Phil Taylor dispelled any concerns about his supposed ‘lack of form’ as he eased past Dave Chisnall to reach the World Matchplay semi-finals at the Winter Gardens.
Taylor averaged 102.71, defying an impressive 102.94 from Chisnall to record an emphatic 16-8 victory and set up another Winter Gardens meeting against James Wade on Saturday night.
Taylor and Wade are the two most successful men in Matchplay history, although ‘The Power’ has won all five meetings between the pair on the iconic Blackpool stage.
James Wade’s progress was slightly less serene, as he had to withstand a remarkable comeback from the mercurial Austrian Mensur Suljovic. Wade led 13-6 and appeared in cruise control, but Suljovic launched an unlikely comeback, winning five successive legs to reduce the deficit to 13-11.
After being berated by the crowd in the early stages, Suljovic managed to win their adoration due to his tenacious approach. However, Wade defied the partisan Blackpool crowd to close out a 16-11 victory, thanks to typically clinical finishing in the latter stages. The Machine was averaging 103 for the vast majority of the quarter-final clash, and will undoubtedly relish the prospect of his eighth Matchplay semi-final against Taylor.
Taylor vs Chisnall was unequivocally billed as the main event. Taylor’s astonishing record at the tournament is unprecedented; prior to Friday’s contest, he had won 37 consecutive matches at the Matchplay; Terry Jenkins in 2007 was the last man to defeat the 16-time World Champion in Blackpool, when Umbrella was No 1 in the charts!
Nevertheless, the 54-year-old had shown fallibility on the doubles in his opening two matches; hitting just 27% of his doubles against John Henderson and 33% against Andy Hamilton. Given Chisnall’s undeniable scoring prowess, Taylor had to significantly improve his finishing to maintain his incredible Matchplay record.
The signs were slightly ominous for the Power, when Chisnall broke the throw with a 13-darter in the opening leg, but Taylor was unperturbed, breaking back immediately after Chizzy failed to convert one dart at D20. The next two legs went with throw, before Taylor won a high quality fifth leg. The ‘Yellow Peril’ was on 181 after just 6 darts, but Taylor responded with a 180 on his third visit to the board, before coolly converting a two-dart 96 checkout for a 3-2 advantage at the first interval.
Both men were averaging over 105, but Taylor’s body language was noticeably more positive. He was throwing with confidence and conviction and after sealing the fifth leg, he was bounding around the stage.
The Stoke legend maintained this momentum in the sixth leg, doubling his lead with a brilliant 130 finish culminating on the bull. He then extended his lead to 5-2, nervelessly converting the double with his final dart, which was becoming a feature of his performance. Both players subsequently held in relatively routine fashion, before Taylor won a pivotal tenth leg, to secure a double-break.
Chisnall was poised on D10 to reduce the arrears to 6-4, but the 15-time Matchplay Champion produced another phenomenal 130 checkout (T20,T20,D5) to send the crowd into euphoria and leaving Chizzy visibly deflated.
All the susceptibility and fragility on the doubles from Taylor in his previous matches was becoming an increasingly distant memory; he was focused, sharp and clinical in the decisive moments.
In a contest where the solitary missed dart was being ruthlessly punished, the 12th leg was uncharacteristically sloppy. Taylor missed two darts at double for 9-3, but Chizzy then failed to convert three darts at 40. The pair continued to miss, before the St Helen’s ace eventually converted D1 for his fourth leg of the encounter.
This didn’t deter the 16-time World Champion, who won the next two legs with some composed finishing. D16, which had been his enemy in the earlier rounds, was hit with his last dart for 10-4, after Taylor had cleaned up 68 in the previous leg.
The final nail in Chisnall’s metaphorical coffin came in the 16th leg. Taylor had led 11-4 at the interval, but Chisnall emerged after the break, knowing that he must enjoy a dominant session. However, The Power produced a fantastic 161 checkout, with Dave lying on 87, for 12-4 and another break of throw.
The look of anguish on Chisnall’s face spoke volumes. The experts all agreed prior to the quarter-final clash that Chizzy needed to raise his game from the previous two rounds. He did exactly that; he was averaging 103 after 16 legs, yet he had only won four of them. That’s quite remarkable and simply illustrates how consistent and merciless Taylor was on his finishing.
Taylor extended his lead to 14-4 after hitting D18 for a 13-darter, before he produced a brilliant 11-darter against throw; completed with an effortless 100 checkout. Although Phil had performed superbly, you couldn’t help feel that the scoreline didn’t provide an accurate reflection of how Chisnall had performed.
The 2015 Premier League semi-finalist refused to capitulate and enjoyed a mini-revival in the closing stages, as Taylor lost a little focus with the winning line in sight. Dave won four of the next five legs to reduce the arrears to 15-8, although any faint hopes of a fightback were crushed as Taylor returned to type, breaking Chisnall’s throw with a 12-darter to seal a fine 16-8 triumph.
It seems ludicrous that just 48 hours ago, questions were being posed about Taylor’s form. This was an emphatic response to all the critics. On paper, Chisnall was an extremely tough quarter-final opponent and he played extremely well. Maintaining a 103 average over a long format is an admirable feat, but Taylor dismissed Chisnall as if he was performing with distinct mediocrity. In my opinion, no other player would have won so comprehensively with Chizzy performing that well against them. That’s testament to Taylor’s consistency and mental fortitude.
His semi-final against James Wade is a tantalising prospect. Taylor has enjoyed a dominant record against Wade in Blackpool, but the last two meetings in knockout tournaments between the pair have resulted in wins for ‘The Machine’.
Wade has once again gone under the radar, despite preserving a tournament average of over 100. The impression that Wade’s scoring is inferior is suspect; he may not be an explosive 180 hitter, but his relentlessness on the 100+ and 140 count is extremely impressive. Wadey is an extremely composed customer under pressure and when he’s at his vintage best, he hits ton plus checkouts with consummate ease. But, if we learned one thing from tonight; as if we needed reminding; write off Phil Taylor at your peril!