MVG squeezes past Smith in Grand Slam classic
Michael van Gerwen averaged over 107 for the third time in the 2018 Grand Slam of Darts as he saw off a spirited challenge from Michael Smith to complete the line-up for the quarter-finals in Wolverhampton.
The world number one has been knocked out relatively early in the last two televised tournaments, leading to some doubts surrounding his status as the best player in the world, but as he did at the Grand Prix, MVG is on his way to silencing those critics after coming through a classic with Michael Smith. Seventeen 180s and exemplary finishing were on show as an arguably underwhelming second round, barring that sensational nine dart leg from Dimitri Van den Bergh, ended with a bang. It was Michael Smith who came out of the blocks fastest with three maximums in the first two legs to go 2-0 ahead, with a 121 checkout helping him to go in at the first break 3-2 up. The game continued to flow at an electric pace, and MVG got the break back in the eighth leg with a 14-darter won on double 18. After two more high-quality legs, the two stars of the game headed into the second interval at five apiece.
Some clutch finishing from the Premier League runner-up was on show after the break as he kept pace with the world number one courtesy of checkouts of 112 and 80. However, the three-time back-to-back winner of this event pressured Smith’s 48 with a 180 before breaking his throw on double 3 to go one leg away from a quarter-final spot.’Bullyboy’ broke straight back though with a 12-darter after Van Gerwen missed a match dart at 124. He was to get another one in the next leg to win it 10-8, but couldn’t complete the 145 checkout and let Smith in for an attempt at 160. The St. Helens man found the two 60s with ease but was just outside tops to take the game to a deciding leg, which would have been fitting. It was MVG who went out on his return, though, to seal a brilliant win for the best player on planet darts and banish some of his recent demons.
He’ll only be satisfied with this event if he gets his hands on the trophy at the end of it once again, however, and his quarter-final against Jonny Clayton represents a chance to go one step closer to achieving that feat. ‘The Ferret’ was very impressive in his dominant 10-3 win over Krzysztof Ratajski, averaging over 103 and hitting 10/17 of his doubles. After first round exits in all the recent majors, it seems that the world number 17 is returning to the form of late 2017 to early 2018 that saw him rise to those heights in the Order of Merit.
Another surprise quarter-finalist in Wolverhampton comes in the form of BDO number six Michael Unterbuchner, who ended James Wade’s 13-match unbeaten run with a 10-6 success thanks to some brilliant composure under pressure, one of the main reasons why he progressed from the group stage in the first place. The German didn’t show that sort of form in his opening Group D match against Gary Anderson, but will get a chance to put that right on Saturday night as he faces a rematch with ‘The Flying Scotsman’. The former back-to-back PDC World Champion demolished Wesley Harms 10-2 with an average of 101.22 and a checkout percentage of 62.5.
That completes the last eight surviving players at the 2018 Grand Slam, and for the first time ever, there will be no Englishmen in that stage. Before this year, no edition of this tournament had seen less than three Englishmen in the quarter-finals, but this year will have a totally different feel to it with players from Germany, Netherlands, Scotland, Belgium, Austria, Australia and Wales. It is sure to be a captivating conclusion at the Aldersley Leisure Village over the weekend as the format ramps up even more with plenty of marquee match-ups to come. We will either see a fourth Grand Slam title for Michael van Gerwen or a new winner on the Wolverhampton stage, so make sure you stay tuned to dartsplanet.tv for all the information you need.
2018 bwin Grand Slam of Darts
Wednesday November 14
Stephen Bunting 6-10 Dimitri Van den Bergh
Gerwyn Price 10-5 Josh Payne
Rob Cross 7-10 Mensur Suljović
Peter Wright 6-10 Simon Whitlock
Thursday November 15
Jonny Clayton 10-3 Krzysztof Ratajski
James Wade 6-10 Michael Unterbuchner
Gary Anderson 10-2 Wesley Harms
Michael Smith 8-10 Michael van Gerwen
Friday November 16 (1900 GMT)
Dimitri Van den Bergh v Mensur Suljović
Simon Whitlock v Gerwyn Price
Saturday November 17 (1900 GMT, order of play TBC)
Jonny Clayton v Michael van Gerwen
Michael Unterbuchner v Gary Anderson