Defending champion Gerwyn Price survived a huge scare on the opening day of the 2020 Grand Slam of Darts, edging out two-time women’s world champion Mikuru Suzuki in a dramatic deciding leg, after ‘The Miracle’ spurned four match darts to topple the world No 3.
Fresh from guiding Wales to a maiden World Cup of Darts crown last weekend, ‘The Iceman’ was a 1/20 favourite with the bookmakers prior to Monday night’s clash, having also defeated Suzuki 5-3 in last year’s group stage en route to his second consecutive Grand Slam crown.
Price endured a sluggish start and alarm bells started ringing when Suzuki produced a sensational 135 checkout on the bull to lead 3-2. The reigning champion responded with legs of 15 and 13 darts to regain the initiative, only for Suzuki to convert a nerveless 116 kill to force a decider.
The Japanese star had the advantage of throw in the decider and was first to a finish – wiring tops for a 110 clincher. Price then missed one match dart at the same target, only to be handed a reprieve, as Suzuki dropped low on tops, before wiring two darts at double 10 as she was denied a major scalp.
Price gratefully capitalised on his good fortune to get his bid for a third successive title off to a winning start, but he was full of praise for Suzuki’s valiant display. “I didn’t play well there at all. I was let off, fair play to Mikuru she was brilliant,” said Price.
“I started poorly and I was chasing the game from then on. I shouldn’t have done that given how I’ve been playing the last few weeks. Fair play to Mikuru for taking out two ton-plus checkouts to put me under pressure. I was lucky to get over the winning line but a win’s a win.”
The nine-day tournament began with a double session of action at the Ricoh Arena, and Price will now face his World Cup partner Jonny Clayton in his second Group C clash on Tuesday, after ‘The Ferret’ took out 116 in a deciding leg to defeat Ryan Joyce in a high-quality affair.
Michael van Gerwen put down a marker in his Group A opener against Adam Hunt, averaging 105.85 to dispatch the debutant in just eight minutes. His reward is a clash with Gabriel Clemens, who conjured up two ton-plus finishes to defeat Joe Cullen 5-2, in a match which saw both men average 99.
The performance of the day came from Dimitri Van den Bergh, who set a new tournament average of 114.85 and missed double 12 for a nine-darter in his 5-1 win over Ricky Evans in Group H. The Belgian lost the opening leg, before reeling off legs of 10, 12, 14, 12, 15 to create Grand Slam history.
The World Matchplay champion will now take on world No 6 Nathan Aspinall in what promises to be an enthralling tussle, after the Premier League finalist cruised to a whitewash win over BDO world champion Wayne Warren – making his first competitive appearance for nine months.
In Group E, world champion Peter Wright suffered a surprising defeat at the hands of World Grand Prix finalist Dirk van Duijvenbode, who continues his impressive rise. Elsewhere, Devon Petersen enjoyed a dream debut, landing six 180’s in a convincing 5-2 success over Ian White.
Having ended his title drought at the Winter Series, fourth seed Michael Smith kicked off his campaign with a 5-1 win over four-time women’s world champion Lisa Ashton, averaging 102.51 in the process. He’ll now play Jose De Sousa, who battled past Krzysztof Ratajski in a last-leg thriller.
Two-time Grand Slam finalist James Wade impressed in his opener against an in-form Damon Heta, averaging 102.44 and converting 71% of his doubles. ‘The Machine’ now meets Jermaine Wattimena in Group F, after the Dutchman breezed past an off-colour Glen Durrant 5-1.
In Group B, Gary Anderson’s angry post-match interview generated most of the headlines , but the Scot kicked off proceedings with a scrappy 5-3 win over 18-year-old debutant Adam Gawlas. Anderson now plays a resurgent Simon Whitlock, who overcame Ryan Searle by the same scoreline.
Rob Cross is in command of Group D after breezing past Justin Pipe 5-1 in the tournament’s curtain-raiser. The fifth seed produced a professional display to set up a showdown against former finalist Dave Chisnall, who survived match darts in beating World Youth champion Luke Humphries.
Tuesday’s second group matches see Monday’s winning players face off and the losing players also meet, before the final games in the round-robin stage take place across Wednesday and Thursday.
Image Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC
BoyleSports Grand Slam of Darts
Monday November 16
8x Group matches
Rob Cross 5-1 Justin Pipe (D)
Dave Chisnall 5-4 Luke Humphries (D)
James Wade 5-2 Damon Heta (F)
Simon Whitlock 5-3 Ryan Searle (B)
Jermaine Wattimena 5-1 Glen Durrant (F)
Nathan Aspinall 5-0 Wayne Warren (H)
Dimitri Van den Bergh 5-1 Ricky Evans (H)
Gary Anderson 5-3 Adam Gawlas (B)
8x Group matches
Jonny Clayton 5-4 Ryan Joyce (G)
Gabriel Clemens 5-2 Joe Cullen (A)
Jose de Sousa 5-4 Krzysztof Ratajski (C)
Michael Smith 5-1 Lisa Ashton (C)
Michael van Gerwen 5-0 Adam Hunt (A)
Gerwyn Price 5-4 Mikuru Suzuki (G)
Dirk van Duijvenbode 5-4 Peter Wright (E)
Devon Petersen 5-2 Ian White (E)
Tuesday November 17
Afternoon Session (1300 GMT)
8x Group matches
Ricky Evans v Wayne Warren (H)
Luke Humphries v Justin Pipe (D)
Ryan Searle v Adam Gawlas (B)
Glen Durrant v Damon Heta (F)
Gary Anderson v Simon Whitlock (B)
James Wade v Jermaine Wattimena (F)
Rob Cross v Dave Chisnall (D)
Nathan Aspinall v Dimitri Van den Bergh (H)
Evening Session (1900 GMT)
8x Group matches
Krzysztof Ratajski v Lisa Ashton (C)
Joe Cullen v Adam Hunt (A)
Ryan Joyce v Mikuru Suzuki (G)
Peter Wright v Ian White (E)
Devon Petersen v Dirk van Duijvenbode (E)
Michael van Gerwen v Gabriel Clemens (A)
Gerwyn Price v Jonny Clayton (G)
Michael Smith v Jose De Sousa (C)