Ross Smith is hoping to add a good Grand Slam performance to his 2019 highlights.

The Kent thrower has, for the most part, enjoyed positive form across 2019. Smith broke his personal best in runs to the UK Open quarter-finals and European Championship last 16.

He beat Jose Antonio Justicia Perales, Wayne Jones, Stephen Bunting and Niels Zonneveld in Wigan to qualify for the Grand Slam for just the second time. His reward is a Group A berth, alongside Michael van Gerwen, Adrian Lewis and Jim Williams.

“I think it’s a tough group with great players,” Smith told dartsnews.com.

“But I’m playing well, looking to progress through the group and kick on in the tournament.

“I’m looking forward to all the games and can’t wait to get started.”

Flashback

It’s fair to say that the 30-year-old’s Grand Slam debut was not what he’d hoped for. Pitted against Mark Webster, Wes Newton and Simon Whitlock, Smith lost all three games to finish rock bottom of Group G with zero points and a minus eight leg difference.

There is little fear of a repeat, even in a tricky group. Smith is certain that now, being six years to the wiser, he is better placed to succeed.

“I remember a lot about the 2013 Grand Slam and a tough learning experience,” he said.

“The difference with me now as a player is I’ve grown up a lot, and I prepare for games properly on and off the board. ”

Kelly Deckers/PDC

Smith faces Michael van Gerwen in his group – but did recently get one over on the world number one. Photo: Kelly Deckers/PDC

Shock win

His aforementioned European Championship run was thanks to a stunning first round win over van Gerwen. ‘Smudger’ closed out a 6-5 win over his upcoming Grand Slam opponent, in a rare last-leg defeat for the Dutchman – and an even rarer early European Championship exit.

Though visibly delighted by the last-gasp victory, Smith remains modest about the major scalp.

“Beating Michael was obviously a great feeling but I want to do better in the sport.

“I need to forget that and move on to the next tournament, it’s only one game at the end of the day and I want to do better in tournaments going forward.”

2019/2020 targets

Thanks to his achievements this season, a Tour Card is likely secured. Smith is even set to move into the world’s top 50. But his Order of Merit goals extend far beyond that.

“My goal was always to push into the top 32 by the end of the year after the Worlds.

“I need a good run now in the televised tournaments coming up to achieve this, and next year it will be to push on further to bigger and better things, keep learning and work even harder.”

Smith will soon get his chance at further TV major gains at the Grand Slam. It would be unwise to rule out Group A’s dark horse in Wolverhampton.

Pieter Verbeek/PV-Darts

Photo: Pieter Verbeek/PV-Darts

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Author: Ed McCosh