The Grand Slam will begin!!
It is November. The leaves started to fall and the weather is strange. Rain, wind, sunshine and temperatures which don't seem to be able to decide between summer and winter.
Dartsplayers and fans from all over the world head to Wolverhampton but you can experience the spectacle the PDC has prepared for us on you own sofa as well as the Grand Slam will be on stream and on TV.
The most asked question probably will be whether Peter Wright of Stowe Buntz will impress most with their outfit.
Well, perhaps for some that might not be the most urgent question - those people - me included - only wonder who will be the winner.
When I had a look at the list of participants I decided it is a question I just can't answer. I feel I am already unable to cope with the question who will survive the group phase . so far I only think I can be sure that it could be Martijn Kleermaker and Nathan Girvan will not reach the knock-out stage.
But what to make of Group C with Luke Humphries, Dirk van Duijvenbode, Gary Anderson and Steve Lennon? Van Duijvenbode had a shoulder injury and didn't play well recently. Has it healed? And what happened to Steve Lennon who started suddenly to play really strong over the last few weeks? Anderson to be sure is a player who is never predictable though the group phase round robin format will make it easier for him to get into right the mood.
Or what about Group B with Jonny Clayton, Chris Dobey, Josh Rock and Berry van Peer? Clayton was not at his best recently - but should the real Clayton turn up this one will be a really evenly matched group. One even can't argue one of the players never stood on stage at the Grand Slam. Berry van Peer probably will not have the best memories though as the last time he played in Wolverhampton he was in the clutches of dartitis. Especially his match against Gary Anderson during that past Grand Slam will still give him the creeps.
Another open question of course is how the two female players will fare. It could turn out Beau Greaves - who is a debutant in Wolverhampton - will have some problems but on the other side playing against a woman still seems to affect the men. So who'll gain the upper hand in Group F? And will German debutant Ricardo Pietreczko be again able to keep his nerve - something he managed so far really admirable. The other players in this group are Nathan Aspinall and Damon Heta - both a little bit shaky in their performances. But at least it is possible we'll see another special Heta walk-on.
The "playing a woman" effect might not affect Michael van Gerwen or Rob Cross in Group C - but you never know. Van Gerwen is no longer the unbeatable player he was a few years ago while Rob Cross is more a stoic player but he sometimes takes too long to get into a match and those group matches have a short format.And Fallon Sherrock already played on this stage. She started to get stronger again recently and part of her good performances are always her doubles while hitting the doubles sometimes can be van Gerwen's weak spot.
All the other groups are not much better - Haruki Muramatsu and Stowe Buntz are the two dark horses. They are both debutants in the event. No one outside North America ever has seen Buntz play live on stage. He won the CDC Continental Cup recently so he will be in good form. But what does that really mean when he has to play against Peter Wright, Dave Chisnall and Stephen Bunting who are all strong scorers? Muramatsu won the Asian Championship - he will be in good form as well. But how much will that be worth against Danny Noppert, Andrew Gilding and Brendan Dolan?
Gian van Veen is a debutant as well. He's sometimes outstanding though not always consistent yet but he's given many of the etablished PDC players the shivers among them Ryan Searle who is like him part of group D. With Nathan Rafferty is another upcoming player in their group which is headed by Gerwyn Price. Rafferty impressed in the Grand Slam two years ago and reached the knockout phase which means he can play darts. But he never so far kept up this Grand Slam performance.
Which leaves the group with the reigning champion Michael Smith - Group A. While probably Nathan Girvan will have no chance to survive the group stage the other three players - beside Smith James Wade and Krzysztof Ratajski - all had their problems this year. All three were often enough far away from their A game and while Wade and Ratajski seem to slowly get back there Smith stays a surprise bag. And I would really be surprised - pleasantly surprised - should he defend his Grand Slam title.
So take your guess.
The answer who'll impress most with the outfit probably will be answered already on the first day of the tournament as Peter Wright will play against Stowe Buntz in his first match.
It will take much more time to answer the question who'll win so you best will have enough beer and chips or hot chocolate and popcorn at home. Then make yourself comfortable, switch you TV or the stream on and follow the action. I am sure it will be more thrilling and entertaining then Castle or Navy CIS and there even could be some upsets.