Phil Taylor survived an uncomfortable evening at Alexandra Palace on Monday evening, as he defeated his old adversary Kevin Painter 4-1 in a bizarre contest. The scoreline appears somewhat comprehensive, but it was anything but, particularly in the opening three sets.
Elsewhere, Adrian Lewis and Peter Wright were emphatic straight-set winners over Andrew Gilding and Ronny Huybrechts respectively, although Taylor’s performance attracted the most headlines.
‘The Power’ and Painter contested the epic 2004 World Championship Final at the Circus Tavern, but Kevin has a miserable record against the 55-year-old from Stoke-on Trent.
The pair had met on a total of 31 occasions, with Painter claiming just the solitary victory. Taylor had won their last 29 meetings, however ‘The Artist’ was given a major boost, as he claimed the first set with an authoritative 14-darter in the fifth and deciding leg of the opener.
Painter continued this momentum early in the second set, taking out D16 to break Taylor’s throw. However, the former World finalist failed to cement this break, and Taylor restored parity by taking out 51.
The next two legs were shared, before another crucial fifth and deciding leg ensued. Taylor appeared in cruise control of the leg, but vulnerabilities on the doubles allowed Painter a shot for a 2-0 advantage. Yet, he was unable to capitalise on Phil’s profligacy, allowing the 16-time World Champion to level up proceedings.
The third set was another nail-biting affair. For the third set in succession, the set went to a fifth and deciding leg. Painter had the advantage of throw, but Taylor produced some high-quality scoring to leave 86 after just 9 darts.
Nevertheless, Taylor’s recent frailties on the doubles re-emerged and he missed five set darts, affording Painter an opportunity to take out 68 and reclaim the lead. Kevin failed to do so, before the pair continued to miss a multitude of key doubles.
‘The Power’ finally secured the lead with his TENTH set dart, leaving Painter seething. Kevin has often been the victim of inspired performances by Phil Taylor, but not on this occasion.
‘The Artist’ had spurned a wonderful opportunity to lead 3-o, and his frustration and anguish was clearly evident. Despite this, he recovered impressively, breaking Taylor early in the fourth set, courtesy of a clinical 116 checkout.
Nevertheless, Taylor dealt arguably the decisive blow in the following leg. Painter appeared poised to extend his lead in the set, before the World Number 3 produced a magnificent 170 finish out of absolutely nowhere. To make matters worse, Taylor had unintentionally hit T4 with his final dart to leave the maximum out-shot.
This clearly reinvigorated Taylor, who threw with far more conviction and confidence from this moment onwards. He clinched the fourth set with an 111 average, to move to the cusp of the third-round.
The Stoke star hit D10 to break Painter early in the fifth set, and he hit the same target in the following leg, to complete a clinical 80 checkout. Taylor then managed to seal his progression to the last 16, by pinning D16, but it certainly wasn’t the procession that the scoreline indicates.
Taylor threw excellently in the final quarter of the contest, but he ended with an average just below 93. He also missed over 30 darts at double; his checkout ratio was a poultry 28%. It was certainly a major missed opportunity for ‘The Artist’.
After his win, Taylor admitted: “It was a struggle; it was a bit of a nail-biter but I’m glad to get through. The first set I was nervous then I seemed to calm down.”
“Now I can stop messing with the darts and concentrate on the World Championship. I’m practising better than I ever have done,” he added.
Elsewhere, Adrian Lewis turned on the style, as he whitewashed Andrew Gilding 4-o in sets with a 103.52 average and a healthy checkout ratio of 57%.
‘Jackpot’ was certainly on the money in the opening stages, claiming the first set without reply. Lewis’s average was in excess of 109, thanks largely to four maximums.
Gilding opened his account in the second set courtesy of a classy 80 finish, but Lewis continued his blistering form, reeling off three consecutive legs to extend his sets advantage with a 108.3 average.
The Two-Time World Champion couldn’t quite maintain this remarkable standard in the following two sets, but Adrian was still throwing majestically and he was looking extremely assured.
Lewis took out 80 to move 3-0 ahead, before winning the fourth set without reply to book his spot in the third-round. Gilding was below-par and was struggling with illness, although Lewis was imperious. Adrian always comes alive on the Ally Pally stage and he will take some beating.
Meanwhile, 2014 World Finalist Peter Wright dropped just four legs in claiming a straight-sets victory over Ronny Huybrechts. Wright hit a total of nine maximums, although he appeared relatively disappointed with his 99 average.
Snakebite’s usual consistency was lacking somewhat, although he knows he must produce it in the last 16, when he faces Dave Chisnall, who is performing tremendously well at present.
Earlier in Monday’s afternoon session, Mensur Suljovic prevailed in an Ally Pally classic against the impressive David Pallett. It was a match that had absolutely everything.
Both men produced moments of mediocrity, as well as moments of pure genius, illustrated by the fact that they both missed a double for incredible 9-dart finishes.
Eventually, Suljovic, a member of Darts-Control Austria, alongside the likes of Rowby-John, Roxy-James and Rusty-Jake Rodriguez, sealed the victory with a typically clinical 83 finish on the bullseye, sparking scenes of jubilant celebration from the enigmatic Austrian.
Alan Norris’ dream PDC World Championship debut continues, as he cruised into the last 16 courtesy of a comfortable 4-1 victory over Joe Murnan. Norris led 2-0, before Murnan squandered an astonishing TEN set darts to reduce the arrears in the third.
The Bolton ace did recover his composure to win the fourth set, but this simply delayed the inevitable, as the 2014 Lakeside finalist dominated the fifth set to secure his third-round berth.
Norris will play Mark Webster on Wednesday, after the former Lakeside Champion was a comprehensive 4-0 victor over a below-par Terry Jenkins.
The turning point came in the second set. Webster breezed to the opening set without reply, and was 2-0 up in the second. However, Jenkins rallied impressively, to force a fifth and decisive leg. The 9-time major finalist enjoyed a strong scoring leg, to give him three set darts against the throw.
Nevertheless, Jenkins failed to convert his three darts at D20, and the Welshman punished Terry’s wastefulness, holding his nerve to hit D6 with his last dart in hand to extend his lead.
From this point onwards, the left-hander dominated proceedings, and Jenkins game was plagued with inconsistency. He demonstrated the odd glimpse of class, but Webster was far more reliable, which enabled him to close out a straight-sets victory over the World Number 11.
William Hill World Darts Championship
Monday December 28
Afternoon Session (1pm-5pm)
Alan Norris 4-1 Joe Murnan
Terry Jenkins 0-4 Mark Webster
David Pallett 3-4 Mensur Suljovic
Evening Session (7.30pm-11.30pm)
Adrian Lewis 4-0 Andrew Gilding
Peter Wright 4-0 Ronny Huybrechts
Phil Taylor 4-1 Kevin Painter