Michael van Gerwen begins his quest for a fifth World Grand Prix title against debutant Jamie Hughes on Sunday evening, as ‘The Green Machine’ bids to defend the Dublin title for the first time in his career.
Van Gerwen stormed to his first major televised title at this event in 2012, courtesy of a remarkable comeback win against Mervyn King, which proved to be the catalyst for the staggering dominance we have witnessed from him during the last seven or eight years.
He was beaten in a quarter-final classic by Dave Chisnall in 2013, but recovered to reclaim his title in 2014.
- MvG starts Dublin defence against Hughes
- World Grand Prix: Draw, results & schedule
Live World Grand Prix Darts
October 6, 2019, 7:00pm
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World Grand Prix on Sky Sports
|Sunday October 6||First Round x 8||Sky Sports Arena, 7pm|
|Monday October 7||First Round x 8||Sky Sports Action, 7pm|
|Tuesday October 8||Second Round x 4||Sky Sports Action & Main Event, 7pm|
|Wednesday October 9||Second Round x 4||Sky Sports Action & Main Event, 7pm|
|Thursday October 10||Quarter-Final x 4||Sky Sports Action, 7pm|
|Friday October 11||Semi-Final x 2||Sky Sports Action & Main Event, 7pm|
|Saturday October 12||Final||Sky Sports Action & Main Event, 8pm|
|+ Irish Matchplay Final from 7.15pm|
Despite this, his most eye-catching Dublin triumph came in 2016, when the Dutchman boasted a staggering tournament average of 99.46 in the double-start format – the highest in Grand Prix history.
Van Gerwen’s fourth triumph at the Citywest came 12 months ago and although he was not at his blistering best, he dropped just four sets en route to glory.
Yet while MVG’s Grand Prix career has been littered with euphoric highs, he has also suffered some heartbreaking defeats.
The three-time world champion came agonisingly close to retaining his title in 2015, losing out in a deciding-set epic to Robert Thornton, while he suffered a shock opening-round defeat to John Henderson in 2017 – one of the biggest upsets in the tournament’s history.
The World Grand Prix is the only major title Van Gerwen is yet to successfully defend and nobody has retained this title since Phil Taylor defeated Raymond van Barneveld in back-to-back finals in 2008 and 2009.
Van Gerwen made a flying start to 2019 – following up his third World Championship triumph by retaining his Masters and Premier League crowns.
Mardle on the set-play format
“Everything apart from the Worlds is leg-play. So again, more pressure is heaped on, because, ‘It’s the deciding leg of the set. This is huge, this is huge. Right, they’ve missed. I’ve got to get this.’ You’re just not relaxed because it’s set-play, and because it’s double-in, double-out. It just adds to the drama. It is drama-ridden.”
However, the world No 1 endured a surprising mid-season slump which culminated in another early exit at the World Matchplay.
Although he arrested his slide with back-to-back World Series titles down under, he has yet to return to his scintillating best, but will he rally in Dublin to retain his crown?
The main contenders
Van Gerwen enjoyed the early monopoly in major events this year, winning successive titles at the World Championship, Masters and Premier League.
Rob Cross secured his first major title since his extraordinary 2018 World Championship triumph, defeating Michael Smith to win the World Matchplay back in July.
World No 3 Daryl Gurney lifted the Grand Prix title in 2017 and having also lifted the Players Championship Finals last year, the Northern Irishman will be hoping to make it a hat-trick of TV titles in as many seasons.
Colin Lloyd on the World Grand Prix…
“It was interesting to see over the last few weeks that you’ve got some of the big guns – Wadey, Price and Gurney picking up events. They’re nice confidence-boosters as we go into – I call it the third biggest major on the calendar. I’ve always said the Worlds is the biggest, Matchplay second, Grand Prix third. “
Gary Anderson has yet to rediscover his best form since returning from an extended injury lay-off but ‘The Flying Scotsman’ is always a threat given his prodigious ability and the same applies to Michael Smith.
‘Bully Boy’ has made the final of the Premier League, World Championship and World Matchplay over the last 18 months but he is still searching for his elusive first major televised title.
Peter Wright will be aiming to go one better after losing out to Van Gerwen in last year’s showpiece, while Grand Slam champion Gerwyn Price bids to progress beyond the quarter-finals in Dublin for the first time in his career.
Wright on his self-belief
“I believe I can go and win them all, but there’s some quality players out there in your way. If Michael [Van Gerwen] and Gary [Anderson] can go up there and do things like that; I know those guys are special but I believe I am special too.”
Two-time champion James Wade has not won a game at this event since reaching the final in 2014 but having won a career-equalling high of five ranking titles in 2019, ‘The Machine’ heads to Dublin in confident mood.
Mensur Suljovic has reached the semi-finals at the Citywest in three of the last four years, while Nathan Aspinall is one of just three players to win an individual major televised title in 2019.
There will be six debutants featuring in this year’s field and five of those also made their World Matchplay debuts at the Winter Gardens back in July.
Three-time BDO world champion Glen Durrant headlines the list of newcomers, having enjoyed a superb debut year on the PDC circuit.
‘Duzza’ reached the World Matchplay semi-finals courtesy of victories over Adrian Lewis, Van Gerwen and James Wade and he will be bidding to produce a similar showing.
Hughes on his Dublin debut
“It’s basically like a Pro Tour, you’ve got to win six legs. That’s the way I’m looking at it. It’s quite a short format. If I can hit the ground running, getting into it early hopefully, I can cause a big upset.”
UK Open champion Aspinall, who also won this year’s US Darts Masters, makes his first appearance in the double-start event alongside former World Master Krzysztof Ratajski, who clinched his sixth PDC title last weekend.