2019 Grand Slam Preview (Groups A & B).
It's time for the annual showdown between the sports premier organisations - the BDO & the PDC, and this year's Grand Slam of Darts features what can only be described as an eclectic group of competitors. From Rod Harrington's son, to two giants of the women's game and a PDC player representing the BDO, this year's tournament has it all. Here, I'll take a look at what I think you can expect to see from the first two groups at this year's tournament, as well as predicting the two players who will make it through from each to the last 16.

Group A (Michael van Gerwen, Adrian Lewis, Ross Smith & Jim Williams)
Group A is interesting because it features one dominant darting force of nature, and then three players probably as good as each other on any given day who will have to fight amongst themselves for the one remaining qualification spot. Also, Group A represents the BDO's best chance of getting somebody through to the knockout round of the first four groups (spoiler alert). 

Michael van Gerwen is, well, Michael van Gerwen. 3-time World Champion, 2x UK Open Champion, 2x World Matchplay Champion, 5x World Grand Prix Champion and 3x winner of this very tournament, there's nothing in the game of darts that Mighty Mike hasn't won. Simply put, he is the best player in the whole world right now, and he's winning this group. He won't win it with a leg difference of +15 simply because the other three players are of an above average standard, but I'd be shocked if he dropped a game in this group. Michael gets 6 points and advances to the last 16. 

Next up in Group A is two-time PDC World Champion and two-time Grand Slam semi-finalist, Adrian Lewis. Jackpot is back in the Grand Slam having come through Monday's qualifier, and it's a sign of the times for Lewis who is coming back into a little bit of form after spending a year or two in the darting doldrums. Up to No.15 in the PDC rankings, and a winner on the Players Championship circuit in 2019, things are continuing to look up for the Stoke thrower as he makes his return to the Grand Slam stage after missing out on the 2017 & 2018 editions of the tournament, and I fancy him to make good on his return. He'll have to be careful against two capable competitors in Smith & Williams, and I think he loses to van Gerwen. Still, I think if Lewis plays anything like his level, he gets the 4 points that should see him through to the last 16. 

Another player to come through the PDC qualifier on Monday is Ross Smith, who, it has to be said, is something of an indifferent player. Smith is someone who plays with a chip on his shoulder big enough to suggest that he should be a five-time World Champion, and yet he rarely ever displays the level required. Good on his day, over the course of a three-game group, I don't think he has the consistency required to advance any further. He's done well to qualify, but I don't even fancy him to beat Jim Williams. 0 points for Smudger. 

Speaking of Jim Williams, he's the BDO representative who makes up Group A, and I like what he's about. A determined Welshman who's won three tournaments in the BDO this year and is their current No.3, I don't think there's any doubt that Williams can play darts. Williams is making his second appearance in the competition, having gone out in the group stage in last year's event (but not without beating German star Max Hopp with a 101+ average in his last group game), and this year he managed to pick up his first BDO major when he beat fellow Grand Slam entrant Richard Veenstra to win the World Trophy. As much as I like Williams, his draw is a shame. Grouped with two former (and one current) PDC World Champions, I just don't see Williams quite having enough to finish in the top two. I think he beats Smith, but 2 points is all I can see him picking up this year. 

Group A Table
Michael van Gerwen - 6 
Adrian Lewis - 4 
Jim Williams - 2 
Ross Smith - 0


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Group B (James Wade, Ian White, Steve Lennon & Wesley Harms)

Group B contains a former two-time Grand Slam finalist and 9-time PDC major winner in James Wade, the BDO No.1 in Wesley Harms, a consistent force of nature in PDC floor tournaments in Ian White, and an Irishman in Steve Lennon. And honestly, whatever I predict to happen is probably as likely to happen as the exact opposite of what I predict. It's just one of those groups. The cream should rise in Group B, but there's always a chance it might not. 

Talking of cream rising, the seed in this group is James Wade. A model of consistency, Wade has appeared in every staging of the Grand Slam since it's inception back in 2007, and suffered a shock defeat to Scott Waites back in the 2010 final as Waites became the only BDO player to ever win the Grand Slam of Darts, which is still accurate today. His other final appearance came back in 2016, where he was beaten by MvG. Still, 2019 has been some year for The Machine off of the back of winning two tournaments in late 2018. Wade has captured five tournaments so far in 2019, but has yet to win one on TV. This could be where he changes that, because Wade is the kind of player suited to a group format where he can afford a below-par performance, but I believe that below-par performance is what stops him from topping this group. I predict 4 points for Wade this time around, and I'll explain why in a second. 

Ian White is the reason why. Something of a polar opposite of Ross Smith in the previous group, White is a player who exhibits all the tools needed to be a world-beating darts player, and yet he's (somewhat astonishingly) never been past the quarter-final stage of a PDC Major. And even more astonishingly, I could hardly believe it when I learnt that in his three previous Grand Slam appearances, he's failed to get out of his group a single time. That's an amazingly bad record that made me re-think my original prediction, but I fancy 2019 to be the year The Diamond turns his Grand Slam record around in style. White qualified for the Grand Slam after winning two Euro Tour events this year, and it's that kind of form that has me predicting that he wins this Grand Slam group. I think he's a far more consistent player than Lennon & Harms, and his match with Wade is a pick 'em contest that I've sided with White for. Therefore, I think he takes six points out of six in Group B. He might get 0, but he should get 6. 

Steve Lennon is another one of those sound darts players who's done some good things in his relatively short time on the pro circuit. Competing in his second Grand Slam event, Lennon arrives in Wolverhampton a World Cup finalist in 2019 (where Ireland lost 3-1 to Peter Wright & Gary Anderson of Scotland), a run that secured both he and his partner William O'Connor's qualification for this event. Still, results haven't been all that brilliant for Lennon in 2019, and I think he'll have to go some if he's to qualify out of this difficult looking group. He'll get 2 points, but I don't see him beating any two of the other three players in Group B. Third place for Lennon. 

Lastly, we have the BDO No.1. There's no doubting that Wesley Harms is a very good darts player, 7 tournament wins in 2019 alone will tell you all you need to know. But the fact remains that those are BDO tournaments, where the overall standard just isn't quite at the level it is on the PDC side. And Harms does have some previous form in the Grand Slam, he's gotten past the group stage twice (once in 2012 where he lost to RvB, and then again last year where he lost to Gary Anderson), and has beaten some good players to do so. I just, don't know. I don't know how good BDO darts is in 2019, and that's why I can't see Sparky getting anything out of three very good PDC players. Plus, the Dutchman has never been into a BDO major final in his whole career on the circuit. A worrying stat for a player considered to be the best the organisation has to offer. I don't think he gets battered 5-0 every game, but I don't think he wins one either. Maybe this will be the pick I'll regret most given Ian White's dreadful previous and Steve Lennon's inconsistency, but I'm giving Harms nothing here. 0 points, and another BDO hopeful goes home. 

Group B Table
Ian White - 6 
James Wade - 4 
Steve Lennon - 2 
Wesley Harms - 0


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So, there you have it. Two groups down, and two BDO competitors heading home. Michael van Gerwen vs James Wade & Adrian Lewis vs Ian White are the first two last-16 ties that I have set, but there's always a chance I could be massively mistaken. What do you guys think? Will either of the two BDO guys show up? Will Wade win his group? Are you expecting an MvG procession in Group A like I am? Let me know in the comments below, and thank you for reading my ramblings once again!
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