World Grand Prix Preview
One of the biggest events in the PDC calendar gets underway this weekend, the unique double-start World Grand Prix at the Citywest Hotel near Dublin.
Michael van Gerwen is the four-time defending champion after a scrappy win over Peter Wright in last year’s final and has been installed as the 7/4 favourite by title sponsors BoyleSports.
However, the world number one hasn’t won a ranking title since the first weekend of May and suffered his latest setback with a last-16 defeat to Nathan Aspinall in Gibraltar.
Van Gerwen is entered for the second of the two ProTours on Friday and Saturday at the Citywest, so he will want to play well going into his first-round meeting with Jamie Hughes, where a win could set up another TV battle with fellow Dutchman Jeffrey de Zwaan.
Wright is priced at 8/1 to go all the way on the Emerald Isle, and plays Max Hopp on Monday. Two players who have poor records in the Grand Prix, Gary Anderson and Rob Cross, are the next two on the betting list, and take on Keegan Brown and Mensur Suljović respectively.
That Cross-Suljović tie is undoubtedly the match of round one with ‘Voltage’ still fresh from his World Matchplay triumph and the Austrian having won two titles in under a month recently.
The winner takes on Glen Durrant or Gibraltar Darts Trophy champion Krzysztof Ratajski, making it one of the most formidable sections possible.
Champion of two years ago, Daryl Gurney, is defending £100,000 from that triumph, but will be feeling confident going into this week and meets Danny Noppert in the last 32.
Some outsiders include Ian White at 28/1 and Dave Chisnall at 33/1. White plays Joe Cullen in a repeat of their first-round meeting in Blackpool which White won 10-0, while Chisnall, on the back of two finals recently, has a brutal draw against Gerwyn Price.
As with Cross-Suljović, the Price-Chisnall game is also in the bottom half of the draw. With the likes of Nathan Aspinall, Jonny Clayton, Adrian Lewis and Chris Dobey also lurking, it appears to be much more difficult than the top half.
In fact, the only two players who hadn’t sealed their spots at the Citywest going into the final tournament before the cut-off, Mervyn King and debutant Dimitri Van den Bergh, have been drawn to play each other in the top half.
James Wade takes on 2017 semi-finalist John Henderson and Michael Smith plays Simon Whitlock, so there are tantalising games everywhere you look.
Smith, who has now made the final of three of the biggest tournaments, will be looking to add a deep run in the World Grand Prix to his collection after only winning one game there so far. ‘Bullyboy’ is priced at 18/1.
The event also sees a rare appearance for set format, only seen in the PDC at Ally Pally and the Citywest. However, it’s a slightly shorter format at the Grand Prix with the first round only best of three sets before a gradual increase to the final which is best of nine.
As mentioned, before the action gets underway on stage on Sunday evening, there are a pair of vital Players Championship events with plenty to play for including spots in the Players Championship Finals and the World Championship as well as places on the main tour next year.
Picture: Lawrence Lustig/PDC