BoyleSport Grand Slam of Darts Opening Weekend
Gerwyn Price overcame a strong challenge from Mikuru Suzuki to open his title defence at the BoyleSports Grand Slam of Darts in winning style as the 32-player event began in Wolverhampton on Saturday.
Welshman Price claimed his maiden TV title at the Aldersley Leisure Village 12 months ago, and took a 5-3 win over Lakeside Women's Champion Suzuki in one of 16 group matches held on the opening day this time around.
Japanese star Suzuki caused Price some nervous moments by sharing the opening six legs, and responded to a 142 checkout from the reigning champion with a 116 finish of her own before the number five seed claimed victory.
"It was difficult and I didn't perform as well as I can but I'm glad to win and that's the main thing," said Price. "I missed a couple of opportunities but there's more pressure playing against a woman.
"She's a great player and she had a couple of good shots at the right time that kept her in the game. I knew I was going to be in for a tough game but I knew that if I concentrated and hit my doubles that I could win."
Price now plays Robert Thornton in Sunday's Group C second matches, after the former Grand Slam finalist took out a 160 finish before defeating World Youth Champion Dimitri Van den Bergh in a deciding leg.
Like Price, world number two Rob Cross also had to overcome a stern challenge from one of the sport's top female players, eventually claiming a 5-2 win over Lisa Ashton.
"I'm happy to get the win," said Cross, the World Matchplay and European Championship winner in 2019. "It was probably the most nervous I've been; Lisa's a great player and I think she'll relax now and play the best darts she can.
"The crowd got behind her and it was nice, but it was good just to win. I want this title and I want to have a great week."
The high-profile Group E also saw Dave Chisnall take a 5-3 win over Tipton's Jamie Hughes, who responded to his opponent's early 124 finish with a 121 checkout on his way to a 3-2 advantage.
The sixth leg proved key, though, as Hughes missed his chance to lead by two legs and Chisnall stepped in to level before claiming the next two legs to take a key win.
Three-time Grand Slam of Darts winner Michael van Gerwen defied a bout of 'flu to claim a 5-2 win over BDO World Trophy champion Jim Williams, sealing victory with a 145 checkout.
Van Gerwen now meets Adrian Lewis after the two-time World Champion overcame Ross Smith 5-2 in their opener.
Two-time Grand Slam of Darts finalist Gary Anderson saw off debutant Dave Parletti 5-1 in Group D, with the Scot now meeting Irish ace William O'Connor after the World Cup finalist came from 3-2 down to win 5-3 with a 99 average.
James Wade, another player to have reached the final twice in Wolverhampton previously, sealed his 5-2 win over Wesley Harms with a 140 checkout, with Ian White defeating Ireland's Steve Lennon by the same scoreline in the other Group C contest.
Michael Smith and Nathan Aspinall opened the so-called "Group of Death" with impressive victories over Glen Durrant and Martin Schindler respectively at the Aldersley Leisure Village.
Third seed Smith began his challenge in the tough Group H with a 5-3 win over three-time Lakeside Champion Glen Durrant, with the St Helens ace missing double 15 for a nine-dart finish during the contest.
"It's nice to win," said Smith, who averaged almost 100. "I should have won it easier but missed a few doubles, but I stuck in there and dug deep so I'm quite happy."
Aspinall, meanwhile, made an outstanding start by whitewashing Martin Schindler 5-0 in their Group H opener with an average of almost 99 after a 142 checkout in the opening leg set the tone for a dominant performance from the UK Open champion.
Qualifier Ryan Harrington shocked Danny Noppert with a 5-4 victory over the World Series of Darts Finals runner-up on his Grand Slam debut, as the Essex ace made an ideal start in Group F.
"It was very nerve-wracking but I'm ecstatic to beat a player of Danny's quality and get the win," said the 29-year-old. "I think I pressured Danny at the right times and took my opportunity.
"I didn't think I'd hold my nerve but I gave myself the best chance and I'm over the moon. I've got nothing to lose so I can go up there with confidence and I'm just going to focus on my next opponent."
Harrington now plays Peter Wright after the 2017 finalist kicked off his 2019 Grand Slam challenge with a 5-2 win over Welsh debutant Wayne Warren, despite some dodgy doubling whilst using a new set of darts.
Ruthless Daryl Gurney whitewashed Dutchman Richard Veenstra 5-0 to make an ideal start in Group G, restricting the Grand Slam debutant to just one dart at a double.
Gurney's opponent in Sunday's second matches will be Gabriel Clemens after the German Darts Masters finalist notched the day's highest average of 99.40 in a 5-1 defeat of Brendan Dolan, landing two 12-darters and sealing victory with a 121 bull finish.
2019 BoyleSports Grand Slam of Darts
Saturday November 9
Groups E-H First Matches
Nathan Aspinall 5-0 Martin Schindler (H)
Ryan Harrington 5-4 Danny Noppert (F)
Gabriel Clemens 5-1 Brendan Dolan (G)
Dave Chisnall 5-3 Jamie Hughes (E)
Daryl Gurney 5-0 Richard Veenstra (G)
Peter Wright 5-2 Wayne Warren (F)
Rob Cross 5-2 Lisa Ashton (E)
Michael Smith 5-3 Glen Durrant (H)
Groups A-D First Matches
William O'Connor 5-3 Darren Webster (D)
Gerwyn Price 5-3 Mikuru Suzuki (C)
Ian White 5-2 Steve Lennon (B)
Gary Anderson 5-1 Dave Parletti (D)
James Wade 5-2 Wesley Harms (B)
Michael van Gerwen 5-2 Jim Williams (A)
Adrian Lewis 5-2 Ross Smith (A)
Robert Thornton 5-4 Dimitri Van den Bergh (C)
Michael Smith recorded the third highest average in BoyleSports Grand Slam of Darts history as he joined Michael van Gerwen, Dave Chisnall and Gabriel Clemens in qualifying for the knockout stages in Wolverhampton on Sunday.
Smith averaged 113.62 in a brilliant 5-1 win over Nathan Aspinall as the world number three ensured his place in the last 16 in style.
Smith continued his superb start to the event, following up Saturday's victory over Glen Durrant with a second win in as many days, meaning that the Lakeside Champion and Aspinall now face a shoot-out on Monday.
"It was a massive match and I knew I had to win, so I'm pleased to play so well," said Smith. "Nathan said I was phenomenal and I felt I owed him one for when he beat me in Las Vegas.
"It was a big game and I'm glad I did myself proud and got the win, and I'm safe. As long as I won the match that was the most important thing for me - the record average would have been nice but records don't win you tournaments.
"This event is a target for me because I'm desperate to win a TV title. That's been my aim this year."
Durrant bounced back from his opening loss to Smith with a dramatic 5-4 win over Martin Schindler, the young German who now cannot qualify.
Schindler led 4-2 but paid for missing two match darts at tops as three-time Lakeside Champion Durrant produced a pair of 84 finishes to keep his hopes alive before winning their deciding leg.
Three-time Grand Slam champion Michael van Gerwen stormed back from 2-0 down against Adrian Lewis to qualify from Group A with a 5-2 victory.
"I've not been at my best but my darts didn't let me down and I found an extra gear when I had to against Adrian," said Van Gerwen. "He tried to push me, especially at the beginning, but I did the right things at the right moments.
"I'm through to the next round and I can look ahead to that, but I'll still concentrate on the last group match. Ross Smith beat me in the European Championship and of course I want to put that right."
Kent's Smith cannot now qualify after losing out 5-1 to Jim Williams, with the BDO World Trophy winner having finished four doubles from as many attempts - including checkouts of 122 and 118 - as he opened up a key 4-0 lead to keep his hopes alive.
Chisnall, meanwhile, ensured his qualification from Group E, defeating Rob Cross 5-3 to force the world number two into a shoot-out with Jamie Hughes on Monday night.
"I'm over the moon to win and be through," said Chisnall, the World Grand Prix runner-up in Dublin last month.
"When you play the world number two you know you've got to battle and I did, it wasn't pretty but I got the job done. I'm here to get as far as I can and it would be lovely to go one better than in Dublin."
Hughes produced a strong display to open his account in Group E, landing four 180s in a 5-1 win over Lisa Ashton, eliminating the four-time Women's World Champion in the process.
Germany's Clemens continued his superb Grand Slam debut as the qualifier defeated Daryl Gurney 5-4 to secure his progression to the last 16, hitting a 12-darter in the deciding leg of a high-quality contest.
"I have no words," said an overwhelmed Clemens. "Daryl us a fantastic player and to beat him on this stage is crazy."
Gurney now faces a shoot-out with Brendan Dolan on Monday night, after the 2011 World Grand Prix finalist came from a leg down to defeat Richard Veenstra 5-1, knocking out the Dutchman.
Reigning champion Gerwyn Price survived two missed match darts from Robert Thornton before claiming his second Group C victory with a 5-4 defeat of the Scot.
Thornton had looked on course to remain unbeaten after moving 4-3 up, but failed to give himself a dart at a double on an 82 finish as Price forced a deciding leg, before missing doubles 12 and six to allow the Welshman in to complete a 94 finish for a 12-darter in snatching the points.
"I can't ask for any more than two wins from two and I just need to concentrate on my own game on Tuesday and try to win," said Price, who meets Dimitri Van den Bergh in his final group match.
"I was chasing Robert all the way through the game and he was hitting trebles for fun. I didn't think I was going to get a chance to break him, so I'm happy to get over the line.
"It's tough to get through the groups but I'm feeling confident. I'm trying to play a different game and I don't think it's working yet, but I'm trying to stay composed. I'll go out and try to enjoy myself against Dimitri.
"I want to perform well and hopefully I can pick my game up, improve my scoring and not ride my luck too much because it's going to run out sooner or later."
Van den Bergh finished five doubles from nine attempts as he claimed a first Group C win, defeating Japan's Mikuru Suzuki 5-1 in their second contest.
Two-time finalist Gary Anderson averaged a superb 105.08 as he claimed a second victory in Group D, defeating William O'Connor 5-3 despite the Irish ace taking out a 158 finish.
Darren Webster bounced back from Saturday's defeat to Anderson with a 5-2 win over Dave Parletti, taking out a key 125 checkout of bull-25-bull on his way to a first Group D victory.
James Wade survived two missed match darts as he came from 4-2 down to defeat Ian White 5-4, with Steve Lennon coming from 3-0 down to defeat Wesley Harms 5-4 by taking out a stunning 167 finish in the deciding leg.
Wade now sits in pole position in Group B with two wins ahead of his final group tie with Lennon, while White meets Harms on Tuesday in another quartet where all player could still qualify.
Peter Wright, Danny Noppert and Ryan Harrington remain alive in Group F going into Monday's final fixtures, with only Wales' Wayne Warren unable to progress.
Noppert bounced back from his loss on Saturday with a strong display to defeat Warren 5-1, while Wright landed three ton-plus checkouts during his 5-2 win over Harrington.
Monday night's action sees the players in Groups E-H return to the Aldersley Leisure Village stage to complete their round-robin fixtures, with the players in Groups A-D facing off on Tuesday evening.
2019 BoyleSports Grand Slam of Darts
Sunday November 10
Groups E-H Second Matches
Brendan Dolan 5-1 Richard Veenstra (G)
Danny Noppert 5-1 Wayne Warren (F)
Jamie Hughes 5-1 Lisa Ashton (E)
Glen Durrant 5-4 Martin Schindler (H)
Gabriel Clemens 5-4 Daryl Gurney (G)
Peter Wright 5-2 Ryan Harrington (F)
Michael Smith 5-1 Nathan Aspinall (H)
Dave Chisnall 5-3 Rob Cross (E)
Groups A-D Second Matches
Steve Lennon 5-4 Wesley Harms (B)
Darren Webster 5-2 Dave Parletti (D)
Jim Williams 5-1 Ross Smith (A)
Dimitri Van den Bergh 5-1 Mikuru Suzuki (C)
Gerwyn Price 5-4 Robert Thornton (C)
James Wade 5-4 Ian White (B)
Gary Anderson 5-3 William O'Connor (D)
Michael van Gerwen 5-2 Adrian Lewis (A)
Monday November 11 (1900 GMT)
Groups E-H Final Matches
Gabriel Clemens v Richard Veenstra (G)
Michael Smith v Martin Schindler (H)
Dave Chisnall v Lisa Ashton (E)
Daryl Gurney v Brendan Dolan (G)
Peter Wright v Danny Noppert (F)
Ryan Harrington v Wayne Warren (F)
Rob Cross v Jamie Hughes (E)
Nathan Aspinall v Glen Durrant (H)