MICHAEL VAN GERWEN is bidding to claim his maiden SINGHA Beer Grand Slam of Darts title in Wolverhampton next week – but will have reigning champion Phil Taylor and debutants Stephen Bunting and Alan Norris amongst his rivals in the £400,000 event.

PDC World Champion and world number one van Gerwen enjoyed a golden October as he won the World Grand Prix, European Championship and a Players Championship during a superb month.

Although he was a semi-final loser to Mervyn King in last week’s Masters event in Edinburgh, the 25-year-old is the pre-tournament favourite and top seed going into the Grand Slam of Darts, which is being held at the Wolves Civic from November 8-16 and screened live on Sky Sports.

Van Gerwen kicks off his challenge on Saturday against Wildcard Qualifier Darren Webster, and has also draw Belgian Kim Huybrechts and fellow Dutchman Jan Dekker in Group A.

“It’s a great tournament and it’s a massive target of mine to win it,” said van Gerwen, who lost in the 2012 final to Raymond van Barneveld. “The venue is one I really enjoy and you always get brilliant fans in Wolverhampton.

“My form is good at the moment. It was disappointing not to win The Masters last weekend but I am now fully focused on the Grand Slam of Darts.

“The first round is best of nine legs so it’s a very short format, but if I can keep up the form that I’ve had over the last month then there is a good chance I can do well.”

Another player travelling to the Wolves Civic in top form is James Wade, who hit a nine-darter on his way to the World Grand Prix final before claiming his first major TV title for over three years last weekend at The Masters.

His run to the final included wins over Brendan Dolan, Adrian Lewis and Phil Taylor before he came from 9-2 down to win 11-10 against Mervyn King in the decider.

“Everything’s good at the moment,” said Wade, who opens Group G against Jamie Caven and will also meet King and Tony O’Shea in the round-robin phase. “People keep saying that I’m nearly back to my best, but watch me at the moment.

“In the quarter-finals and semi-finals last week I think I was pretty good. They were both 105 averages and I don’t think many players could do that two games in a row, especially against the players I played, Adrian Lewis and Phil Taylor.

“I don’t mean to reel off stats and once upon a time I wouldn’t have done that, but I’m learning a little more self-confidence and I’m not embarrassed to put out there that I averaged 105 and that I’m proud of myself.”

Reigning Grand Slam of Darts champion and bookies favourite Phil Taylor kicks off his challenge to win a sixth Wolves Civic title against youngster Richie George on Saturday, with Andy Hamilton and Christian Kist also in Group E.

“I love the Grand Slam and can’t wait to get back there,” said Taylor. “Last year’s win was fantastic and it would be brilliant to win back the trophy – but it will be very tough.

“You’ve got to be on your game in the Group Stage because the games are short, but if you can get through that you can relax in the second round with the longer format.”

The tournament’s number three seed Stephen Bunting is making his debut in the Grand Slam of Darts after winning the Lakeside Championship title in January.

The St Helens ace kicks off his challenge against Holland’s Wesley Harms on Saturday and will also meet Gary Anderson and Dean Winstanley in a tough Group H, but said: “I can’t wait for the event.

“I went along last year to watch and I’m really looking forward to getting there, getting on stage and hopefully having a really good tournament.

“I’m playing well at the moment and I fancy my chances – but there are so many great players in the event. No matter who you get, you’ve got to play to the best of your ability but I know I’ve got the game to beat any player.”

Bunting had seen off Alan Norris to win the Lakeside Championship title, with the Yeovil-born, Scottish based BDO number two also set to make his Grand Slam of Darts debut this week.

Norris faces Ronny Huybrechts, nine-time major finalist Terry Jenkins and 2010 Grand Slam of Darts champion Scott Waites in Group B, and said: “I’ve watched the Grand Slam for a few years and I think the atmosphere down there is going to be electric.

“It’s a bit more closed in, a bit more of a cauldron feeling, and it’s going to be pretty exciting.

“I’ve been doing the BDO a circuit for a while so it will be like playing an exhibition match against some of your darting heroes. I’m really looking forward to locking horns with them, it’s going to be good.

“I’ve had a good year. I’ve won about six tournaments on the circuit and gone up the rankings, my form’s good and I’m happy.”

Saturday afternoon’s opening session features the first group games for Groups A-D, including 2012 champion Raymond van Barneveld up against Robbie Green and their Group D rivals Robert Thornton and Vincent van der Voort clashing.

Adrian Lewis, who lost a classic semi-final with Taylor last year, opens up against Austrian youngster Rowby-John Rodriguez in Group C, with Dave Chisnall taking on World Youth Champion Keegan Brown.

Saturday’s evening session sees Groups E-H take to the Wolves Civic stage, with reigning champion Taylor’s meeting with youngster George preceded by the clash between 2007 finalist Andy Hamilton and former Lakeside Champion Christian Kist.

A heavyweight Group F sees number seven seed Peter Wright open up against Brendan Dolan and Simon Whitlock face former World Youth Champion Michael Smith.

Wade’s Group G clash with Wildcard Qualifier Jamie Caven is preceded by Mervyn King’s meeting with Tony O’Shea, while Bunting’s duel with Harms is accompanied in Group H by Anderson facing Winstanley.

Sunday will see all eight groups play their second matches, with the winning players from Saturday’s games facing each other and the losers also doing battle.

Groups A-D will complete the round-robin stage on Monday night, with Groups E-H playing their final games on Tuesday. The top two players from each group progress to the knockout stages from the second round onwards, with the semi-finals and final taking place on Sunday November 16.

* Tickets for the SINGHA Beer Grand Slam of Darts can be purchase from the Wolves Civic Box Office by calling 0870 320 7000, online at www.wolvescivic.co.uk or in person.

SINGHA Beer Grand Slam of Darts

Saturday November 8
Afternoon Session (1pm-5pm)
Groups A-D First Matches
Kim Huybrechts v Jan Dekker (A)
Scott Waites v Terry Jenkins (B)
Robert Thornton v Vincent van der Voort (D)
Alan Norris v Ronny Huybrechts (B)
Dave Chisnall v Keegan Brown (C)
Michael van Gerwen v Darren Webster (A)
Raymond van Barneveld v Robbie Green (D)
Adrian Lewis v Rowby-John Rodriguez (C)

Evening Session (7pm-11pm)
Groups E-H First Matches
Andy Hamilton v Christian Kist (E)
Stephen Bunting v Wesley Harms (H)
Mervyn King v Tony O’Shea (G)
Peter Wright v Brendan Dolan (F)
Gary Anderson v Dean Winstanley (H)
Phil Taylor v Richie George (E)
Simon Whitlock v Michael Smith (F)
James Wade v Jamie Caven (G)

Sunday November 9
Afternoon Session (1.30pm-5.30pm)
Groups A-D Second Matches
Saturday’s winning players face each other, and the losing players face each other.

Evening Session (7pm-11pm)
Groups E-H Second Matches
Saturday’s winning players face each other, and the losing players face each other.

Monday November 10 (7pm-11pm)
Groups A-D Final Matches

Tuesday November 11 (7pm-11pm)
Groups E-H Final Matches

Wednesday November 12 (7pm-11pm)
4x Second Round Matches
Winner Group A v Runner-Up B
Winner Group B v Runner-Up A
Winner Group C v Runner-Up D
Winner Group D v Runner-Up C

Thursday November 13 (7pm-11pm)
4x Second Round Matches
Winner Group E v Runner-Up F
Winner Group F v Runner-Up E
Winner Group G v Runner-Up H
Winner Group H v Runner-Up G

Friday November 14 (7pm-11pm)
2x Quarter-Finals

Saturday November 15 (7pm-11pm)
2x Quarter-Finals

Sunday November 16
Afternoon Session (1pm-5pm)

Evening Session (7pm-9pm)

The schedule of play for Sunday November 9 onwards will be confirmed on www.pdc.tv once finalised, following the completion of the relevant previous session.

Group Matches – Best of nine legs
Second Round – Best of 19 legs
Quarter-Finals – Best of 31 legs
Semi-Finals – Best of 31 legs
Final – Best of 31 legs
There is no tie-break in any game.
The top two players from each group progress to the knockout phase from the Second Round onwards.
In the Group Stage, two points are awarded for a win. Any ties for places in each Group will be split by Points Won and then Leg Difference, with the potential for a Nine-Dart Shoot-Out should two or more players be tied for Points and Leg Difference.

Prize Fund
Winner £100,000
Runner-Up £50,000
Semi-Final Losers £25,000
Quarter-Final Losers £15,000
Second Round Losers £7,500
Group Winner’s Bonus £2,500
Third Place in Group £5,000
Fourth Place in Group £2,500
Total £400,000

Pre-Tournament Odds
Courtesy of 666Bet
7/4 Michael van Gerwen
9/4 Phil Taylor
9/1 James Wade
12/1 Adrian Lewis
12/1 Gary Anderson
20/1 Stephen Bunting
25/1 Raymond van Barneveld
28/1 Dave Chisnall
33/1 Peter Wright
33/1 Mervyn King
40/1 Simon Whitlock
40/1 Robert Thornton
40/1 Michael Smith
40/1 Terry Jenkins
50/1 Kim Huybrechts
66/1 Scott Waites
66/1 Alan Norris
66/1 Brendan Dolan
80/1 Jamie Caven
100/1 Andy Hamilton
125/1 Dean Winstanley
125/1 Vincent Van Der Voort
125/1 Christian Kist
125/1 Robbie Green
125/1 Wesley Harms
150/1 Darren Webster
200/1 Keegan Brown
200/1 Ronny Huybrechts
200/1 Tony O’Shea
200/1 Jan Dekker
250/1 Rowby-John Rodriguez
500/1 Richie George
Odds courtesy www.666Bet.com and subject to fluctuation.

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