2023 Grand Slam of Darts Preview – Sherrock and van Gerwen clash
On Saturday, the 2023 Mr Vegas Grand Slam of Darts begins in Wolverhampton’s WV Active Aldersley, as Michael Smith begins his defence of the Eric Bristow Trophy.
The 17th edition of the Grand Slam will feature a star-studded 32-player field competing for £650,000 in prize money over nine days of action from 11 November to 19 November.
The competition opens with a bumper double session on Saturday, November 11, with the participants divided into eight groups of four in the initial round-robin phase.
Smith will open his title defence against 2022 World Youth Championship runner-up Nathan Girvan, one of seven debutants in this year’s field.
In Group A, the world number one will also face three-time finalist James Wade and Poland’s number one Krzysztof Ratajski as he attempts to become only the fourth player to win two Grand Slam titles.
It would mean everything to retain my title this year,” admitted Smith, who has won 16 consecutive group stage matches at the Grand Slam, in a record dating back to 2017.
“Over the last five or six years the Grand Slam has been very kind to me. I think I’ve gone unbeaten in the group in the last five years, but I’ve probably jinxed that now!
“Every year I seem to have a poor run between August and September, and then I seem to come back into my own at the start of November, and I feel like my form is coming back now.
“I’m really looking forward to getting back there. Hopefully I can deliver again this year and go back-to-back.”
World Champion Smith will be one of the main attractions in Saturday’s evening session, when players in Groups A, C, E, and G begin their campaigns.
In a rematch of the Nordic Darts Masters final two years ago, three-time champion Michael van Gerwen will face 2021 quarter-finalist Fallon Sherrock.
Sherrock earned her MBE earlier this month at Windsor Castle, and now the Milton Keynes trailblazer is due to rub shoulders with darting royalty in her Group G opener.
“Every time I play Michael it’s always a good game, whether it’s an exhibition or in a big TV event,” insisted Sherrock, who will also face 2018 World Champion Rob Cross and Martijn Kleermaker in the group stage.
“I want to play the best players in the world, because you’re only going to get better by playing the better players.
“The way I performed towards the end of the Women’s Series this year, and hitting the nine-darter on the Challenge Tour has given me a lot of confidence.
“I am going into these big stage events expecting to play well now, rather than hoping to play well. I am really excited!”
On Saturday evening, World Grand Prix winner Luke Humphries takes on Steve Lennon, while two-time finalist Gary Anderson faces Dutch great Dirk van Duijvenbode on his Wolverhampton comeback.
In his first match, newly crowned European Champion Peter Wright faces American newcomer Stowe Buntz, while 2014 runner-up Dave Chisnall faces a resurgent Stephen Bunting in the other Group E encounter.
In the afternoon session, players in Groups B, D, F, and H begin their quest for the crown, with three-time Grand Slam champion Gerwyn Price aiming for a fourth Aldersley victory.
In Group D, the Welshman will meet Northern Ireland’s Nathan Rafferty, after Ryan Searle faced Dutch debutant Gian van Veen, a European Championship semi-finalist in Dortmund last month.
In a thrilling Group B match, Masters champion Chris Dobey will face 2022 World Youth Champion Josh Rock, as the Bedlington star looks to add to his title tally in the West Midlands.
“I’ve been playing well. My consistency is there, so I definitely feel I have a good run in me,” claimed Dobey, a quarter-finalist at the World Matchplay, World Grand Prix and European Championship in 2023.
“No games are easy and it’s a very strong group, but I’m ready for the challenge, and there is no reason why I cannot go there and top the group.
“It’s going to be a tough ask, but I’m confident going into it, and I know where my game is at. I think they will be worrying about me more than I am worrying about them.”
Jonny Clayton of Wales will also compete in Group B, and the World Matchplay runner-up will begin the round-robin phase against the returning Berry van Peer.
In another highly anticipated match, World Matchplay champion Nathan Aspinall begins his Group H campaign against Women’s World Matchplay champion Beau Greaves.
Aspinall, who finished second to Smith in Wolverhampton a year ago, leads a highly competitive field that includes Australian number one Damon Heta and Germany’s rising sensation Ricardo Pietreczko.
In his first Group F match, world number seven Danny Noppert will face PDC Asian Champion Haruki Muratmatsu, while UK Open champion Andrew Gilding and Northern Ireland’s Brendan Dolan will also compete.
The group stage continues on Sunday, with Saturday’s winners playing battle against each other, as well as the losers, before the final round-robin games take place on Monday and Tuesday.
The top two players from each group will advance to the knockout stage, with the last 16 action commencing on Wednesday November 15 and concluding on Sunday November 19.
2023 Grand Slam of Darts
Group Stage Draw
(1) Michael Smith
(8) Jonny Clayton
Berry van Peer
(4) Luke Humphries
Dirk van Duijvenbode
(5) Gerwyn Price
Gian van Veen
(2) Peter Wright
(7) Danny Noppert
(3) Michael van Gerwen
(6) Nathan Aspinall
Schedule of Play
Saturday November 11
Afternoon Session (1300-1700 GMT)
Group Stage x8 – Groups B-D-F-H First Matches
Damon Heta v Ricardo Pietreczko (H)
Andrew Gilding v Brendan Dolan (F)
Ryan Searle v Gian van Veen (D)
Chris Dobey v Josh Rock (B)
Danny Noppert v Haruki Muramatsu (F)
Nathan Aspinall v Beau Greaves (H)
Jonny Clayton v Berry van Peer (B)
Gerwyn Price v Nathan Rafferty (D)
Evening Session (1900-2300 GMT)
Group Stage x8 – Groups A-C-E-G First Matches
James Wade v Krzysztof Ratajski (A)
Rob Cross v Martijn Kleermaker (G)
Dave Chisnall v Stephen Bunting (E)
Dirk van Duijvenbode v Gary Anderson (C)
Luke Humphries v Steve Lennon (C)
Peter Wright v Stowe Buntz (E)
Michael van Gerwen v Fallon Sherrock (G)
Michael Smith v Nathan Girvan (A)