Michael van Gerwen is the clear favourite to surge victory at the World Grand Prix
World number one Michael van Gerwen has been installed as the clear favourite to surge to victory at the World Grand Prix in October. The world’s finest players will descend upon Dublin to battle it out for glory and a share of the £450,000 prize money, which is up from £400,000 last year.
Mighty Mike is the defending champion after he defeated Peter Wright 5-2 in the 2018 final. He is the 5/4 favourite among the most highly rated sportsbooks to triumph again this year and his record in the tournament suggests he has a great chance of success.
The event will boast a field of the top 16 players on the PDC Order of Merit and the top non-seeded players from the Pro Tour Order of Merit. Van Gerwen has earned nearly $1.6 million this year, leaving him more than £600,000 ahead of his nearest rival, Rob Cross, in the Order of Merit. Third placed Darryl Gurney is on just £536,000, illustrating how dominant van Gerwen has been of late. The Green Machine has shown no mercy to his rivals this year, surging to victory at the World Darts Championship, clinching a fifth consecutive Masters title and then winning the Premier League for the fourth year in a row.
He overcame a post-Premier League slump by beating Gary Anderson, Peter Wright and then Gurney in the final to win the 2019 Melbourne Darts Masters. “Form is temporary and class is permanent,” he said after the event. “Nobody should doubt my talent.”
Yet he proved once again that he is fallible by slumping to an 8-7 defeat at the hands of Mensur Suljovic at the start of September. Van Gerwen was the overwhelming favourite to beat The Gentle at the Austrian Darts Championship final, and he led 6-3 at one point. However, Suljovic was determined to put up a strong fight on home soil and he rallied to level the match at 6-6 via superb 121 and 85 checkouts. The Dutch Destroyer edged into a 7-6 lead, but then Suljovic rattled off two consecutive victories. “This is the best win of my career,” said Suljovic. “It’s the first time I’ve ever won a game on stage in Vienna and I won the event. It’s absolutely brilliant. Michael is the number one, but in the four-week holiday I’ve practised every day and I was hungry. To win a European Tour event in my city is amazing, my biggest win.”
That should spark hope and optimism among all of van Gerwen’s rivals, including Cross, Gurney and Gary Anderson. It could be that Mighty Mike was simply rusty after the break, but it showed that he is a mere mortal and he can be toppled through hard work, focus and a bit of magic. Van Gerwen missed a few key opportunities in the match, and it was he second successive European Tour final defeat. We all know that he is mentally strong, but it suggested that he could have problems with motivating himself. After dominating for so long, it is easy to see why it might be challenging for van Gerwen to retain a razor sharp focus on the task at hand.
The Duchman admitted this summer that he has lost a bit of hunger and focus after going 11 straight matches without a ton plus average, his worse run since 2011. He then went on to crash out in the second round of the World Matchplay at the hands of Glen Durrant. He is clearly the world’s most talented player, but his dominance is by no means absolute and his rivals will approach the World Grand Prix full of confidence in their ability to topple him.
Cross is expected to lead the charge after enjoying a fine season, although former champions Gurney and James Wade could also be in the mix. Yet van Gerwen is clearly the man to beat and will have plenty of time to return to his best form before the World Grand Prix begins on October 6 at the Citywest Hotel in Dublin. He is guaranteed to be the top seed and he will be on the opposite side of the draw to second seed Cross, so we could be in for a pulsating final showdown between them.