As soon as...
- or even just before - the leaves start to fall the PDC tournament calendar starts to bristle and we can see
tournament after tournament. Hungarian Darts Trophy, PDC World Cup, Nordic Darts Masters, Gibraltar Darts Trophy,
Women's Series - all that reeled off in front of our eyes in August. And it just doesn't stop as the darting
high-lights now pile up. It is only a few days before the World Grand Prix will begin - no, not in Dublin, at
least not this year - but in Leicester. Which definitely is a pity as the World Grand Prix was for years always
an "Irish" tournament. Though of course it is already some years it stopped to be really Irish as the PDC
dropped the two qualifying places for players from Ireland in favour for more qualifiers from the Pro Tour Order
of Merit. And this year there will be no City West Hotel in Ireland either only the Morningside Arena in
Leicester. I really hope the tournament will be able next year to return to where in my eyes it belongs...
Of course the venue is not the only singularity as the format differs from all other PDC events as well - the World Grand Prix is the only double-in tournament of the PDC. And this didn't change - luckily as otherwise it wouldn't stand out all this year. It would just be another one in a row of big PDC TV events.
Though there are no Irish qualifiers we'll see two Irish players - Brendan Dolan and Daryl Gurney - who both
qualified by the Pro Tour Order of Merit as both are not among the top 16 of the PDC Order of Merit. Daryl Gurney
just dropped out but hopes to return to the form in which he won the World Grand Prix four years ago. Brendan
Dolan is moving up the rankings slowly and is playing very solid darts at the moment. He has a special history
with the World Grand Prix as well - he threw in 2011 the very first World Grand Prix nine-darter and reached the
final. This nine-darter is by the way the reason of his nickname "History-Maker". I almost can't believe that
happened ten years ago.well, of course it would be great could Dolan succeed in doing something special this year
Due to the double-in and the short format of the first round matches the tournament is always one with a lot of upsets and even Phil Taylor during his best years was dumped out of the tournament a few times first round by players like Andy Callaby or Adrian Gray when entering the event as number 1 seed.
This year the number 1 seed and the favourite on the win with the betting companies is Gerwyn Price who just won the Hungarian Darts Trophy. He will start into the tournament against Michael Smith and he will try to defend the title he won last year.
The World Grand Prix might no longer be an "Irish" tournament but it is certainly an international. The English
players still are the strongest group among the participants with fourteen players followed by the Dutch with five.
Beside two each come from the Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland. But we'll see a Portuguese, a Belgian,
an Austrian, an Australian, a German, a Pole and even for the first time a Lithuanian. And those players are no
longer exotic outsiders added for spice in the mix - at least the Portuguese and the Belgian could do some damage.
This year again some players will give their debut on the World Grand Prix stage and - due to the short European Tour season - some of them are some kind of surprise debutants. We have:
Nickname: The Heat
Best TV Performances : Quarterfinals PDC World Cup of Darts 2021
First Round Opponent: James Wade
PDC Order of Merit: Rank 37
Heta seems to be some kind of ever present in this year's events though he never gets too deep in a tournament. But he steadily moves up the rankings and one can't rule it out he will get the better of James Wade in the first round of the World Grand Prix. That would mean he meets either Stephen Bunting or Daryl Gurney in round 2. Both could be too much for him in a then longer format.
Nickname: The Heat
Best Performance on TV: Final UK Open 2021
First Round Opponent: Dirk van Duijvenbode
PDC Order of Merit: Rank 26
Humphries' best run this year came in the UK Open where he only lost in the final to James Wade. He always can be a threat and as Dirk van Duijvenbode - his first round opponent in this one - is not at his best at the moment - could well be the winner. Second round would be Dimitri van den Bergh or Ryan Searle - Humphries will need to produce if he wants to progress further.
Best Performance on TV: Quarterfinal UK Open 2019
First Round Opponent: Joe Cullen
PDC Order of Merit: Rank 38
Ross Smith to be sure is a surprise bag. He really can play darts but often doesn't show it. He didn't qualify for the Gibraltar Darts Trophy - the last PDC event. Perhaps he used the time to practice his doubles. Joe Cullen is not one of the most consistent players either . it could be a close match and a second round meeting with either Dave Chisnall or Mensur Suljovic could go both ways as well.
Nickname: The Riot
Best Performance on TV: Quarterfinals World Matchplay 2021
First Round Opponent: Jonny Clayton
PDC Order of Merit: Rank 43
Well, this one is the youngest of the debutants and still far from a settled player. But in the Gibraltar Darts Trophy he played two outstanding matches and probably will be full of confidence while Jonny Clayton had his problems both in the World Cup and in the Gibraltar Darts Trophy. Should Callan Rydz play like he did in his first two matches of the GDT Clayton will have a hard time. And Rydz could meet Jose de Sousa in the second round.
Nickname: The Dutch Giant
Best Performance on TV: Last 16 UK Open 2021
First Round Opponent: Mervyn King
PDC Order of Merit: Rank 56
It still is a surprise for me how Kleermaker managed to qualify for the World Grand Prix. He is quite a solid player but so far really far from top level. Mervyn King should be able to overcome him in the first round.
And finally we have:
Nickname: Lucky D
Best Performance on TV: Quarterfinals PDC World Championship 2020
First Round Opponent: Brendan Dolan
PDC Order of Merit: Rank 40
The first ever Lithuanian player who qualified for the World Grand Prix. He didn't qualify for the Gibraltar Darts Trophy and he was eliminated in the first round of the Nordic Darts Masters. But Labanauskas dominates together with Madars Razma the Nordic and Baltic Tour of the PDC. He is on his day a really good player but his first round opponent is Brendan Dolan who looks to be in good form and who to be sure will intend to have an impact in the World Grand Prix even though it is not played in Ireland. Labanauskas will not have a good chance here.
I'm looking forward to the tournament. Other than our TV program it will offer great entertainment, hopefully upsets and some thrilling matches.