Grand Slam of Darts Preview

The 2018 Grand Slam of Darts begins on Saturday, with Michael van Gerwen bidding for a record-breaking fourth successive title.

The 12th staging of the tournament will see 32 players from the PDC and BDO systems face off in Wolverhampton for the newly-titled Eric Bristow Trophy and £450,000 in prize money.

The nine days of action at the Aldersley Leisure Village, live on Sky Sports, initially sees the 32 players split into eight groups of four for the round-robin phase, with all players competing on both Saturday and Sunday.

The opening group matches on Saturday see the eight seeded players pitted against the eight BDO representatives, with reigning champion Van Gerwen taking on debutant Gary Robson in Group A.

Van Gerwen is bidding to become the first player to win the title for four years in a row, and is the even money pre-tournament favourite with sponsors bwin.

“I really love this tournament, I think it suits me well,” said van Gerwen, who will also face Jonny Clayton and Joe Murnan in the group phase.

“Everybody can see that from my results and performances in the last three years when I won it.

“I did it without losing a match in any of those tournaments, which is a record I am really proud of and one I would like to continue.

“I have had a couple of bad tournaments recently. Any tournament I don’t win is a bad one for me but that doesn’t say anything for this one – the same as it wouldn’t say anything if I had won the last two tournaments.

“I am still the most feared opponent for everyone and I know that if I play my best, I win. It is simple as that.”

Newly-crowned back-to-back televised title winner James Wade heads Group C where he is joined by Keegan Brown, Mark Webster and Wesley Harms.

Wade has paid a touching tribute to the late Eric Bristow MBE as he prepares to play for a trophy named after the darts legend, and his former mentor.

“It would be lovely to win the first Eric Bristow Trophy, I was lucky enough to be close to him” said Wade, who will be bidding for a first Grand Slam title.

“He was a good man, an honest man and darts will always be at a loss now he’s not there, and I will be at a loss because I have lost a friend.

“He had his biggest influence on my career when I was struggling the most and for someone like Eric to say ‘I believe in you, I’m going to take you under my wing until you start winning again’ meant so much to me.

“Its a shame he wasn’t here to see me win my two recent titles but I’ll soldier on and try to add his trophy to my cabinet.”

World Champion Rob Cross has been drawn with reigning World Youth Champion Dimitri Van den Bergh, Ryan Searle and Mark McGeeney in Group H.

2012 Grand Slam winner Raymond van Barneveld joins Michael Smith, Poland’s Krzysztof Ratajski and World Masters winner Adam Smith-Neale in Group B.

Former Grand Slam finalist Gary Anderson headlines Group D alongside Ian White, Steve Hine and German debutant Michael Unterbuchner.

Number two seed Peter Wright has been drawn in Group E alongside Max Hopp, Josh Payne and Jim Williams, while number six seed Mensur Suljovic plays Germany’s Martin Schindler and former Lakeside Champions Stephen Bunting and Scott Mitchell in Group G.

Reigning Lakeside Champion Glen Durrant will challenge seventh seed Simon Whitlock in Group F, alongside Gerwyn Price and Andrew Gilding.

Durrant reached the quarter-finals at the Wolves Civic last year, and is aiming to improve on that record as he heads the eight-player BDO contingent.

“It’s a new venue and I guess that we’re all on a level playing field there,” said Durrant. “I’m looking forward to it, it’s great.

“It’s a big, big competition for us BDO players. It’s a fantastic competition to go to and we’re really excited. I really like Wolverhampton – it’s a place that I really enjoy.”

Durrant has won the Lakeside Championship and World Trophy this year, but lost to Smith-Neale in the World Masters final last month.

“I averaged close to 99 at the World Masters and I’ve won tournaments before with a lot less average than that,” he added. “Put me on a stage and I’m playing really well still.”

Following the weekend’s two double sessions, the final group matches will take place on Monday and Tuesday, with the top two players from each group progressing to the last 16 knockout stage.

Grand Slam of Darts Groups

Group A
(1) Michael van Gerwen
Jonny Clayton
Joe Murnan
Gary Robson

Group B
(8) Michael Smith
Raymond van Barneveld
Krzysztof Ratajski
Adam Smith-Neale

Group C
(5) James Wade
Keegan Brown
Mark Webster
Wesley Harms

Group D
(4) Gary Anderson
Ian White
Steve Hine
Michael Unterbuchner

Group E
(2) Peter Wright
Max Hopp
Josh Payne
Jim Williams

Group F
(7) Simon Whitlock
Gerwyn Price
Andrew Gilding
Glen Durrant

Group G
(6) Mensur Suljovic
Stephen Bunting
Martin Schindler
Scott Mitchell

Group H
(3) Rob Cross
Dimitri Van den Bergh
Ryan Searle
Mark McGeeney

Tournament odds

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