We’re down to eight now at the Grand Slam of Darts 2019.
Wednesday culled James Wade, Darren Webster, Ian White and Robert Thornton from proceedings. Thornton and White threatened seeded opponents, but ultimately fell short. Wade, the seeded player, was knocked out by a highly animated Adrian Lewis. Webster was pulverized by defending Grand Slam champion Gerwyn Price. Now come the quarters, where players will slog through best-of-31 marathons to earn a place in Sunday’s Slam sign-off.
Dave Chisnall vs Peter Wright
One of the players taking part on Friday could have a much-needed major title. There’s a different reason for all of them wanting this title badly. Peter Wright is the only one who has tasted major success before. But in recent times, good opportunities have gone begging – especially when Michael van Gerwen is in the near vicinity. Thoughts go back to the World Matchplay – on the crest of a wave after some superlative form, Wright soared high and then crumbled inexplicably in the quarter-finals.
Once again, he’s in good standing. It was just before the Grand Slam that Wright racked up the highest average filmed live. He was handed a friendly group, but showed no complacency at all. In the last 16, Snakebite punished Rob Cross over and over again, recording a 10-3 win. Even though he’s switched darts – again – to the set which he used in his first World Championship final, Wright looks settled. His goal now is to avoid his Blackpool fate.
Dave Chisnall has mostly performed quite poorly at the Grand Slam of Darts. There’s one exception; 2014, where he made it all the way to the final. Chizzy ultimately fell short five years ago. It’s the same fate that befell him in a BDO World Championship final, a Players Championship Finals final, a Masters final and two World Grand Prix finals – one of which was last month. One thing Chisnall and Wright definitely have in common is a feeling that they could, should or even deserve to have done more by now.
Another thing in common is consistent excellence so far. The St Helens star sauntered through an extremely tricky group and didn’t give Ryan Harrington an inch in their last 16 clash. Ultimately, his average was the highest of the round, no matter how much pressure he was under. It’s the sort of quality that makes Chizzy a threat in every leg of darts he plays. Chisnall and Wright have met once in the Grand Slam. That was in 2015, when Chizzy struck a nine-darter and won a group stage tie 5-2. A little bit of the same would suit Chisnall nicely. Then maybe, just maybe, he can set about getting that elusive major.
Glen Durrant vs Michael Smith
At the World Matchplay, Glen Durrant reached the semi-finals. Then at the World Grand Prix, he did it again. To reach three major semi-finals in his debut PDC season would be to achieve something that hasn’t been possible post-van Barneveld. If proof was needed that Durrant is a born winner (beyond the raft of titles he’s fought his way to), look at the last 16 win over Gabriel Clemens. The German led or was level for 18 legs. In the 19th, Durrant won the match.
The Middlesbrough man hasn’t played his best at all at the Grand Slam to date. He got lucky against Martin Schindler, Nathan Aspinall was far below par, and Michael Smith punished him. But what’s important about the former two games, and the win over Clemens, is that Durrant found a way to win. He consistently does that through self-belief, determination and calm under pressure. His scoring leaves him adrift of many of his peers but when it comes to the crunch, he can be trusted. It’s why few eyebrows would be raised if he did win his first PDC title – even if he gets no ranking gains.
Michael Smith is still grasping for a first major title. In 2019 alone, he has made it to one major TV quarter-final, three semi-finals and two finals. And yet there are no wins to his name. Quite often, it’s a slow start which ends up costing him. Sometimes it’s an inability to finish when it matters. He’s not had those problems in the Grand Slam so far, which is promising. In particular, a 113.62 average in a 5-1 defeat of Nathan Aspinall was a real statement of intent.
There’s a bit of a rivalry brewing between Smith and Durrant. The Bully Boy has said some things that tonight’s opponent hasn’t taken kindly to. Smith, who is always honest but rarely brutally so, has managed to give this game a bit of an edge. There’ll likely be no histrionics of the Adrian Lewis variety, but no love will be lost. It’s a recipe for an intriguing tussle, especially given how similar in format the World Matchplay semi-final was. Smith won 17-10 back in July. Almost four months on, can he repeat the trick, and give his chances of an elusive first major a big boost?
Grand Slam of Darts 2019 schedule
19:15 Dave Chisnall v Peter Wright
21:00 Glen Durrant v Michael Smith
Author: Ed McCosh