All too often we hear the cliché of a sporting event that ‘had everything’, but in the case of the 2017 Grand Slam of Darts, this was almost literally the case. The highlight of the Wolverhampton Civic Hall calendar is not a ranking event, but as the last major tournament before the World Championship it represents a golden opportunity to lay down a marker for December – and of course, it’s also where the PDC and BDO collide.
Players such as Robert Thornton, Ian White and even Adrian Lewis were shock absentees this year, but it didn’t matter a bit. Day one could well go down as the finest curtain-raisers the game has ever seen. Both the afternoon and evening sessions provided quality in spades; the standout performers being reigning Lakeside champ Glen Durrant and the fast-emerging Rob Cross. Oh, and Michael Van Gerwen played pretty well too.
Although the group phase continued to impress, there was one talking point that set both broadcasters and social media into meltdown. So much has already been said about Berry Van Peer‘s struggle with dartitis that there’s no need to dwell on it here, but it was miraculous that the young Dutchman managed to make the knockout phase.
Unfortunately that’s as far as his run went, as he was thrashed by Mensur Suljovic. However, he left with the hearts of the Wolverhampton faithful firmly in his grasp. Wednesday night also showed Dave Chisnall, Michael Smith and Stephen Bunting the exit door, with Darren Webster, James Wade, Steve Lennon and Raymond Van Barneveld following on Thursday.
And so to the quarter-finals: two apiece for the Friday and Saturday night party crowds. For the Teeside Thrower Durrant, it was very much a case of too little to late against Peter Wright. Whilst ‘Duzza’ found his feet in the end, and came within a whisker of a nine-darter, ‘Snakebite’ was solid on his doubles and emerged the 16-10 victor. Gary Anderson was slightly less comfortable in defeating Mensur Suljovic 16-12. The following evening saw a real contrast in scorelines. Phil Taylor dismantled the in-form Daryl Gurney 16-4, while the match between Van Gerwen and Cross – as is always the case between the two – lived up to its billing and more, with MVG taking the spoils 16-13. However, the main event was Taylor’s explosive post-match interview, which left everyone wondering just what the hell was going on.
Which meant a super Sunday was in store to wrap up what had been a truly memorable week. It looked for all the world as if Flying Scotsman Anderson was going to cruise past compatriot Wright and book his place in the final, but in the end the world number two won through in a last leg decider. In the other semi, Van Gerwen simply had too much for Taylor. Wright fought valiantly in the final, as he did in the Premier League in May, and was 10-9 ahead at one point, but Mighty Mike did what Mighty Mike does and won 16-12 to lift the trophy for the third successive time.
You’d be brave to bet against the Green Machine landing world title number three in the new year, but there are several players who’ve done more than enough to suggest that they could upset the odds. Whatever happens, if it’s half as good as this year’s Grand Slam, Ally Pally’s in for one hell of a ride.