When it comes to the World Grand Prix – expect the unexpected. The short format in the early rounds combined with the unique double-start concept is conducive for upsets and so it has proved in 2020.

Michael van Gerwen and Gerwyn Price are the sole survivors as six of the eight seeds crashed out in the opening round, including world champion Peter Wright and former Grand Prix winners James Wade and Daryl Gurney.

The Premier League quartet of Michael Smith, Rob Cross, Nathan Aspinall and Glen Durrant also bowed out, which has presented several players with the opportunity to enjoy a major big-stage breakthrough.

Opportunity knocks throughout the field but particularly in the bottom half of the draw, with world No 3 Price the only remaining representative to have lifted a major title.

  • World Grand Prix 2020: Draw, results & schedule

The Welshman’s Grand Prix record will be a source of encouragement for his rivals, however – ‘The Iceman’ has failed to go beyond the quarter-finals in his previous five appearances.

One of the players bidding to make his mark at Coventry’s Ricoh Arena is Joe Cullen, who produced an impressive display to topple 2017 champion Gurney in his opener and followed up to win a thriller against Jonny Clayton on Friday night.

“It doesn’t matter who you play. Obviously there are favourable draws and there aren’t favourable draws, but with the double-start I think everyone stands a massive chance,” Cullen told Sky Sports.

“You saw a perfect example on Wednesday night – who would have predicted Ryan Joyce to beat Peter Wright? Ryan got away nearly every single time first or second dart and it just piles pressure and obviously it told for Peter in the end.”

Cullen impressed throughout his victory over Gurney – averaging 92, landing four maximums and boasting an impressive 44 per cent conversion rate on the outer ring, as he defied a late rally to record his eighth win over the Northern Irishman in 11 attempts.

It was a similar story against Clayton. Having roared out of the traps, Cullen withstood a brilliant fightback from good friend Clayton to get over the line in a last leg decider. Again his finishing and scoring were on point.

The 31-year-old had only registered the solitary victory in his previous four World Grand Prix appearances, but it’s been a case of fine margins.

“I felt like I was in control for the whole game, but it was a little bit similar to when Michael [van Gerwen] played Krzysztof [Ratajski] on Night One. Michael was controlling the game but Krzysztof just hung in there, similar to Daryl,” added Cullen.

“I don’t think I’ve played horrendously to be honest. A couple of years ago I lost to Ron Meulenkamp which was a decent draw on paper, it was a couple of crucial darts here and there and I missed darts in the third set – I remember it and that would have been game over.

“It was similar with Simon [Whitlock], similar with Ian [White]. I don’t think I’ve ever got ironed out convincingly, it’s just one of them. Daryl could have ended up nicking that and it would have been back to square one.”

The Grand Prix is renowned for providing unheralded players with their opportunity in the spotlight. Brendan Dolan emerged from relative obscurity to reach the final back in 2011, while Robert Thornton famously scooped his second PDC major as a rank outsider in 2015.

Speaking on the Darts Show podcast, former world champion Keith Deller and 2004 Grand Prix winner Colin Lloyd gave their thoughts on the multitude of surprise exits, and Lloyd believes Cullen possesses the necessary tools to challenge for major honours.

“If you look at the bottom half of the draw now, you would say Chisnall vs Price could be a semi-final but the way it’s going, maybe not,” said Deller.

“The good thing is now it’s best of five sets. They’re going to be a little bit more relaxed now knowing if they lose the first set they’ve still got to lose another two.”

“This event is an equaliser in the fact you’ve got to get a double away. It’s not just about scoring as heavy as you can and hit the double to win, you’ve got to get the double away.” added Lloyd.

“Joe played lovely against Daryl Gurney. The way Joe throws, when that arm goes right through and there’s that little bit of snap about it, he was banging that treble 20. The 32 he was hitting like a dream.”

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Cullen is no stranger to the latter stages of televised events. He lost out to eventual champion Gary Anderson in a thrilling World Matchplay quarter-final back in 2018, before succumbing to Whitlock in the European Championship semi-finals just months later.

The Yorkshireman has scooped three PDC ranking titles to date – his European Darts Matchplay triumph over Van Gerwen the obvious highlight – although for a player of such prodigious ability, he will feel he’s yet to fulfil his potential on the biggest stage.

‘The Rockstar’ began the year ranked inside the world’s top 16 but has since slipped to 21st, having been a victim of his 2018 success and the two-year rolling Order of Merit. Nevertheless, this represents a genuine opportunity to get back to where he belongs.

“I think I’m one of the people that has struggled the most in regards to rankings because I was No 14 at the start of the year and two years ago I had my best year,” Cullen continued.

“Everyone is in the same boat, so I’m sure if I can string a few more good performances together I can rocket back up the rankings.”

Cullen on a potential Top 16 return

“Obviously this year I’m defending all that but I’m not given the chance to defend it. It’s nobody’s fault, it’s taken out of other people’s hands.

“There’s nothing that can be done about it so there’s me and ironically Jonny Clayton who was in the top 16 – we had good years two years ago and we’re suffering this year because of it.

“Everyone is in the same boat, so I’m sure if I can string a few more good performances together I can rocket back up the rankings.”

Darts is back on Sky Sports throughout October with the World Grand Prix and the Premier League Play-Offs. Follow us @SkySportsDarts to stay up to date with all the news.

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