Phil Taylor kicked off his final World Matchplay campaign with victory over Gerwyn Price, to set up an enthralling second-round showdown with his old rival Raymond van Barneveld after a thrilling double-session at the Winter Gardens in Blackpool on Sunday.
Taylor began his assault for an unprecedented 16th World Matchplay title with a comfortable 10-5 win against UK Open finalist Gerwyn Price. Embarking on his final campaign at the Winter Gardens before his retirement next year, Taylor averaged 94.04, registered two maximums and converted 45% of his attempts at double to prevail.
‘The Power’ dispatched 106 and 151 finishes in the early stages, but Price fired back with a majestic 170 outshot and went into the second interval level at five apiece. However, Price was unable to sustain his challenge in the second half of the contest, as Taylor found his clinical edge and reeled off five consecutive legs to move through convincingly.
Taylor will now meet his old adversary Raymond van Barneveld in round-two, after the five-time world champion survived a remarkable onslaught from Joe Cullen to prevail in a thriller. Van Barneveld had lost in the opening-round at Blackpool for the past two years, but held his nerve to set up potentially the last ever ‘El Clasico of Darts.’
Van Barneveld won seven out of eight legs to surge into an 8-3 advantage and he appeared destined to triumph comprehensively. Despite this, ‘The Rockstar’ fought back superbly; firing in five maximums and a 177 in seven legs to reduce the arrears to 9-8.
The pair exchanged maximums in a dramatic eighteenth and final leg, before Cullen wired D10 for a 140 checkout which would have forced a tiebreak. However, Van Barneveld held his nerve; pegging D16 with his last dart in hand to book his passage to round-two with a 92.42 average, six maximums and a 30% checkout conversion rate.
Dave Chisnall sealed his spot in round-two with a hard-fought 10-7 win against last year’s quarter-finalist Mervyn King. The pair missed 39 darts at double between them, but King’s 28% checkout conversion rate ultimately proved costly, as Chisnall enjoyed a surge in the latter stages of the contest to complete victory.
King had darts at double in the opening four legs, but moments later found himself 4-2 behind. He fought back to level the tie at five apiece, but Chisnall upped the ante after the second interval, winning five of the remaining seven legs to triumph with a 95.16 average, seven maximums and a 31% checkout success rate.
Daryl Gurney survived three missed match darts from Benito van de Pas to prevail 11-9 in a dramatic tie-break and secure his first ever victory at the World Matchplay. Gurney trailed 2-1 at one stage, but a sublime 142 finish saw him level, which spurred him on to establish a 5-2 cushion.
However, Van de Pas hit back superbly, restoring parity at five apiece with a magnificent 170 checkout. The fifteenth seed then punished missed doubles from ‘Super-Chin’ to lead 9-7, but he was unable to close out victory; missing three match darts for a 10-7 win.
This enabled Gurney to level proceedings at 9-9 and force a tiebreak, before he exploited further missed doubles from ‘Big Ben’ in the next two legs to book his spot in round-two. It was an absorbing tussle, but the Northern Irishman eventually triumphed with a 96.98 average, six maximums and a 30% checkout success rate.
Alan Norris produced an exhibition of finishing as he recovered from 3-0 behind to inflict Kim Huybrecht’s sixth successive first-round exit at the World Matchplay. ‘The Hurricane’ had lost in his previous five visits to the Winter Gardens, but appeared poised to rectify that statistic; opening up a 3-0 cushion with an average of over 113.
However, Norris fought back superbly; reeling off eight successive legs to stun the Belgian star, in a sequence which included finishes of 75, 78, 85, 127 and 155. Huybrechts rallied briefly to reduce the deficit to 9-6, but ‘Chuck’ clinched his first ever Matchplay victory with a 90.59 average; having dispatched 43% of his attempts at double.
Mensur Suljovic cruised into round-two with an emphatic 10-4 win over Scotland’s John Henderson. It a topsy-turvy affair, but Suljovic was always in control. He stormed into a 5-0 lead, but Henderson reeled off three legs of his own to reduce the arrears to 5-3. Nevertheless, he then won five of the remaining six legs to complete the job.
The Austrian wasn’t at his vintage best, but Henderson struggled with the Blackpool heat and was unable to produce his best, as Suljovic prevailed with a 94.42 average, three maximums, and a 29% checkout conversion rate, to set up a second-round showdown against Justin Pipe.
Pipe secured his first victory at the Winter Gardens since 2013 after recording a convincing 10-5 victory over an injury-plagued Jelle Klaasen. Klaasen underwent surgery in May for a tendonitis problem in his wrist, but the Dutchman was clearly still feeling the effects as ‘The Force’ capitalised to book his spot in round-two.
Klaasen missed his first nine darts at double as Pipe stormed into a 5-0 lead, taking out finishes of 109 and 120 in successive legs. He then dispatched a classy 108 kill to move 8-2 ahead and although Klaasen rallied late on, the Taunton ace rounded-off victory with a 90.94 average, six maximums, three ton-plus finishes and a 31% checkout success rate.
Cristo Reyes produced a superb display on his World Matchplay debut to dismantle Robert Thornton, who’s miserable Blackpool record continues. Thornton had lost seven of his eight matches at the Winter Gardens prior to this year, and Reyes registered the second ton-plus average of the event to condemn the Scot to another early exit.
‘The Spartan’ averaged 101.29, piled in five maximums and converted 42% of his attempts at double to record an emphatic 10-3 triumph, punishing Thornton’s miserly 25% checkout success rate. Reyes’ reward is a second-round tie against another Scotsman- in the shape of world number three Peter Wright.
Photo Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC
BetVictor World Matchplay
Sunday July 23
4x First Round
Jelle Klaasen 5-10 Justin Pipe
Robert Thornton 3-10 Cristo Reyes
Benito van de Pas 9-11 Daryl Gurney
Mensur Suljovic 10-4 John Henderson
4x First Round
Dave Chisnall 10-7 Mervyn King
Phil Taylor 10-5 Gerwyn Price
Raymond van Barneveld 10-8 Joe Cullen
Kim Huybrechts 6-10 Alan Norris