Smith in action against Durrant (credit:Chris Dean/PDC)
The curtain is raised on the 2019 Grand Slam at the Aldersley Leisure Village on Saturday afternoon with the opening ties from Groups E-H.
Darts’ unique cross-code event features title holders, finalists and qualifiers from both the PDC and BDO as they battle it out over nine days of round-robin and knock-out action to compete for £550,000 in prize money.
Part one of an unmissable double header on the opening day sees a clutch of Grand Slam debutants and established stars aiming to get off to a winning start in Wolverhampton.
The pick of the ties comes in Group H as World Championship and World Matchplay finalist Michael Smith takes on reigning and three-time BDO World Champion Glen Durrant.
Durrant will have revenge on his mind following his 17-10 defeat to ‘Bully Boy’ in the Semi-Finals of July’s World Matchplay, while Smith will also be wary of the need to put points on the board at the first given opportunity in what is being touted as ‘the group of death’.
Despite being a PDC Tour Card Holder, Glen Durrant is representing the BDO as reigning Lakeside Champion and is making his fourth consecutive appearance in the Grand Slam, having progressed to the knock-out phase in 2016 and 2017.
The other fixture in Group H sees reigning UK Open champion Nathan Aspinall take on 2018 World Youth finalist Martin Schindler.
Aspinall has enjoyed the best year of his career to date, following up March’s Minehead triumph by capturing the US Masters title on his World Series debut in Las Vegas.
The world number 12 is making his first Grand Slam appearance since 2016 and will look to get off to a flying start by overcoming the 23-year-old German who has reached just one ranking Quarter-Final in a below-par season by his standards.
Women’s world number one Lisa Ashton marks her eagerly-awaited Grand Slam debut with a glamour tie against reigning World Matchplay and European Champion Rob Cross.
Ashton heads to Wolverhampton off the back of her World Masters success a fortnight ago and will look to put the cat among the pigeons over the short format, just as she did when taking the first set against Jan Dekker on her Ally Pally debut last December.
Cross, who is set to surpass the £1 million barrier on the Order of Merit, has performed superbly in TV majors this year, winning two and reaching a further two finals, and will look to press home his quality and stave off what would be a major upset.
Elsewhere in Group E, form horse Dave Chisnall aims to spoil the party for local hero Jamie Hughes when the pair face off in what promises to be a heavy-scoring show-down.
Hughes has struggled with an arm injury in recent weeks, crashing out of the European Championship in the First Round, but underlined his resilience by coming through Monday’s Tour Card Holder qualifier.
The Tipton thrower will be backed by a vocal Black Country crowd but faces a tough test against a player producing perhaps the most consistent darts of his career to date, having reached the World Grand Prix final and the Semi-Finals of last week’s World Series Finals.
Danny Noppert, who enjoyed a landmark run to the final on home soil in Amsterdam to secure a last-gasp qualification for this event, aims to continue his fine form when he faces debutant qualifier Ryan Harrington.
Son of former World Matchplay champion Rod Harrington, the world number 95 came through the qualifiers to book his place in a first TV major outside of the UK Open.
Elsewhere in Group F, 2017 Grand Slam runner-up Peter Wright kicks off his latest campaign against Welsh newcomer Wayne Warren.
Wright missed a golden opportunity to clinch the European Championship title in the final against Michael van Gerwen and has since bowed out of his next two TV tournaments at the first hurdle.
Warren, the BDO number four, is making his Grand Slam debut at the age of 57, with Quarter-Final appearances in the 2018 BDO World Championship and 2018 World Masters to his name.
Players Champion Daryl Gurney looks to utilise his vast experience to guide him to victory over BDO number two Richard Veenstra in Group G.
Dutch ace Veenstra was runner-up in this year’s World Trophy, while Gurney is a three-time semi-finalist in PDC majors this season.
The other fixture in that group sees Tour Card Holder qualifiers Gabriel Clemens – the German number two – and World Championship quarter-finalist Brendan Dolan collide.
The action gets underway from 1pm GMT, with group matches to be contested over the best of nine legs.
Grand Slam of Darts 2019 Day One: Afternoon Session preview and order of play
The curtain is raised on the 2019 Grand Slam at the Aldersley Leisure Village on Saturday afternoon with the opening…
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