After a surprise return to form last year, Raymond van Barneveld will try to defend his title at the 2013 William Hill Grand Slam of Darts with his confidence in a better spot this time around.
He will have to be in good form to hold off this field. With the likes of Phil Taylor and Michael van Gerwen, the competition at the Wolverhampton Civic Hall from Nov. 9 to Nov. 17 figures to be intense and of the highest quality.
Here is how the balance of power will play out in this 32-man tournament.
No. 3: Raymond van Barneveld
When he entered this tournament last year, it had been five years since van Barneveld claimed a major individual title. He beat fellow Dutch competitor Michael van Gerwen, 16-14, in the final to end that drought.
The five-time world champ is in better form heading into this tournament. He enters this event fresh off of a run to the semifinals of The Masters last weekend.
In that run, he beat van Gerwen and Dave Chisnall.
Van Barneveld noted the boost to his confidence that the run gave him, per Sportsmole's Darren Plant:
I played really well in Scotland and it has given me a real confidence boost.
Confidence is very important in this game. You only have to look at last year when I won the Grand Slam. That gave me belief in myself again and I haven't done too badly since then.
My self-belief has increased again from The Masters. Not only from beating Michael, but also Dave Chisnall, who has been playing very well, and I gave Adrian Lewis a very tough game in the semi-final.
He gave Lewis all he could handle. The two battled in a classic showdown:
Van Barneveld has the form to make a deep run, and his consistency has improved over the past year. Still, he can't be ranked over our next top contenders.
No. 2: Michael van Gerwen
After coming up one match shy of this title a year ago, van Gerwen has his eyes sets on the top spot this year:
To pull that off, he will have to be in better form than he was last week, when he fell in the quarterfinals in Edinburgh.
While the loss came earlier than he is accustomed to, it is not all that concerning. The 24-year-old has been in fine form this year.
He made the final of the Championship of Darts at the end of October, and he won the Sydney Masters in August.
Grouped with Mervyn King, Tony O'Shea and Ricky Evans, van Gerwen has no major obstacles in getting off to a hot start. It would be a surprise if he didn't make it to at least the semifinal of this event.
No. 1: Phil Taylor
Four-time Grand Slam of Darts champion and reigning PDC World Champion Phil Taylor heads up Group A. With former Players Championship Finals winners Kevin Painter and Paul Nicholson, along with Stuart Kellett, this group promises to be the most intense one in this competition.
However, if one player can tackle that group, it is Taylor.
"The Power" certainly got of to a strong start:
The result is not shocking. Taylor has been as good as ever in his lead-up to this event. He won his last two events, The Masters and the Championship of Darts, and he was unbeatable in last week's final:
He will have his sights set on a bit of redemption in this event. Last year, van Gerwen eliminated him in just the second round.
My money, and apparently nearly everyone else's, is on Taylor making a far deeper run this time around.