Phil Taylor will lock horns with world champion Gary Anderson in the BetVictor World Matchplay semi-finals, after both players overcame major scares in the last eight at the Winter Gardens on Friday evening.
Taylor remains on course for a record 16th Matchplay crown, after edging out a tenacious Mervyn King 16-14 in a pulsating affair. ‘The Power’ began strongly, firing in a 10-darter en route to a 5-2 lead. However, King responded superbly, reeling off three successive legs to restore parity.
Taylor was scoring well, but missed doubles were proving expensive for the Stoke-on-Trent star. King posted his third maximum and hit tops for an 8-7 lead, before breaking Taylor’s throw with a fine 13-darter; hitting D16 having hit a majestic 174 in the preceding visit.
Despite this, the 55-year-old broke back instantly and levelled up the contest at 9-9. The next seven legs went with throw as King forged a narrow 13-12 advantage, but Taylor enjoyed a trademark ‘Power’ surge to seize the initiative.
Taylor hit back-to-back maximums at the start of the 26th leg, to set up a nine-dart possibility. He added a seventh T20, but the T19 proved elusive, and he converted D16 for a 10-darter to draw level once more.
‘The Power’ then secured a precious break of throw, with a sublime 124 checkout culminating on D11, before moving to within a leg of victory with a commanding 14-dart hold. King hit the bull to complete a 70 finish to stay afloat, but Taylor wasn’t to be denied, finishing 66 on D16 to secure his semi-final spot.
It was a thrilling contest between two great competitors. Taylor dominated the scoring stakes, averaging 101.41, to King’s 93.26. Taylor also registered an incredible 14 maximums, but his 36% checkout conversion rate kept King in contention.
Taylor was full of praise for his East-Anglia opponent in his post-match interview. “Mervyn played superbly. That’s the best I’ve seen Mervyn play for three or four years, he was brilliant and he put me under pressure, so fair play to him.
“It was a proper scrap and I was battling away and chasing him, but I was only ever one or two legs behind him and the 124 swung it for me. If I hit my doubles, I’ve got a chance of winning this but the longer it goes on I will get better.”
Elsewhere, Gary Anderson survived an inspired fightback from a resurgent Steve Beaton to secure just his second semi-final appearance at the Winter Gardens. Anderson reached the last four in 2014, where incidentally he was beaten by Phil Taylor, but the Scot was made to sweat by ‘The Bronzed Adonis’.
Anderson made a strong start to the tie, winning the opening three legs. Beaton responded with back-to-back legs to cut the deficit to the solitary leg, but the world champion won three legs on the spin once more, to establish a commanding 6-2 cushion.
‘The Flying Scotsman’ took out 60 on tops to lead 9-4, but this triggered an incredible Beaton fightback. The 1996 Lakeside champion converted a wonderful 135 checkout on the bullseye to reduce the arrears to 9-5, before cutting the gap to three legs after pinning D5.
Anderson regained his four-leg cushion, but missed doubles in the following two legs saw Beaton reduce the deficit to just two legs. ‘The Flying Scotsman’ was under pressure, but despite Beaton hitting two 180’s in the nineteenth leg, Anderson hit tops for a vital hold.
‘The Adonis’ hit his sixth maximum and hit D10 to hold throw, before moving to within one leg of the Scot with a brilliant 85 finish culminating on the bullseye. Beaton missed chances to level in the next leg, but he made amends immediately, taking out 88 and 56 to restore parity at 12-12.
The 25th leg was full of quality. Beaton posted his tenth 180, but Anderson fired in a timely 177 before cleaning up on D6. The Scot then secured a pivotal break of throw, pinning tops with his last dart to complete a 70 kill. Both men spurned great opportunities at double in the following leg, but Anderson eventually hit D6 to move to the cusp of victory.
Beaton continued to battle valiantly and pinned D8 to stay alive, after Anderson had missed one match dart at the bull. However, after hitting another magnificent 177 in the following leg, Anderson got another opportunity and capitalised on this occasion, hitting D20 to set up a last-four clash against his old foe Taylor.
It was a captivating contest played at an electric pace. Anderson averaged 96.52 to Beaton’s 91.30, but Steve fired in 11 maximums as he fought back tremendously. Missed doubles hurt both players, but the world champion must improve upon his 37% checkout percentage if he’s to overcome ‘The Power’.
Anderson was understandably relieved to progress, but he reserved special praise for the former world champion. “I knew it was going to be a hard game and it was, and fair play to him,” said Anderson. “I got into a good lead, Steve started coming back and I started missing a few doubles – but then he missed a few and gave me my chance to win the game.
“Steve’s a great guy and he likes a good laugh, but he’s still a cracking dart player. If it had gone 15-all I think Steve would have gone on to win, he did great and I was fortunate to win.”
Saturday’s first semi-final sees world number one and defending champion Michael van Gerwen take on 2013 finalist Adrian Lewis. Lewis beat Van Gerwen at this stage three years ago, so MvG will be desperate for revenge. Anderson then meets Taylor in the second semi-final, in a repeat of their Winter Gardens classic back in 2014.
BetVictor World Matchplay
Friday July 22
Mervyn King 14-16 Phil Taylor
Gary Anderson 16-13 Steve Beaton
Saturday July 23
Michael van Gerwen v Adrian Lewis
Gary Anderson v Phil Taylor
Best of 33 legs