TAYLOR OPENS WITH A BANG IN BETVICTOR WORLD MATCHPLAY
Phil Taylor began his bid to win a 15th BetVictor World Matchplay title by sounding a warning to his rivals in Blackpool with a superb 10-4 defeat of Darren Webster on Sunday night, as Michael Smith, Wes Newton and Raymond van Barneveld also picked up Winter Gardens wins.
Taylor, who has won six successive titles in Blackpool, produced one of his best displays of 2014 as he averaged 101.79, hit five 180s and finished 43 percent of his chances at a double against Webster.
The qualifier from Norfolk had taken the game's opening leg and hit six perfect darts in the fourth as he levelled at two-all - but Taylor took command by winning the game's next five legs to move 7-2 up, hitting six perfect darts himself in one leg.
Webster won two of the next three, including a 92 finish on the bull, to pull back to 8-4, but a showpiece 132 checkout from Taylor of two bullseyes and double 16 moved him to the brink of a victory which was sealed with the help of his fifth 180.
"I'm very happy with that because I was determined to play well tonight," said Taylor. "Darren was gutsy and he's got a lot of bottle; he doesn't give up and he goes up there and plays his own game. I've been practising well for a while and not taking it onto stage, but now I'm taking it up there and I know I'll play well this week - and the other players know now too. I'm loving the way the darts are going in and I'm genuinely excited, and I think now that I'll get back to my best."
Taylor now faces former World Youth Champion Michael Smith in the second round on Wednesday, after the emerging star from St Helens defeated Justin Pipe 10-8 earlier on Sunday night.
Smith famously knocked Taylor out of the World Championship in December and also defeated the Stoke great in the Gibraltar Darts Trophy last month - but the 53-year-old smiled: "I can't wait, because he'll be getting the proper Phil Taylor this time. Michael knows he's got a tough game, but he's got every right to be confident because he's a cracking player. I want to have a scrap with him and it will be great. The fans will be in for a treat and I think there could be a nine-darter too."
Smith, a 23-year-old from St Helens, further enhanced his growing reputation with a gritty 10-8 win over Pipe in their first round encounter in Blackpool.
Although Smith led 2-1 early on - as he took out 83 on the bull - Pipe broke back to level before the pair traded the next 12 legs without a break to leave the scores locked at eight-all.
Smith, though, held his nerve to break on tops in the next as he moved 9-8 up, before hitting his seventh 180 of the contest as he secured the win.
"I'm so chuffed to get through," said Smith. "Two years ago when I previously played here, I was a naive young boy who expected the world to come knocking at my door, but I've put the hard work in now and I've come knocking on the world's door! It was a hard-fought game and there we no tactics, we just both wanted to win. When we went to eight-all, I wanted to push as hard as could to break Justin and he hit some bad scores and I managed to capitalise."
Smith added: "Phil's the best player in the world, but I'm here to win matches and win tournaments. I know I can beat Phil - but after the World Championship Phil beat me 6-1 and 6-0! He's not finished, but I've just got to go up there and play my own game. I'm not playing Phil Taylor, I'm playing another darts player; he's got three darts and I've got three darts, and that's all that matters."
Premier League Darts champion Raymond van Barneveld hit eight maximums of his own as he won the all-Dutch clash with Vincent van der Voort 10-4.
Van Barneveld took a 4-0 lead by punishing his rival's missed doubles, and he extended his advantage to 6-1 and 9-2 before holding off a brief rally from van der Voort to set up a second round tie with Simon Whitlock.
"It looks like a comfortable win but it wasn't like that," said van Barneveld, the 2010 World Matchplay runner-up. "I've known Vincent for many years and it's hard to play him, but I had to concentrate on my game and I got the win. I didn't play as well as I can, but Vincent missed a few doubles in the first three or four legs and let me in, so I'm happy with the win. I'll have to perform better against Simon Whitlock in the second round because he's getting in shape again. He's been working hard to improve and he's growing in confidence."
Fleetwood's Wes Newton was Sunday night's other winner as he produced a stunning comeback to defeat Blackpool's Ronnie Baxter 11-9 in their Fylde coast derby.
Baxter took advantage of a slow start from Newton to take leads of 4-1 and 8-4, only for the number ten seed to hit back to level before winning a fifth straight leg by taking out 66 to move 9-8 up.
Baxter, the 1998 finalist in Blackpool, responded with a 14-dart finish to send the game into a tie-break, but Newton broke throw to move 10-9 up before sealing victory with a stunning 144 checkout.
"It wasn't my best performance but it's a win," said Newton, who now meets Paul Nicholson in round two. "I've got mixed emotions to be honest because neither of us played as well as we can and we're both local players and good friends. I felt good in the practice room but nothing happened for me at all early on, and I thought I was going to get smashed. At 8-4 down it was horrible, I was playing terribly and the more I tried, it wasn't happening. I had to relax, try and enjoy it a bit and just throw my darts, and I just dug in. It was a battle but I'm through to the next round and I've got to take the positives out of it - and I've got a few days to put things right."
|101.79||5||10/23 ||Taylor ||10:4|| D.Webster||96.85||3||4/16|
|92.79||8||10/30 ||v.Barneveld ||10:4|| v.d.Voort||89.10||7||4/15|