The Grand Slam of Darts has reached its conclusion. After 60 matches and 577 legs of darts – plus a nine-dart shootout – there remain just four of the original 32 competitors. And what a foursome they are. The first, second, third and fifth seeds all clash with glory, the trophy and a £110,000 prize up for grabs. When that fifth seed is the greatest player of all time, the standard of quality on show speaks for itself.
First up is a battle between Scotland internationals, as Peter Wright takes on Gary Anderson. After that comes the collision of the unstoppable force of Michael van Gerwen, and the immovable object that is Phil Taylor. The semi-finals begin at 1pm GMT in Wolverhampton. Then, from 7pm GMT, comes the final. Which pair will take to the Wolves Civic stage with the chance to win the 11th edition of the Grand Slam of Darts?
Semi-final 1: Peter Wright vs Gary Anderson
Ask Gary Anderson, and he may say that his toughest pre-final test has already come and gone. Beating Mensur Suljovic on TV for the first time ever saw ‘The Flying Scotsman’ progress into a semi-final meeting with Peter Wright. Anderson has the right to be a lot more confident of a man he usually beats. Of the seven meetings between the pair this year, Anderson has won six. Wright needed a 109 average to see off Anderson in his one victory, in the Premier League. Eight weeks later, Anderson returned the favour with a 113 average in the same competition.
What both have shown is that they can rise to a challenge. Anderson roared back after Michael Smith took a surprise 4-1 lead in his first knockout game, going on to average 106.91. Wright also topped a ton average in his win over Stephen Bunting. ‘Snakebite’ saw his scoring plummet in a quarter-final where Glen Durrant never really threatened him, while Anderson was able to coast in the end against Suljovic.
Anderson has power scoring on his side, while Wright is a consistent finisher. It may be doubles that decide this one, and both will have to improve on their quarter-final showings. Wright had a 38% success rate when finishing, and Anderson could only go 1% better. The favourite is undoubtedly Anderson, the more accomplished of the pair with a much better record of keeping his cool at the latter stages of tournaments. Yet Wright isn’t the world number two for nothing. The excellent temperament of the pair means neither will give up, and that should make this a battle, right down to the final dart thrown.
Semi-final 2: Michael van Gerwen vs Phil Taylor
Only two players in history have won multiple Grand Slams. Both of those champions meet in the second semi-final. Michael van Gerwen followed up a 104.98 against Steve Lennon with an unerringly similar 104.26 against Rob Cross in the quarter-finals. Phil Taylor averaged 103.97 against Daryl Gurney yesterday, in a slight improvement on his 101.04 versus James Wade in the first knockout round. This is a tie that could truly go either way.
The pair were in formidable form in their quarter-final ties against promising young stars. Both notched up four ton-plus checkouts at vital times, on top of the aforementioned averages. Taylor had a 67% success rate on his doubles (83% if you exclude one protracted end to a leg). Van Gerwen hit a hot streak at the end against Cross, in a match in which the Dutchman fired in 11 180s.
Nobody is more pleased at this match-up than Taylor – though the millions of darts fans around the world are certainly relishing it. The 16-time world champion has spoken of a desire to give van Gerwen “a caning”, and can’t guarantee he’ll have a chance at the Ally Pally. In fact, this could be the final major meeting between the tungsten titans. Taylor will be fired up by this one.
Van Gerwen will not have been paying attention to Taylor’s varied and bizarre outbursts this week. The Stoke thrower has got the better of him on the big stage recently, notably in the World Matchplay, and ‘Mighty Mike’ is running out of chances to assert his dominance. Being the only player of the semi-finalists to average 100+ in all five of his games so far, van Gerwen brings a formidable consistency to the table. Both have an agenda, a point to prove, and a strong desire to win. Given their fine form, this could be one incredible tussle.
It remains to be seen who will take part in the final. Whoever does, they will surely serve up a match worthy of wrapping up what has been a fantastic Grand Slam of Darts.
Gary Anderson 16-11 Peter Wright
Michael van Gerwen 16-14 Phil Taylor
Gary Anderson 16-13 Michael van Gerwen
This is dependent on so many factors – not least the two actually making the final. But Anderson will punish any mistakes van Gerwen makes. When under pressure, he rises to the challenge. That was proved against Michael Smith, when all of his legs were won in 15 darts or fewer. Revenge for the recent World Series of Darts defeat may be on the cards. But it truly could go any of four ways.Tags: Gary Anderson | Grand Slam of Darts | Michael van Gerwen | PDC | Peter Wright | Phil Taylor