James Wilson, Robbie Green, Joe Murnan, Alan Norris, Jeffrey De Zwaan, Darren Webster, Steve Lennon and Stephen Bunting were the eight players to book their spot at this weekend’s Grand Slam of Darts after coming through an established field at the Robin Park Tennis Centre in Wigan on Monday afternoon.
The eight men were all victorious in securing qualification for the competition at the Wolverhampton Civic Hall from November 11th-19th, which sees 24 PDC stars take on eight representatives from the BDO, with the action televised live on Sky Sports.
Former Lakeside world champion Stephen Bunting will make his first appearance at the Wolverhampton Civic since 2014- where he reached the quarter-finals. ‘The Bullet’ received a bye through to round-two, before seeing off James Richardson, former world finalist Kirk Shepherd and Dutchman Vincent Kamphuis to seal his qualification.
Robbie Green will make his third Grand Slam appearance after coming through four qualification matches in Wigan on Monday afternoon. ‘Kong’ opened up his campaign with an impressive 5-2 win over the ever-improving Richard North, before seeing off the veteran Terry Temple to seal his place in round-three.
Green then recorded a fine 5-2 victory over former Lakeside world champion Jelle Klaasen, to set up a crunch last 16 clash against Klaasen’s fellow countryman Vincent van der Voort. However, it was double Dutch delight for Green, who defeated Van der Voort 5-3 to confirm his Wolverhampton return.
Darren Webster dropped just three legs to blitz his way through qualification. ‘The Demolition Man’ lived up to his nickname in Wigan, whitewashing Mike De Decker and Sven Groen and defeating a resurgent Jamie Caven 5-3, and he will be aiming to make it through the round-robin stage for the very first time.
Alan Norris marked his return to form to clinch qualification for next week’s event. ‘Chuck’ thrashed former world finalist Andy Hamilton 5-1 in his opening match, before seeing off Dutch star Jan Dekker 5-3. Norris then faced Ronny Huybrechts in his decisive last 16 tussle, where he recorded an emphatic 5-2 triumph.
Elsewhere, former BDO number one James Wilson also secured his spot at the cross-code event after coming through a gruelling qualification campaign. ‘The Jammie Dodger’ received a bye through to round-two, before edging out Dutch star Jeffrey de Graaf in a nervy last-leg decider.
Wilson then thrashed Justin Pipe’s conqueror Matthew Dennant 5-1, to set up a straight shootout against former World Youth champion Keegan Brown. Brown rose to prominence at this event by reaching the quarter-finals in 2014, but he was denied a Wolverhampton return as Wilson battled to a 5-3 victory.
Jeffrey de Zwaan will make his Grand Slam debut after seeing off a host of established stars in qualification. De Zwaan- mentored by five-time world champion Raymond van Barneveld, narrowly missed out on World Youth Championship glory earlier in the day, losing in the quarter-finals to reigning champion Corey Cadby.
Nevertheless, De Zwaan certainly made amends hours later. He kicked off his campaign with a 5-3 win over recent Pro Tour winner Jonny Clayton, before edging out Ian White in a deciding-leg. ‘The Black Cobra’ then faced two-time PDC major winner and former Grand Slam finalist Robert Thornton, prevailing by virtue of another ninth and final leg.
Joe Murnan will be another debutant in Wolverhampton this year. The Bolton ace claimed the scalp of world number fourteen Benito van de Pas in round-two, before whitewashing Shaun Griffiths to reach the last 16. In his decisive final tie, ‘Shaggy’ then edged out Ryan Palmer in a last-leg decider to seal his spot.
The third and final debutant to come through Monday’s qualifier was Irish star Steve Lennon, who has enjoyed an impressive debut year on the PDC circuit. Lennon received a bye to round-two, where he saw off Belgian hotshot Dimitri van den Bergh- who sealed a spot in the World Youth Championship final earlier in the day.
Lennon then saw off former Lakeside world champion Steve Beaton 5-2 to reach the final stage of qualifying, which set up a decisive showdown against Joe Cullen. ‘The Rockstar’ has claimed two Players Championship titles this year, but was denied at the final hurdle by the inspired Irishman; who ran out a 5-3 victor.
Nevertheless, a host of big name stars suffered chastening early exits in qualification. World number five Adrian Lewis will not be appearing in this year’s Grand Slam, after losing his opening tie against Simon Stevenson.
This is the first time that Lewis won’t feature at the Grand Slam since the tournament’s inception back in 2007, meaning he will miss his first Sky Sports tournament since the World Cup of Darts in December 2010.
World number fourteen Benito van de Pas was edged out by Joe Murnan in the last 64, whilst former world finalists Kevin Painter and Andy Hamilton were beaten at the first time of asking, losing out to Andy Jenkins and Alan Norris respectively.
Three-time world champion John Part was edged out in a deciding-leg by Jan Dekker in the last 64, whilst former Grand Slam semi-finalist Kim Huybrechts and recent Pro Tour winner Jonny Clayton departed at the same stage of qualifying.
Justin Pipe was another high-profile casualty in the last 64, whilst former Lakeside world champions Jelle Klaasen and Steve Beaton suffered 5-2 defeats to Robbie Green and Steve Lennon respectively in round-three.
The full list of results from today’s Grand Slam qualifier can be viewed below, with the draw expected to take place in the coming days.
Photo Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC
Qualifiers: James Wilson, Robbie Green, Joe Murnan, Alan Norris, Jeffrey de Zwaan, Darren Webster, Steve Lennon, Stephen Bunting