Comment & Analysis
World Grand Prix 2021: Daryl Gurney looking to rediscover his aggression as he targets revival
Gurney takes on former Lakeside champion Stephen Bunting in his opener at the Morningside Arena, Leicester; Watch coverage of the World Grand Prix from October 3-9, live on Sky Sports
Last Updated: 03/10/21 12:22pm
The unique double-start concept, the short format, the jeopardy - the World Grand Prix is a tournament that holds special memories, particularly for Daryl Gurney.
The Northern Irishman claimed his maiden televised title with victory over Simon Whitlock in the 2017 edition, which proved to be the catalyst for further success.
Gurney's route to glory in Dublin was anything but serene, yet his victory was defined by spirit, intensity, and an unwavering refusal to be beaten.
The man nicknamed 'Super Chin' is one of the most affable characters within the sport, but his indefatigable resolve and combative demeanour has been instrumental in his greatest triumphs.
His World Grand Prix success in October 2017 was followed by a memorable Players Championship Finals win over Michael van Gerwen just over 12 months later - a win that established his place among the world's top four.
Nevertheless, following a tumultuous 18 months which has seen Gurney relinquish his spot in the world's top 16, he believes rediscovering his intensity could inspire a revival.
"I have definitely lost a lot of aggression from my game," he told the Darts Show podcast.
"The game is coming back, we're getting there. I'm practising hard, it's just taking it from the practice board to the games and if I can do that, I'll be hard to beat again."
Gurney eyeing Grand Prix revival
"I have calmed it down a lot but I need to get that aggression back because I think I play better and I think people fear me more.
"The game is coming back, we're getting there. I'm practising hard, it's just taking it from the practice board to the games and if I can do that, I'll be hard to beat again.
"We're coming into the busiest time of year now which suits me because I'm just one of these players who likes to play every week."
Although this year's World Grand Prix will not be held at the Citywest Hotel in Dublin, it's a tournament that will forever be etched into Gurney's memory.
He kicked off his 2017 campaign with a narrow win over fourth seed Adrian Lewis, and although his comeback win over Whitlock in a thrilling final generated the headlines, his quarter-final win over Robert Thornton remains prominent in Gurney's thoughts.
"I've great memories of the tournament. The biggest moment for me was playing Robert Thornton in the quarter-finals," he added.
"I was behind and it went exactly the same way as the game before me, when Barney played John Henderson, and I won in a sudden-death leg.
"I just know how good Robert is and obviously he won it two years previously to that. I just knew it was one of those games - whoever wins this game could possibly win the tournament."
Gurney's route to Grand Prix glory in 2017
|Round One:||2-1 vs Adrian Lewis|
|Round Two:||3-1 vs Joe Cullen|
|Quarter-Finals:||3-2 vs Robert Thornton|
|Semi-Finals:||4-1 vs John Henderson|
|Final:||5-4 vs Simon Whitlock|
Gurney's title defence ended in a semi-final defeat in 2018, although he's bidding to avoid a third consecutive opening round exit when he takes on Stephen Bunting in his opener at the Morningside Arena Sunday evening.
Bunting's resurgence has seen him climb above Gurney on the PDC Order of Merit, and the world No 17 concedes he will have to come out firing against 'The Bullet'.
"The first round is the hardest game to play because of the pressure and short format; it could be world No 1 against the world No 32, and I think anybody could beat anybody.
"Stephen's on a high - he's just won a Pro Tour and he did very well at the World Championship, he got to the semi-finals. He was superb against Gezzy [Price].
"I am expecting a really tough game. I think Stephen should be, and deserves to be, favourite. If I can get my double 16 back to where it was in 2017 and 2018 I'll be hard to beat.
"My scoring's always there, it's just getting these doubles right. I'll have to be on my A-game to beat Stephen. Anything less and I'll be on the next flight home on Monday."
Gurney is under no illusion about the task that awaits him as he bids to regain his place among the world's elite, but the early signs are promising.
The 35-year-old has posted 13 ton-plus averages on the Pro Tour this season, but having failed to reach a televised semi-final since March 2020, it's now a matter of translating performances into results.
"I've been playing well, but I've just run into people that are in better form than I am. I'm hitting more 100+ averages than I ever have!
"I think the game's still moved on, every year it moves on. A few years ago you'd walk into a tournament and say there was maximum 30 people that could win the tournament.
"Now you're looking at maybe 50 or 60 who could win the tournament, possibly even more.
"You've got to move with the times - if you're not hitting 100 averages nowadays, then you're not going to be counted, so that's where the hard work and dedication has come back in."
Darts is back on your Sky Sports screens when the World Grand Prix gets underway - join us for coverage from the Morningside Arena, starting on Sunday, October 3. Check out daily Darts news on skysports.com/darts, our app for mobile devices and our Twitter account @skysportsdarts