2023 BOYLESPORTS WORLD GRAND PRIX PREVIEW
The 2023 BoyleSports World Grand Prix begins on Monday, as the unique double-start event returns to Leicester's Morningside Arena.
The 26th staging of the World Grand Prix will see reigning champion Michael van Gerwen headlining the 32-player field, which includes World Champion Michael Smith and 2020 winner Gerwyn Price.
Last year's runner-up Nathan Aspinall and 2021 champion Jonny Clayton also feature among the eight seeded stars in the 600,000 pound event, which will take place from October 2-8.
Six-time champion Van Gerwen has dominated the double-start event since his maiden triumph in 2012, and the Dutch superstar begins his title defence against World Youth Champion Josh Rock - one of three debutants this year.
The pair have been involved in some memorable big-stage ties over the last 12 months, although Van Gerwen is in determined mood ahead of their latest showdown on Tuesday night.
"It should be a fantastic game against Josh. He is a phenomenal player," claimed Van Gerwen, a winner of the World Grand Prix in 2012, 2014, 2016, 2018, 2019 and 2022.
"I am happy with my game at the moment, but this is a really tough event to win, and with the short format in the early rounds, you can't afford to make any mistakes.
"It's a crucial period coming up, but I will be ready for it, trust me. This is only the start.
"I want to be back at the top [of the rankings]. It is going to be a tough task, but I know I'm capable of doing that, so I just need to focus on myself and make sure I play my A-game."
Tuesday's action will also see Clayton open his challenge against European Champion Ross Smith, as the Welshman aims to put a tumultuous few months behind him at the Morningside Arena.
"I am defending money from winning the World Grand Prix two years ago, so let's see how it goes," said Clayton, whose father passed away just days after his run to July's World Matchplay decider.
"I can't just forget about my Dad, but darts was his life and I just want to keep doing him proud.
"My mind is back now on the big-stage tournaments coming up. It's an important part of the year so I want to do well, and fingers crossed I will.
"Hopefully, the Ferret will come out on the winning side again. I want to lift every trophy that's going, and I will try my hardest to do that."
2018 runner-up Peter Wright kicks off his campaign against German number one Gabriel Clemens on Tuesday, with sixth seed Luke Humphries pitted against 2017 champion Daryl Gurney.
Dimitri Van den Bergh and Chris Dobey collide in another stand-out tie, Australian number one Damon Heta plays Ryan Searle, while Joe Cullen meets Mike De Decker in the evening's opener.
Elsewhere, two-time runner-up Dave Chisnall begins his bid against debutant Luke Woodhouse, having warmed up for this year's event by winning two ranking titles within the last week.
"I think I'm due a big title with the way I'm playing," admitted Chisnall, who followed up his Hungarian Darts Trophy victory with ProTour success in Barnsley on Thursday.
"It is hard enough to win a ProTour, never mind a TV tournament, but I believe it is going to come one day, and hopefully it comes this week.
"People used to say I couldn't hit doubles, but when I go into this tournament I seem to hit my starting double pretty well.
"Luke is a good player. I helped him qualify last week by beating Scott Williams [in Budapest], but I'm just going to relax and play the board, not the player."
World number one Smith and Welsh star Price will take centre stage on Monday night, with Smith up against Newcastle's Callan Rydz, while Price faces 2021 semi-finalist Danny Noppert.
World Matchplay champion Aspinall meets a resurgent Stephen Bunting for a place in round two, while eighth seed Rob Cross has been pitted against UK Open champion Andrew Gilding.
Two-time winner James Wade - one of five former champions in the field - is also part of a stellar opening night line-up, as he takes on Poland's premier player Krzysztof Ratajski.
Dirk van Duijvenbode and Brendan Dolan open the tournament in a battle of the former finalists, as two-time runner-up Raymond van Barneveld makes his double-start return against Germany's Martin Schindler.
Gary Anderson is another former finalist in action on Monday, and the Scottish stalwart has been drawn against Portugal's Jose de Sousa in an intriguing first round contest.
Anderson celebrated his second ranking title of the year in Friday's Players Championship 24, having produced a series of breath-taking displays throughout last week's ProTour treble-header.
Following a challenging 18 months, the two-time World Champion has returned to his brilliant best in 2023, and he believes enjoyment has been the key to his revival.
"I just turn up and play darts now, and I giggle when I win," quipped Anderson, a runner-up to Van Gerwen in the 2016 edition.
"My practice over the [summer] holidays hasn't been great, but I'm coming here playing well; I've got new darts, they're going well.
"I think it's going to be wide open this year. You can't really say an outsider [will win it], but I don't think it will be one of the favourites. Maybe it could be an old 52-year-old, you never know!"
Following the conclusion of the first round, the last 16 will take place across Wednesday October 4 and Thursday October 5, before the quarter-finals are staged on Friday October 6.
The semi-finals will be played on a bumper Saturday evening in the East Midlands, before the remaining two players compete for the 120,000 pound winner's prize on Sunday October 8.
Van Gerwen is the 10/3 pre-tournament favourite to retain his crown with title sponsor BoyleSports, just ahead of 2020 winner Price at 7/2, and top seed Smith at 7/1.