Talking points from the Grand Slam of Darts
A thrilling tournament delivered again, so how does the world of darts look as we head to the busiest time of the year?
By Paul Prenderville
Last Updated: 21/11/17 6:32am
Yet again the darting gods delivered and the dust settles on a memorable Grand Slam of Darts, but with the World Championships around the corner what did we learn from nine days at the Wolverhampton Civic Hall?
Sunday in the Black Country provided plenty of drama, where arguably the four best players battled it out for the title.
Michael van Gerwen became only the second man to lift the Grand Slam trophy on three successive occasions, beating Peter Wright 16-12 in a memorable final.
Snakebite had earlier stunned Gary Anderson before MvG eliminated the only other man to win three Grand Slams, Phil Taylor, who has taken to verbal jousting in the final weeks of his professional career.
As the players prepare for the Players Championship in Minehead this weekend, here are our five talking points from the Grand Slam…
"Life is good for Michael van Gerwen," said Dave Clark after the final and it's hard to disagree.
As the brilliant world No 1 celebrated on stage with his wife and baby daughter, the smile was spread across his face - and not just when Snakebite attempted to mohican the young Van Gerwen.
Three is very much the magic number after the arrival of Zoe. His success in Wolverhampton was his third successive Grand Slam and third successive TV title since a shock Grand Prix defeat in October. Attention will now turn to a third world title.
"He had some doubters a few months ago, but obviously he was busy with the family and things have to sort themselves out," said John Part.
"His focus is back on winning and if he is happy and relaxed that is a dangerous combination. He has been terrorising for a few years now and at a great rate - he intends to be No 1 for a while."
I love to see scenes like that at the end because the support of a family unit can help you perform.
To average more than 50% throughout a whole event – that is clutch finishing and that is a must and it’s why he won.
Wayne Mardle on MvG's memorable triumph
The cream always rises
Despite some impressive action throughout the group stages, when it came to the crunch, the final eight players were about as good as could have been assembled.
The top four players from the Order of Merit (Van Gerwen, Wright, Anderson, [Daryl] Gurney), the 16-time world champion, Taylor, and major winner, Mensur Suljovic were involved. Throw in the reigning BDO champion, Glen Durrant, and the hottest emerging talent on the circuit, Rob Cross, and it was an impressive quarter-final line-up.
From those eight, the world's top three and Taylor emerged and slugged it out on the final day of the tournament.
"As well as the two finalists, the No 1 and 2 in the world, there has been a lot of brilliant play and some are playing at their very best," [Wayne] Mardle told Sky Sports.
"Phil Taylor was great, Barney played well, Gary Anderson has not played much darts this year but looked good and should have beaten Peter Wright.
"Mensur Suljovic was there again and we have seen Rob Cross come through too. Some of these players are playing at their very, very best."
The Grandest Grand Slam?
Berry van Peer's dartitis, nine-dart shootouts, more questionable mind games from The Power all in the old-school surroundings and intimate nature of the Wolverhampton Civic. It was a tournament that had it all, most importantly… good darts.
"Lots of the group games were a really high standard and produced 100+ averages," said John Part.
"There has been great darts thrown by everybody, the PDC guys, the BDO guys but at the end we had the very best come through to finals day which was a special day.
"It has been a fantastic tournament, legends of darts all together in the same place for maybe the last time in some cases."
Part's comments are reflective of the belief that the Slam is becoming one of the majors to win. A gruelling format it is perfect the perfect tune-up for the World Championship and Gary Anderson said it's his favourite tournament and one he desperately wants to win.
The BDO acquitted themselves well but only Durrant emerged as a real threat. A fact that will do little to fuel the hopes of those who think it should be an even split.
For Durrant, he will have a decision to make but politics will influence the next steps. There is a strong case for him moving over from the BDO but much will depend on how the defence of his Lakeside crown goes.
It is such a difficult tournament to win especially in today's climate. It's an arduous format to come through. It's tiring and you have to know how to manage yourself
A new threat
Van Gerwen, Wright, Anderson, Taylor - the players at the top sit a distance clear but rather than Adrian Lewis, Dave Chisnall and James Wade as the regular threat, there are new names emerging at the closing stages of the majors.
Daryl Gurney, Mensur Suljovic and most spectacularly Rob Cross are competing, indeed Gurney and Suljovic (as well as Wright) have all claimed major titles this year.
It is testament to the hard work those three are putting it that means Wade, Lewis and Chizzy have a battle on their hands when it comes to Premier League places and major contention.
Mardle called Gurney Wade-esque in how he has crept up on the established order. Suljovic causes Anderson no end of problems and it was noticeable how hard the Flying Scotsman had to work to see off the Austrian.
And in Cross, the PDC has it's poster-boy for what can be achieved. In his debut year, the 27-year-old from Hampshire has risen to the edge of the world's top 20 and twice pushed MvG to deliver his very best in Wolverhampton.
It's been a frequent occurrence over the last six weeks as the Dutchman is the only man to beat Voltage, who this time last year was not even a professional.
All eyes on the Palace
The PDC head to Minehead for the Players Championship this weekend - where perhaps fittingly Cross is the top seed to underline his growing standing. It is hard not to feel the allure of Alexandra Palace with the World Championships less than a month away.
MvG will go there as the the defending champion and Mardle cannot see past him, particularly in his current, rampaging form: "He was the favourite for this event and he is the favourite for the Worlds.
"He cannot be toppled at the moment. Michael is going to go to the Worlds, a long format as well, and he is magnificent. Everyone else knows he is the best at the moment."
That must be the hope for the others and there will be hope. Van Gerwen has faltered before and the Ally Pally stage brings out the very best in everyone.
Anderson and Wright in particular can be feared and quite what else Cross can achieve is another fascinating sub-plot.
And what of Taylor? The Power will not be at Minehead, so has one final tournament to take aim at - if his antics in Wolverhampton are anything to go by he will not be going quietly, not that we expected him to.