World Matchplay 2017 - 2

Only Darts
The second World Matchplay day was the first really sunny and warm day I had in Blackpool this year. On Friday when I arrived it was raining cats and dogs and arrived very wet in my accommodation. On Saturday it was still overcast and rather windy which I regrettable only realised when I returned from a long walk along the beach to Fleetwood - I had to walk against the wind. And I already had thought I was really fit when I walked easily a long distance with the wind. On Sunday morning the sun was already shining when I got up and it still shone after breakfast when I disappeared in the catacombs of the Winter Gardens. What a pity! Hopefully it would shine again on Monday when I had the ton enjoy it while I would pass the whole Sunday in the artificial light of the press room.

The afternoon session of Sunday was filled with matches which at the first view didn't look too interesting and in which none of the really top players took part and really after the session three of the seeded players were eliminated from the tournament. The first of those was Jelle Klaasen. Might be his wrist injury is not yet completely cured - he definitely didn't show the kind of performance we did see from him before the surgery. Justin Pipe used this to his advantage. It was not great performance from both players neither looking at the averages nor at the hitting rates of the doubles but Pipe won deservedly 10:5.

The match between Cristo Reyes and Robert Thornton followed - Thornton tried hard but Reyes at the moment just is too strong, almost brilliant and so the match was rather one sided and Reyes win never in danger. The match was commentated by John Gwynne who had come over from Manchester for the afternoon session. Should Reyes go on playing like this he will be a problem for many players.

Next on was the hard fought match between Benito van de Pas and Daryl Gurney and it was a thrilling match. First Gurney was the stronger player but later on it was advantage van de Pas but he couldn't hinder Gurney managed to level 9:9 and later won the two legs necessary for the win while van de Pas couldn't hit the winning double. Looking at the averages Gurney's win was fair and the hitting rate on the doubles was far from good by both of the players. Gurney will have to improve should he want to progress.

The final match of the afternoon was the match between Mensur Suljovic and John Henderson - again commentated by John Gwynne - which turned out to be very one sided and far from thrilling. Henderson had a very slow start. Suljovic had no problem at all to win in the end with 10:4. A solid match from the Austrian but far from great.

John Gwynne said good-bye in the break and went on to a cricket dinner. The press room got empty while the sky sport crew got dinner in the hall beside the press room - I think it was salmon.the tension grew and the question was discussed which chances Phil Taylor had to survive the first round - without result. Everybody talked about how emotional Taylor was and wondered how Price would react to the deafening support for Taylor. Of course the session was sold out.

When I left the press room to take some pictures of the first evening match between Mervyn King and Dave Chisnall King entered the press room. I have nod idea why but I thought it was a little bit late. On the VIP gallery Gerwyn Price talked completely relaxed to Kyle Anderson, it didn't look he was too nervous before his match against Taylor.

Than the evening session started, King was back in time for his walk-on. King might be didn't play really high class but he could keep up with Chisnall for a long time. At some time during the 18. Leg one of King's darts fell to the ground and when King picked it up you could see he felt some pain in his back - the match was over for him at this point. But it was 9:7 for Chisnall anyway and I think King wouldn't have a chance to win it.

And than finally the match all had waited for - Phil Taylor's final World Matchplay campaign started. As it turned out the match against Gerwyn Price would not be the last one on the Blackpool stage. Taylor was in a hurry to begin the match and started to throw his practice darts already while his walk-on music still was on. No time for small talk with his opponent of the officials either. This to be sure was serious. Till the 5:5 the players were head to head. Price played quite well and even threw as an answer to Taylor's 151 a 170 finish. But he just couldn't hit anything any longer and Taylor moved away as well thanks to his clinical finishing. Taylor won 10:5 and. I am not sure he really was content but at least he got rid of the first hurdle.

Already in the following match between Joe Cullen and Raymond van Barneveld it was decided who would be Taylor's next opponent. The Dutchman had the better start into the match but finally Cullen was wide awake and managed to get closer but he failed to level or to get in front as he had some problems to hit his doubles. Van Barneveld survived 10:8 - with a little bit of luck.

Between the van Barneveld v Cullen match it look like some of the crowd had left the venue and before the final match definitely a lot of people had left. While the Walk-on and around the stage it was crowded during Taylor's walk-on it now during the Huybrechts v Henderson match there was a lot of room. To be sure Taylor had been the main attraction of the evening session.
Huybrechts lived up to his nickname "Hurricane" and Norris had no chance at all during the first three legs. But the hurricane was only short lived and soon over and Norris levelled why Huybrechts was off the boil. Only when it was far too late he managed to win a few more legs but couldn't hinder Norris to win and aga9in - as five times before - Huybrechts was eliminated first round of the World Matchplay. It didn't look to me Norris and Huybrechts were close friends, even before Huybrechts left the stage he talked to Norris and I didn't look it were friendly words.

After the long day of darts everybody wanted to get home as soon as possible. Outside it still was dry and even quite war and a colourful Blackpool Tower blinked over the quiet town.

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