Gary Anderson aims to return to winning ways (credit:Lawrence Lustig/PDC)
Part Two of an opening day double-header at the 2019 Grand Slam sees the first set of fixtures from Groups A-D take centre stage at the Aldersley Leisure Village.
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.
The evening session on Saturday sees a clutch of Grand Slam debutants and established stars aiming to get off to a winning start in Wolverhampton.
Gerwyn Price looks to avoid a potential banana skin when he begins the defence of his title against reigning Ladies World Champion Mikuru Suzuki in Group C.
Price defeated Gary Anderson 16-13 in a highly charged final 12 months ago to claim his first major title and has enjoyed a fine 2019 campaign to date, picking up four ranking titles and reaching the final of the European Championship.
All the pressure will be on the passionate Welshman as he looks to stave off what would be a huge upset against the BDO star – who became Asia’s first World Darts Champion when she triumphed at Lakeside in January.
Suzuki is making her Boylesports
Grand Slam debut as one of the eight BDO representatives, and the Japanese star will be keen to prove she can cut it with the sport’s elite.
Group C also features a clash between World Youth Champio Dimitri van den Bergh – the last player to hit a televised nine-darter in this very event last year – and Robert Thornton, runner-up at the Wolves Civic in 2013.
Anderson, last year’s beaten finalist, aims to hit the ground running in his favourite tournament once again by denying BDO debutant Dave Parletti.
Anderson has endured a torrid season by his standards amid a long-term back injury, reaching just one ranking Semi-Final, though he did pick up the World Cup of Darts trophy alongside Peter Wright for Scotland back in June.
The two-time World Champion averaged just 71 in a 6-1 rout at the hands of Danny Noppert in last week’s World Series Finals and will be determined to resume normal service against the BDO number five who made his Lakeside debut in January.
Group D kicks off with a clash between world number 19 Darren Webster – who came through Monday’s Tour Card Holder qualifier – and World Cup of Darts finalist William O’Connor, making his debut in this competition.
James Wade, runner-up in 2010 and 2016, takes on BDO star Wesley Harms for the third time in the Group Stage of the Grand Slam.
Wade defeated Harms 5-2 in 2013 and 5-0 in 2018 and will be determined to bounce back from disappointing First Round exits in his two title defending tournaments over the past fortnight.
Ian White, who qualified for a third Grand Slam appearance as a result of his success on the European Tour this season, starts out against Irish ace Steve Lennon – who partnered O’Connor to the final of this year’s World Cup of Darts.
Michael van Gerwen begins his latest pursuit of a fourth Grand Slam success since 2015 with a show-down against BDO World Trophy champion Jim Williams in Group A.
Van Gerwen enjoyed a three-unbeaten spell in this event before losing to Gary Anderson in last year’s Semi-Finals and returns to the Black Country in a ruthless run of form, having won five of his last six televised tournaments.
Williams made his debut here 12 months ago, finishing bottom of his group with two points, but the BDO number three now has a TV title under his belt as well as the Red Dragon Champion of Champions crown and will be quietly confident of challenging for a knock-out spot this time around.
Elsewhere in Group A, two-time World Champion Adrian Lewis faces a tricky opener against in-form Ross Smith – conqueror of MVG in the recent European Championship.
Lewis, semi-finalist in 2011 and 2013, joined Smith in progressing through the Tour Card Holder qualifier last week but has not been beyond the Last 16 of a televised tournament since the 2017 World Matchplay.
Smith, a quarter-finalist in this year’s UK Open, is making his first Grand Slam appearance for six years and will fancy his chances of catching ‘Jackpot’ off-guard on current form.
The action gets underway from 8pm GMT, with group matches to be contested over the best of nine legs.
Boylesports Grand Slam 2019 Match Schedule
Saturday November 9
Groups A-D First Matches
8.00pm Darren Webster v William O’Connor (D)
8.30pm Gerwyn Price v Mikuru Suzuki (C)
9.00pm Ian White v Steve Lennon (B)
9.30pm Gary Anderson v Dave Parletti (D)
10.00pm James Wade v Wesley Harms (B)
10.30pm Michael van Gerwen v Jim Williams (A)
11.00pm Adrian Lewis v Ross Smith (A)
11.30pm Dimitri Van den Bergh v Robert Thornton (C)