TAYLOR SETS UP ROYAL APPOINTMENT IN SINGHA BEER GRAND SLAM OF DARTS SEMIS
PHIL TAYLOR and Mervyn King will meet in the semi-finals of the SINGHA Beer Grand Slam of Darts after they powered past Michael Smith and Stephen Bunting at the Wolves Civic on Saturday night.
Reigning champion Taylor crushed Smith 13-3 with a dominant performance as he continued his bid for a sixth Wolverhampton triumph in relentless fashion.
Smith shared the game's opening six legs, but had no answer to three 11-dart legs, four 180s, two 177s and a brace of 174 scores from Taylor as the Stoke great won an incredible 13 successive legs.
Smith landed a 180 as he took the opening leg, and after Taylor won the next three the former World Youth Champion finished 71 and double ten to hit back to level.
Taylor, though, fired in an 11-dart leg to move back ahead and followed a Smith 180 with a maximum of his own to set up double 12, before landing a 174 and double eight to lead 6-3.
Taylor landed another 11-darter as he moved 9-3 up, defied a Smith maximum to claim his seventh successive leg and then took out 114 for an 11-3 cushion.
Finishes of double two and double three from Taylor sandwiched a 13-darter as Taylor continued his charge, with Smith missing the bull for a 164 checkout but unable to hit back.
A superb 126 finish moved Taylor 15-3 up, and he then sealed victory on double 16 in the next leg.
"I'm really happy because I'm in the semis and I'm playing well," said Taylor. "I wasn't going to let Michael off the hook, even when I got to 14 or 15 legs because he can fight back. I was surprised that Michael threw a few lazy darts but his mindset wasn't right tonight. He said to me that he kept snatching his darts and I think that's pure pressure, but he'll learn from it and he'll be a stronger player. It will be a different kettle of fish in the semis against Mervyn because he's on a high and he's doing brilliantly at present."
Taylor's preparations for the Grand Slam have included daily visits to his mother in hospital in Stoke, but he believes that playing in the event has been a welcome distraction.
"It's given me some escapism from what's going on back home," he added. "It's well-documented what's going on with my mother, and when I'm here I just don't think about it.
"It's been a massive inspiration for me, and if I win it I'll be taking the trophy to her at midnight on Sunday!"
King, meanwhile, won through to the semi-finals in Wolverhampton for the first time since 2008 with a 16-9 defeat of Bunting in another clinical performance.
After King shared the opening legs, he edged into a lead which he would never lose by taking out double six and then breaking on 76 to lead 3-1.
Bunting finished 76 to hit back, but King took out 122 on his way to a 5-2 lead, and though the St Helens ace hit back on double 16 he was unable to land the bull in the ninth to cut the gap to one leg as his rival edged out to 6-3.
The next three legs went with throw before Bunting again missed his chance to reduce the gap to one leg, hitting a 180 but being unable to land darts at double 16 and eight as King stepped in with a 124 bullseye finish.
Double eight saw Bunting hit back, but King took out 50, 64 and 100 - in a leg which featured two 180s - as he pulled clear at 11-6.
Bunting landed two 14-darters to King's one as he reduced the gap to 12-8, only to miss double 16 in the next leg as the recent Masters runner-up finished double four and another 14-darter to lead 14-8.
Six missed doubles from King in the next allowed Bunting to hit back on double ten with his ninth leg, but he was left waiting on 32 in the next as King took out 72 before he posted a ninth 180 and double 16 for a 13-darter to seal victory in style.
The result means that King has been a semi-finalist in three successive televised majors, at the European Championship, Masters and in Wolverhampton, where he previously reached the last four in 2008.
"The last couple of months have been quite surreal," said King. I've not been playing any different but I've been getting the results. I felt like I played really consistent darts throughout this match. It wasn't great but I'll take it; my scoring's okay but my finishing has been good. I was finding my feet in the first few legs but after that I was pretty consistent. Stephen didn't score as well as he can do, but I'd like to think that was something I did to keep him under par. I had one leg were I was a bit sloppy and I let him back in, but I closed it out well and I can look forward to Sunday now - hopefully I can give the viewers at home and the fans a really nice semi-final to watch."
Bunting had topped his group before progressing to the last eight on his Grand Slam of Darts debut, and admitted: "Mervyn's scoring was the difference. He hit a lot of 180s and my first dart was just above the treble all the time and the marker dart wasn't there for me. I was under pressure straight away because Mervyn came out of the blocks firing and his scoring was really good. The better man won on the day."