on the Euro Tour having won four events, including the Czech Darts Open, European Darts Grand Prix, German Darts Grand Prix, and European Darts Matchplay titles, whilst also claiming two events on the PDC Pro Tour this year.
However, the Red Dragon man despite some outstanding form, has only appeared in one major/television Final in his darting career, losing out to James Wade in the Final of the UK Open in 2021.
The Newbury-born darting star is the sixth seed for the upcoming Grand Slam of Darts, facing tests from three men who have also claimed success in Players Championship events. Humphries will face future star Josh Rock, Scott Williams, and World Number 17 Ryan Searle in a hard-to-predict Group H.
Bullyboy is certainly a mention for the unluckiest player in the sport, showing many of the qualities that are needed to capture PDC Major crowns. The St Helens man has lost in the World Final, Premier League Final, and World Matchplay Final whilst this year also finishing as the Runner Up in both the UK Open and the European Championships.
Smith comes into Wolverhampton on the back of a brilliant weekend in Dortmund, coming from behind to beat Luke Humphries in the Quarter Finals before a 103.61 average in swiping aside Dirk van Duijvenbode 11-7 in the Semis.
The Englishman qualifies as the number four seed for the Cazoo Grand Slam and will face a difficult test in Masters Champion Joe Cullen in Group C, with Women’s Series number 1 Lisa Ashton and Ritchie Edhouse completing the group. Will the Eric Bristow trophy be the first Premier/ televised honour that Michael Smith will hold aloft?
Chizzy has surged into some strong form ahead of the Grand Slam, winning the Belgian Darts Open back in September before his first Pro Tour victory of 2022 in Barnsley, winning Players Championship 28, beating Josh Rock 8-4 in the Final.
The former Lakeside finalist has produced some memorable Wolverhampton moments hitting a nine-darter in the Grand Slam back in 2015 against Peter Wright, whilst finishing as the tournament runner-up to Phil Taylor back in 2014 after losing 16-13 to darts’ very best.
The Englishman has lost in multiple PDC televised Finals, falling to defeat in two Grand Prix Finals back in 2013 and 2019 bookending his loss to Michael van Gerwen in the 2016 Players Championship Final.
The World Number 14 will face two former World Champions in Group A of the 2022 Grand Slam: defending champion Gerwyn Price and 2012 champion Raymond van Barneveld with Ted Evetts completing the group.
Dirk van Duijvenbode
The Titan seems a man on a mission, outscoring numerous opponents and putting together good runs in major tournaments, showing many signs that his day will soon come.
Aubergenius has picked up two Pro Tour titles in 2022 with a memorable run to the World Matchplay Quarter Finals, losing out to Danny Noppert in Blackpool.
The Dutchman recently lost to World Number 1 Gerwyn Price in the Final of the World Series Finals, missing out in a last-leg decider. The Welshman has defeated van Duijvenbode in his only two PDC televised Finals, winning the 2020 Grand Prix Final 5-2 behind closed doors in Coventry.
The World Number 16 is drawn into Group D alongside Martin Schindler, Adam Gawlas and 2018 World Champion Rob Cross who comes into Wolverhampton as the number five seed.
Heavy Metal has so far picked up one Pro Tour title but again makes it as a player yet to win on telly with a defeat in the Players Championship Final to Peter Wright in a last-leg decider (11-10) last year being his only major Final appearance.
The modest and popular Searle is drawn into Group H like Luke Humphries. Cool Hand won a key match between the pair to decide the fate of the first Players Championship event of this year.
Searle will face Josh Rock in his first group game in Saturday’s evening session, with the young Northern Irishman recently producing an impressive average of 121.88 in beating Brendan Dolan at Players Championship 22.
Could one of the above, or another from the list, add to the group of debut TV/Major winners over the last few years, including De Sousa at the Slam itself, or will the November bang-up return to its former habit of only being won by the established elite?
Rocky has been mentioned several times already within this article and his remarkable rise is the stuff of headlines and comments across the darts world. Rather than being the illustration of what others are doing, could the Northern Irish youngster claim the title for himself? His manufacturer /sponsor have even offered a full refund for those who have purchased his darts if this prodigious talent could go all the way.
The Grand Slam of Darts kicks off on Saturday afternoon at 1 pm with Simon Whitlock facing Mensur Suljovic in the first tungsten clash of the competition.
2022 Grand Slam of Darts Draw:
Gerwyn Price (1)
Raymond van Barneveld
Danny Noppert (8)
Michael Smith (4)
Rob Cross (5)
Dirk van Duijvenbode
Peter Wright (2)
Jonny Clayton (7)
Michael van Gerwen (3)
Luke Humphries (6)
Image: Lawrence Lustig / PDC
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