Raymond van Barneveld and Scott Mitchell stole the show on the opening day of the 2016 Grand Slam of Darts, as Michael van Gerwen, Phil Taylor & Gary Anderson all kicked off their campaigns with victories at the Wolverhampton Civic Hall on Saturday evening.
The highlight of the day saw Raymond van Barneveld produce a vintage performance to power past World Youth-finalist Nathan Aspinall 5-1 with a 110.15 average. The five-time world champion, who won the Grand Slam title back in 2012, kicked off the contest with a maximum and that set the tone for a sumptuous performance.
Van Barneveld posted three maximums and converted 63% of his attempts at double to begin his campaign in style. Aspinall acquitted himself extremely well and averaged 97 but he faced an inspired Barney, evidenced in the fifth leg when Aspinall was denied a dart at double despite leaving 36 after nine darts, as RvB fired in a stunning 140 finish.
The Dutch legend was unsurprisingly in bullish mood after his scintillating display. He told PDC media manager Dave Allen: “That 140 was a killer, and I’m really happy and satisfied with the 110 average of course. I’m really focused, I feel good and I’m looking forward to tomorrow afternoon.”
Another stunning performance saw 2015 Lakeside world champion Scott Mitchell dispatch two-time world champ Adrian Lewis 5-1 in the final match of Saturday’s double-session. Lewis clinched the opening leg in 13 darts, before Mitchell reeled off five successive legs, aided by 161 and 86 finishes to seal victory with a magnificent 107.78 average.
Elsewhere, reigning champion Michael van Gerwen made a successful start to his Grand Slam defence with a comfortable 5-2 victory against legendary three-time Lakeside world champion Martin Adams.
Van Gerwen was nowhere near his sparkling best, averaging 93.64, hitting two maximums and converting 45% of his attempts at double. Adams started slowly but grew into the contest, averaging 91.47 and hitting eight 140’s, although it wasn’t enough to overly trouble ‘The Green Machine’.
Six-time winner Phil Taylor began his campaign with an emphatic 5-1 win over World Trophy winner Darryl Fitton. ‘The Power’ was in imperious form, averaging 104.3 to Fitton’s 84.9. Darryl avoided the whitewash with an 82 finish after Taylor spurned two match darts, but he made amends to clinch victory in the next leg.
World champion Gary Anderson edged out BDO world number one Glen Durrant in arguably the match of the opening night. Anderson averaged 100.66 to Durrant’s 98.52 as all nine legs went with throw, as ‘The Flying Scotsman’ defied an impressive Grand Slam debut from ‘Duzza’ to triumph.
Danny Noppert produced a magnificent Grand Slam debut as he averaged over 101 to defeat seventh seed Mensur Suljovic 5-3 in Group F. ‘Noppie’, ranked third in the BDO, was averaging 114 for some periods and converted 71% of his double attempts to upset the Austrian and set up a showdown with Van Barneveld on Sunday.
Benito van de Pas survived a valiant fightback from Chris Dobey to register a win on his Grand Slam debut in Group H. ‘Big Ben’ stormed into a 4-0 lead but Dobey launched a wonderful comeback, sparked by a stunning 132 finish. ‘Hollywood’ forced a last-leg decider, but Van de Pas pinned D4 to triumph with a 95.91 average.
James Wade recovered from 3-0 down to defeat BDO number four Jamie Hughes in an attritional battle. ‘The Machine’ started sloppily and Hughes capitalised, but the eight-time major winner displayed impressive resolve and as ‘Yozza’ faltered, Wade pounced by reeling off five successive legs to seal a 5-3 victory with a 91.31 average.
Also in Group G, Dave Chisnall suffered a horror-show on the doubles as he was beaten by Grand Slam debutant James Wilson on Saturday afternoon. Neither player performed anywhere near to their potential, but Chizzy converted just two of his twenty attempts at double, as Wilson ran out a 5-2 victor with a modest 84.13 average.
Peter Wright kicked off his campaign with a convincing 5-1 win over last year’s Lakeside finalist Jeff Smith. The match was far tighter than the result suggests, but Smith was uncharacteristically wasteful on the doubles and Wright took full advantage, taking out 160 in the opening leg and wrapping up proceedings with a 93.78 average.
Simon Whitlock also tasted victory in Group C, beating debutant Ted Evetts by the same scoreline. The outcome was harsh on the 19-year-old who spurned four darts to claim a 2-1 lead, but Whitlock’s experience proved decisive. The Australian averaged 92.08 and fired in two maximums to capitalise on missed doubles from Evetts.
Former finalist Robert Thornton clinched a much-needed win over reigning Lakeside world champion Scott Waites in a thrilling affair. Missed doubles cost ‘The Thorn’ in the opening stages, but the Scot duly recovered. Thornton averaged 96, hit three maximums, eight 140’s and converted a cracking 114 finish to close out a 5-3 victory.
Elsewhere in Group B, Dimitri van den Bergh enjoyed a successful Grand Slam debut after defeating Gerwyn Price in a nervy last-leg decider. The Welshman trailed 4-2 but hit four maximums to force a decider and throw for the match. Nevertheless, Van den Bergh held his nerve to defy the odds and pin D8 to complete an excellent win.
Ian White converted 71% of his attempts at double to defeat Darren Webster 5-3 in a hard-fought Group D contest. Webster monopolised the scoring stakes but was ruthlessly punished for a miserly 21% checkout ratio, as White took out crucial finishes of 118 and 98 to set up a showdown with fellow Stokie Phil Taylor on Sunday.
Nathan Derry enjoyed a dream Grand Slam debut, causing one of the shocks of the opening day by edging out Alan Norris 5-4. ‘Chuck’ averaged over 100 for large periods and hit three maximums, but he spurned three darts in the decider and Derry held his nerve impressively, hitting tops to seal victory with a 91.56 average.
Brendan Dolan survived two match darts from Max Hopp to make a winning start to Group A. Dolan broke throw in the opening leg but Hopp responded with an instant break back and led until the final leg. However, ‘The History-Maker’ produced the goods when required, posting a 14-darter to set up a meeting with MvG on Sunday evening.
SINGHA Beer Grand Slam of Darts
Saturday November 12
Afternoon Session (1pm)
Groups B-C-F-G First Matches
Gerwyn Price 4-5 Dimitri Van den Bergh (B)
Simon Whitlock 5-1 Ted Evetts (C)
Dave Chisnall 2-5 James Wilson (G)
Mensur Suljovic 3-5 Danny Noppert (F)
Robert Thornton 5-3 Scott Waites (B)
Raymond van Barneveld 5-1 Nathan Aspinall (F)
James Wade 5-3 Jamie Hughes (G)
Peter Wright 5-1 Jeff Smith (C)
Evening Session (7.30pm)
Groups A-D-E-H First Matches
Brendan Dolan 5-4 Max Hopp (A)
Alan Norris 4-5 Nathan Derry (E)
Ian White 5-3 Darren Webster (D)
Benito van de Pas 5-4 Chris Dobey (H)
Phil Taylor 5-1 Darryl Fitton (D)
Gary Anderson 5-4 Glen Durrant (E)
Michael van Gerwen 5-2 Martin Adams (A)
Adrian Lewis 1-5 Scott Mitchell (H)