I don't do predictions any longer. This year I have been off the mark far too often. What the hell happened to the dartsplayers? It was rather easy in the past - for years you could predict Phil Taylor would be the winner without a risk. Then at least for a few years it was almost dead sure the winner would be Michael van Gerwen. But Phil Taylor is history and Michael van Gerwen is just unpredictable this year. He's still great in European Tour events but in the big TV tournaments it looks at the moment he's beatable by more or less anybody. Usually that is not the player who'll win the tournament later...
So the winners of this year's TV tournaments this year so far were Michael van Gerwen, Gary Anderson, Michael van Gerwen, Gary Anderson, Gary Anderson, Michael van Gerwen, James Wade, and James Wade.
I don't know who'll win the Grand Slam. I really don't have an idea. So I will not predict anything. Well, might be I am on the safe side to predict Joe Murnan, Gary Robson, Keegan Brown, Steve Hine and Andrew Gilding will not win it. But even there - you just can't be sure!
But I've no problem with being not able to predict a winner. It is very interesting and rather exciting as it is at the moment. And very entertaining.
I am sure Michael van Gerwen feels rather frustrated despite his telling everybody after a win he's thrown phenomenal darts and when he has lost that he has nothing to prove. My advice for him would be he should make sure he hits his doubles clinically again. His scores are often enough outstanding. But that is not enough any longer because when he starts to miss his doubles by now other players are up to take the chances he's giving them.
Of course reigning champion van Gerwen is once again the favorite to win this year's event and when you have a look at his Group A he looks the group winner even before the tournament has started. But when you look at Group B from where his first opponent in the knockout stage will come there are two names that could make life difficult for van Gerwen - Michael Smith and Raymond van Barneveld who's just beaten him in the World Series of Darts Final. And I dare to predict that it is rather likely those are the two players who will progress from Group B.
Group C is more difficult. I think James Wade should manage to progress but whether Keegan Brown, Mark Webster or Wesley Harms will join him I just have no idea. The same is even more so applicable to Group D - I am only quite sure that Steve Hine will not be the player to progress. But the other three? Anderson always can be on or off, Ian White seems to have some problems with TV tournaments at the moment and Michael Unterbuchner - who is one of encouragingly three German players who have qualified for the Grand Slam this year - is some kind of black horse and never before took part in a big PDC event. Of course he played a great year so far and was for a short time even the WDF number 1 but he's never played in such a tournament in front of such an audience.
Next we have Group E which offers us Peter Wright, the German number 1 Max Hopp, Josh Payne and BDO player Jim Williams. Josh Payne didn't play a great year, Max Hopp showed some great matches but he is not really consistent yet, Peter Wright was completely beside himself in the World Series of Darts Final and Jim Williams is quite a good player according to BDO standard - so we see here a might be completely open group. Peter Wright should win it should he be back to normal but to be sure the World Series Final didn't help his confidence as it didn't Max Hopp's either.
In Group F we find with Glen Durrant - the probably strongest BDO player - and beside Simon Whitlock, Gerwyn Price and Andrew Gilding. Gilding will not be the player to progress.But the other three all have the chance.
In Group G we've got Mensur Suljovic who had no great World Series Final, Stephen Bunting who seems to get stronger again, the third German Martin Schindler who proved to be rather consistent this year and Scott Mitchell who had taken a break from darts this year but is back. And he is already quite experienced in playing the Grand Slam. This group definitely could to be sure produce some upsets...
And last but not least we have the completely open Group H with PDC World Champion Rob Cross, Youth World Champion Dimitri van den Berg, the consistent BDO player Mark McGeeney and Ryan Meikle. Rob Cross is still searching for his World Championship form; Dimitri van den Bergh had a bad year but won a Development Tour Event last weekend and once again reached the Youth World Championship Final. I've no idea how good Ryan Meikle is - he is the outsider in this group but could turn out a surprise player as well.
I am sure I will enjoy the tournament!!! And I really hope for a lot of upsets!!! The tournament will be played in a new venue which means the settings will be new for everybody, for the players, the officials, the crowd and even for me as part of the media. I will not stay all the time - only for the first round and the first evening of round two. The weather forecast is not bad - it will be not too cold and no red weather alert is in sight.
And should I feel totally bored by the tournament I will just travel to Birmingham to do some Christmas shopping.