Smith and Gurney collide in Wolverhampton (credit:Michael Cooper/PDC)
The knock-out phase of the 2019 Grand Slam of Darts gets underway on Wednesday with five of the world’s top ten players, a BDO World Champion and two in-form qualifiers comprising the line-up.
A frenetic first four days at the Aldersley Leisure Village saw 32 become 16, with all eight seeded stars safely progressing through their groups, alongside a host of dangerous outsiders.
The stakes and format now increase as the Last 16 commences, with group winners and group runners-up colliding for a place at the business end of the cross-code major.
Peter Wright, the 2017 runner-up, takes on fellow Premier League star Rob Cross in a mouth-watering final match of the evening.
Wright topped his group for the fourth time in his last five Boylesports Grand Slam appearances, collecting maximum points with three consecutive 5-2 victories over Wayne Warren, Ryan Harrington and Danny Noppert with a tournament average of 99.6.
The colourful Scot, who has slipped to seventh in the Order of Merit, is now bidding to reach only his second ranked major Quarter-Final in 13 months but faces a tough early task against the world number two.
Defeat to Dave Chisnall in his second group outing meant that Cross was forced to settle for second spot in Group E with four points and a tournament average of 93.5.
The reigning World Matchplay and European Champion is set to surpass the £1 million barrier on the Order of Merit having reached the final of three of his last four ranked majors.
The opening match of the night sees World Grand Prix finalist Chisnall aiming to continue his superb spell in the second half of the season by ending the dream run of debutant qualifier Harrington.
Chisnall has been in inspired form since starting out with his new Harrows setup in September, hitting a nine-darter and reaching the final of the Gibraltar Trophy before falling short to MVG in the final of the Grand Prix.
Grand Slam runner-up five years ago, ‘Chizzy’ is eyeing a fourth consecutive televised Quarter-Final and will be out to press home his vast big stage experience over the player ranked 85 places below him in the Order of Merit.
Harrington’s 5-1 rout of Wayne Warren saw him clinch second spot in Group F having come through the PDC Tour Card Holder’s qualifier last Monday to reach a first televised tournament outside of the UK Open.
The 29-year-old shared an emotional embrace with his father and former world number one Rod Harrington on stage on Monday and will be seeking his advice ahead of the biggest match of his career to date.
Another box office battle sees World Championship and World Matchplay finalist Michael Smith take on Players Championship Finals winner Daryl Gurney.
The pair met in the Last 32 of this year’s UK Open, with ‘Bully Boy’ edging an epic contest 10-9, and a similarly close encounter could be on the cards here.
Smith came through the ‘Group of Death’ in top spot with six points to his name, notably averaging 113 in a 5-1 rout of Nathan Aspinall along the way, while Gurney defeated his fellow Northern Irishman Brendan Dolan 5-2 in their Group G shoot-out to seal second spot.
Smith was a semi-finalist at the Wolves Civic as a raw talent in 2015, while ‘Superchin’ is aiming to equal his best run in this competition from two years ago.
Reigning and three-time BDO World Champion Glen Durrant aims to progress to the Quarter-Finals of this event for the second time by stopping a red hot Gabriel Clemens in his tracks.
Durrant, making his fourth consecutive Grand Slam appearance, is flying the flag for the BDO as Lakeside Champion despite being a PDC Tour Card Holder and is the sole BDO representative left standing in the competition.
The Teessider thrower, twice a major semi-finalist in his debut season with the PDC, had to settle for second spot in Group H and by his own admissions has under-performed so far this week, with a tournament average of just 89.6.
Clemens, meanwhile, came through last week’s qualifiers to secure his debut and has been arguably the dark horse of the tournament so far, storming to three consecutive victories in Group G.
The German number two recorded a blistering 110 average in defeating Richard Veenstra 5-2 on Monday but now faces a true test of mettle over the long-haul format against a player made for the big occasions.
The pair have met twice on the ProTour this year, claiming a win apiece, with both matches having gone to a last-leg decider, suggesting there is little to choose between them.
The action gets underway from 7pm GMT, with Second Round matches to be contested over the best of 19 legs.
Grand Slam of Darts 2019 Day Five preview and order of play: Star names vie to reach Last Eight
The knock-out phase of the 2019 Grand Slam of Darts gets underway on Wednesday with five of the world’s top…
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