The top half of the Grand Slam of Darts quarter-final draw is about to be determined.
After Wednesday’s action, the bottom half is all wrapped up. Peter Wright, who cruised past Rob Cross, takes on similarly pedestrian victor Dave Chisnall. Michael Smith and Glen Durrant didn’t have it so easy. Thanks to the vagaries of the Grand Slam bracket, the Group H pair meet again after hard-fought wins over Daryl Gurney and Gabriel Clemens respectively.
Big game for the little man
There’s all sorts of darting prestige on show in the first match on Thursday. James Wade and Adrian Lewis have ten ranked majors between them, and a litany of other titles. They’ve had diverging paths recently, however. Wade won the European Championship and World Series Finals last year, played in the Premier League this season, and has dominated on the floor. Adrian Lewis has Players Championship 8 to his name, sure. But a man once backed to fill the sort of role Michael van Gerwen has now seems a shadow of the player who conquered the world twice in a row.
Lewis clawed his way past Jim Williams to make it into the knockout stage. Wade, meanwhile, was edged out by Steve Lennon. So the pair aren’t exactly in rude health, form-wise. The Machine is likely the favourite, but it’s no foregone conclusion. Could the Grand Slam be the tournament that puts Adrian Lewis back on the map? He’ll have to do it the hard way, with Michael van Gerwen possibly looming in the quarter-finals.
Gerwyn Price never truly hit his stride in Group C. And yet, it’s unlikely the defending Grand Slam champion will care. A 100 per cent win record means more than any other statistic – after all, his averages can rise or drop, but keeping that record earns him the title. That Price has so many more gears to go through is testament to how much firepower he has. The trick is for the Iceman to turn it on sooner rather than later.
This is huge for Darren Webster, much as it is for Adrian Lewis. A meeting with Price, and a major quarter-final in the offing, is the chance to remind everyone – and maybe himself – that he’s a serious prospect in TV events. It seems like the Demolition Man is timing an upturn in form quite nicely. The trick here will be sticking with Price as the big visits flow, and treating his throw like a fortress. It’s a big ask, but it isn’t beyond Norfolk’s finest.
Uphill battle for White
One leg. That was the difference between Ian White winning Group B, and finishing second. It’s ultimately the difference between playing a far-from-peak Adrian Lewis and meeting the indomitable world number one, Michael van Gerwen. Bearing in mind that you double your money by winning a last 16 match at the Grand Slam, that is an important distinction to make. White has famously stuttered in the latter stages of big tournaments, and while he can beat MvG at European Tour events, he has never beaten the Dutchman in any other stage event.
Van Gerwen is in ominous form right now. He notched up the best overall group stage average, and was furious with himself for not breaking the record match average against Ross Smith last time out. He’s a naturally self-confident person, but that reaction indicates that he feels his A-game is there. If that’s true, it’d take something special to bring him down. Can Ian White be that person? History’s weight tips the scales firmly away from the Diamond. Still, at least he got out of the groups this time.
We’re treated to an all-Scottish game to finish off the last 16. This is a significant moment for Robert Thornton, who could’ve topped Group C but for fine margins. He’s battling hard to save his Tour Card, and it feels like the job’s now done in that regard. The two-time major winner will want to keep kicking on at the Grand Slam, a tournament at which he has fallen at this stage in four of his last eight appearances. It was in the last 16 that he exited during his last appearance in 2016. Luckily, there’s no parallels to draw with 2016, where he progressed out of the group behind Gerwyn Price and just ahead of Dimitri van den Bergh. Nope. Nothing to see here.
Gary Anderson was beaten by Darren Webster to be denied a fifth perfect group record in a row. Still, he topped his group and will continue his march towards what he hopes will be a first ever Grand Slam of Darts title. After two semi-finals and a final in his last three years, he’ll be desperate to stop being a nearly man. This match promises a lot of: tops being hit, decent efforts at checkouts which require two treble 20s such as 140 or 160, and of course, muttering under the breath. In short supply: pauses for breath. Both players like to get on with it, and get on it they shall.
Grand Slam of Darts 2019
Day Six schedule
19:15 James Wade v Adrian Lewis
20:15 Gerwyn Price v Darren Webster
21:15 Michael van Gerwen v Ian White
22:15 Gary Anderson v Robert Thornton
Author: Ed McCosh