The first day
Not only Phil Taylor will end his career his year but another player as well. As he doesn't play on the Pro Tour any longer he didn't manage to qualify for the World Matchplay -he's sledded down in the Order of Merit on rank 24. Should he still be among the top 32 of the Order of Merit in December we will see him in the World Championship for a last time on the stage of the Alexandra Palace. You will know it by know - I am talking about Terry Jenkins. Jenkins to be sure was one of the most popular players in the PDC and as airs and graces are not his thing he probably was popular with his colleagues as well. His career was not very long - at least not compared with Taylor's career. He appeared in the PDC in 2002 and as he told at that time, he only did it because he enjoyed playing darts. He never won a singles PDC Major but he reached the final of the World Grand Prix in 2006, the finals of the World Matchplay, the Las Vegas Desert Classics and the Premier League in 2007 and the final of the Grand Slam in 2008. He didn't really like the Premier League, he felt it ruined his game - especially when you competed on the Pro Tour as well. You hadn't time for practice and where on the road all the time. He was not very successful in the World Championship: 2011 he reached his best result - the semi-finals. Beside he twice stood in the quarterfinals and four times the last 16. Jenkins won a few Pro Tour events the last one was a Players Championship in Barnsley 2015. Why he now decided to end his career I've no idea. Might be he only wanted to play for fun now and without to travel around such a lot.
This year the World Matchplay was opened by the match between Michael Smith and debutant Steve West and it was clear from the start West was the one in command of the match. Smith just couldn't keep up with him and it looked like he gave in quite early. In the end West won entertaining match despite Smith was surer on the doubles.
The second match between James Wade and Darren Webster was dramatic. Wade had a quite comfortable 6:2 lead but Webster is no player to give in and he kept fighting. Wade just couldn't get rid of him. The more pressure was on him the more difficult it seemed to be for Wade to stand the heat. At the 10:10 break I even wondered whether Wade would return on stage at all. But he returned and managed to win another leg. But Webster who experienced some double trouble near the end won in the end 13:11. At the moment luck seems to have left Wade despite quite good performances. In this match the averaged were almost the same and Wade was clearly better on the doubles. I am sure it will take him some time to recover from this defeat.
Next on stage were Gary Anderson and Christian Kist - another debutant. As Steve West Kist looked very well prepared and showed one of his best performances on the PDC stage. Anderson had some problems, experienced some double trouble as well. Both players threw a lot of 180s. In the end Anderson managed to win. In the interview he said he felt it had been a rather hard match. And he complained that not the reigning champion van Gerwen had to play this match on the first day of the tournament as usually but that he had been scheduled - something which had surprised me as well.
In the last of the matches a very colourful Peter Wright met James Wilson - another debutant - at the oche - another well prepared and quite solid playing debutant. Wright didn't play good. Especially at the start of the match most of his scores were far away from 100 and Wilson got an early lead. But Wright recovered a little bit and Wilson felt the pressure and missed a few doubles so Wright in the end survived the first round but it was the weakest match of the evening. Wright had no explanation for his disappointing performance especially as it had felt quite good in the practice room.
Without wanting to put my head to far above the parapet - I got the impression that those players who had taken part in the World Series of Darts over the last week and first had travelled to Shanghai from there to Las Vegas and back to England all looked a little bit tired. Might be they just had not the time to prepare properly.
It was an interesting first evening and I am looking forward to the next few days!