Wayne Mardle's Grand Slam of Darts predictions
Last Updated: 09/11/18 2:44pm
We asked Wayne Mardle to delve into his crystal ball and answer some key questions before the Grand Slam of Darts...
'Hawaii 501' gives us the lowdown all on eight groups at this year's Grand Slam and gives them their own special title, while discussing the big talking points ahead of this year's cross-code event.
A- The group containing the world's best player, looking for four wins on the bounce.
Van Gerwen looks an absolute certainty in that. Jonny Clayton is good on his day but very inconsistent and Joe Murnan's only won £3,500 all year so this shows you how big this is for him.
Gary Robson's been doing alright in the BDO. He's reached three finals. I believe Van Gerwen just wins three games and lets the others fight it out, but I don't see Murnan being a danger in that group at all. I think it will be Clayton or Robson that takes second spot.
B- The group that contains THREE World Masters, and the 9th best player on the planet.
Full credit to Adam Smith-Neale. He's basically a Challenge Tour player who played in the World Masters and won it, which is absolutely incredible. He's going to be seen in this group as the whipping boy I think.
Michael Smith - let's be honest, he really should have won the World Series. You've got to put those chances away. Barney - we know what he's capable of and obviously he's won this before, and Ratajski was a double-tour winner in the same weekend, which is some achievement.
I think this is a really tough one to call who wins, but I think we can safely say Smith-Neale is the one we're all expecting to come bottom, so any two from three really. Smith, RVB and Ratajski; it's going to be down to the odd moment of genius or maybe a fluffed line.
C- The group made for the lefties.
James Wade will be full of it and so he should, but he's not playing brilliantly, he's just winning. Gerwyn Price and Max Hopp had darts to beat him at the European Championship and Michael Smith had five darts to beat him in the World Series Finals.
Keegan Brown has done well to qualify as he's been ultra-inconsistent. Wesley Harms on the BDO Tour has won twice this year so he's playing well, but he doesn't seem to do it on the big stage Wesley. I'm not a great fan of his throw to be fair. It's a lot of spinning and flicking.
I think Mark Webster has done well to qualify, I really do. He works so hard at his game. I would love to see Wade and Webster get through, because I think they're the best two players in that group and I want the best ones to get through as it makes the last 16 that little more exciting.
D- The group that sees Ando qualify for the twelfth straight year.
Michael Unterbuchner is probably one of the most improved players on the BDO circuit. He's played superbly this year, he really has. I don't think he'll qualify. I think Gary Anderson and Ian White will just be too good for the others and that's including Steve Hine.
Steve Hine - how he qualified, I'm not sure. What I mean by that is he's reached one last 32 all year and then he goes and qualifies for the Grand Slam. Where that came from I don't know. Ando and White should be absolute certainties for that.
E- The group where all four players will fancy progressing.
Peter Wright is not playing well. That's an absolute fact. He's sometimes literally using different darts from one day to the next. That just doesn't help and how many times he has to be told, I just don't know. I think Peter Wright qualifies; whether that's in first or second I'm not sure.
Jim Williams from the BDO has won four times this year. He's a very very good player and Hopp, Payne and Williams will all feel like it's a brilliant opportunity for them to get out of the group. There's not a lot between them in my opinion. They've all won on their respective tours.
Max Hopp and Jim Williams are more consistent than Josh Payne, but like I said, all three of them must feel like there's a space up for grabs to reach the last 16.
F- The group where Gilding will be the spoiler.
.Any three from four. Andrew Gilding has picked up some form recently, he's not had the best couple of years. Glen Durrant- the twice and reigning BDO world champ is absolute class, but so are Simon Whitlock and Gerwyn Price.
I wouldn't be surprised out of those three, whoever won it and came runner-up. Again, it's going to be down to the odd missed dart at double or the odd moment of brilliance.
G- THEE Group of Death.
If Suljovic was to come bottom, it would not surprise me one bit. This is a really tough group where they will all probably beat each other. I don't see anyone remaining winless.
Martin Schindler is in the World Youth Final so he's already qualified for next year before he's played this year which is superb for him. Stephen Bunting - we know how capable he is and I've got to say, Scott Mitchell is a quality operator.
He really is world class and over this format, do not be surprised at any result in that group. I think they all beat each other and there could even be a nine-dart shootout in that group. I don't see anyone dominating with three wins out of three.
H- The group where the World Champ needs to assert himself.
Mark McGeeney - the BDO World No 2 - won the Dutch Open this year. That was off the back of losing in the final of the World Championship to Glen Durrant, after having darts to win it.
This is a format I actually believe suits Dimitri van den Bergh, Ryan Searle and Mark McGeeney. I don't think it favours Rob Cross at all. He's not playing with confidence, I don't think he's throwing with the same aggression, some of the darts are released early, some are released late.
He looks under pressure and let's be honest he's only been a pro for less than two years, so he's still finding his feet and being world champion has kind of taken its toll a bit.
How will the BDO fare?
We all want to see the best players in the world, which let's be fair, the likes of Glen Durrant and Scott Mitchell are. There are other brilliant players like Scott Waites who won in 2010, that aren't even here.
That's how good some of these players are and I think they'll acquit themselves very well. I think three of them will get through to the last 16, which would be a good return.
Who are the dark horses?
If you're going to pick someone to come through and maybe reach a final there are two I like. That's Dimitri van den Bergh and Scott Mitchell. I think they've got good games no matter what the format.
Mitchell's group is an absolute nightmare but if he can come through that, then who's to say? I'm not predicting Rob Cross to go out, but I am predicting that Dimitri comes through the group and maybe Rob Cross will not be first or second.
When it comes to the latter stages, the format is best of 31 legs. I just don't see Van Gerwen getting beaten over that format. I don't think Gary Anderson will be sharp enough and I think in that half, he's the only opponent that can deal with him.
The bottom half - that is absolutely anyone's. That's why I have gone for a big outsider in Mitchell to come through it. I think it's a really hard tournament to evaluate and call because there's a lot of big names missing because of the qualification criteria.
I think Van Gerwen from the top half, Mitchell from the bottom, and Van Gerwen beats Mitchell in the final.
Wayne Mardle was talking to Sky Sports' Raz Mirza. Darts season is in full swing and continues on Sky Sports with the Grand Slam of Darts which gets underway with a double session on Saturday, November 10 and continues through to the final on Sunday, November 18
The World Championships are just around the corner and get underway from the iconic Alexandra Palace on December 13.