Phil Taylor’s World Matchplay fairy-tale continued as he recorded one of the finest victories of his illustrious career to dismantle Michael van Gerwen and set up a semi-final showdown against his former protégé Adrian Lewis at the Winter Gardens in Blackpool on Friday evening.
Appearing in his final campaign at Blackpool, Taylor kept alive his hopes of winning an unprecedented 16th World Matchplay crown with an incredible 16-6 victory against a shell-shocked Van Gerwen, whose hopes of winning a third successive title in Blackpool were vanquished as he was overawed by a partisan crowd.
‘The Green Machine’ averaged 101.07, fired in three maximums and registered 26 scores of 140+, but he converted just six of his twenty-seven darts at double; a poultry 22% checkout success rate. By comparison, Taylor rolled back the years; averaging 101.85, crashing in ten 180’s and dispatching 57% of his double attempts to prevail emphatically.
‘The Power’ enjoyed a dream start to the contest, breaking throw in the opening leg via tops, before doubling his tally after MvG spurned three darts to level. The pair exchanged maximums in a dramatic third leg, but after MvG failed to take out 70, Taylor found tops for a 13-darter and a double-break.
Taylor’s blistering start continued as he pegged D8 for his fourth straight leg, until Van Gerwen opened his account with an impressive 11-darter. Nevertheless, this didn’t spark a typical MvG resurgence. The 16-time world champion dispatched a 72 kill for 5-1, before capitalising on six missed darts at double from the Dutchman to extend his lead.
Taylor was in inspired form and pouncing on Van Gerwen’s obvious fragility. He piled in a brace of maximums in the eighth leg and nailed D5 for the second leg in succession to move 7-1 ahead. ‘The Power’ registered his fourth consecutive leg via D9 moments later, before the Dutch ace finally stopped the rot with his second 11-darter of the contest.
Despite this, the world champion was unable to make further inroads, as Taylor extended his handsome advantage in the third session. He converted a vital 82 finish for 9-2, before conjuring up a sublime 122 checkout on the bullseye to reach double-figures.
Van Gerwen sank D16 to register his third leg, but Taylor responded by hitting tops, before taking out a devastating 99 checkout via D16 for yet another break of throw. There was no stopping the irrepressible Stoke-on-Trent star, who then stormed 13-3 ahead with a spectacular 11-dart leg; having kicked off the leg with successive 180’s.
The next three legs all went with throw, before any faint hopes of an astonishing Van Gerwen comeback were effectively quashed as Taylor delivered a punishing 94 checkout to move to within a leg of victory. MvG prolonged matters after eventually hitting D1, but Taylor rounded-off a tremendous win with another clinical 13-darter via tops.
‘The Power’ was ecstatic in his post-match interview and admitted: “Michael is a brilliant player but he didn’t perform tonight and the doubles killed him. The atmosphere was fantastic and it was different for Michael because they were on my side. He was out of his comfort zone but the crowd don’t throw your darts for you.
“Even at 12-3 I thought he could come back and it was a good match. I was about 18/1 with the bookies just to reach the semi-finals but I’m under no pressure and I had a different mindset tonight – I was relaxed and enjoying it,” he added.
Taylor will face Adrian Lewis in the last four, after ‘Jackpot’ fought through the pain barrier to survive a remarkable fightback from Alan Norris. Lewis stormed into a 13-5 lead, but Norris won eight of the next nine legs to reduce the arrears to 14-13. However, the two-time world champion held his nerve superbly to avoid a major upset.
The pair both struggled in the finishing department, with a total of 62 missed doubles between them. However, Lewis averaged 94.16, posted seven maximums and converted 35% of his attempts at double to secure a spot in his fifth World Matchplay semi-final, as Norris’ 29% checkout conversion rate proved expensive.
Lewis established an early 3-0 lead, but Norris responded strongly; reeling off three straight legs of his own to level proceedings with a clinical 114 outshot. Nevertheless, Lewis then regained the initiative; registering three legs on the spin and converting a nerveless 72 kill on tops to lead 6-3.
However, the world number four incredibly spurned nine darts at double for a 7-3 lead, as Norris gratefully pegged the score back to 6-4 heading into the interval. Yet after the break, Lewis upped the ante considerably to seize total command of the contest.
The Stoke-on-Trent star pegged tops and tens in successive legs to lead 8-4, before dispatching a classy 110 finish to open up a five-leg cushion. The duo then traded maximums in the following leg, but Lewis nailed D16 to continue the procession.
Norris fired in an impressive 106 checkout to stop the rot, but Lewis’ purple patch continued. He conjured up finishes of 90 and 136 in consecutive legs, before following up a majestic visit of 177 by hitting D12 to establish an emphatic 13-5 advantage.
Despite this, ‘Chuck’ continued to battle; crashing in a 127 checkout, before nailing D10 having posted a magnificent 171 in the previous visit. The former BDO star then clinched his third straight leg to close the gap to 13-8, but he gifted Lewis a reprieve moments later; missing six darts at double as ‘Jackpot’ moved to within two legs of victory.
However, Norris refused to relent and continued the comeback. He picked out an effortless 116 finish to get back on track, before finishing tops to close the gap further. Lewis was beginning to struggle and missed five darts at double across the next two legs, and Norris duly pounced to reduce the arrears to 14-12.
The UK Open semi-finalist then posted D10 for his fifth successive leg to move to within a solitary leg of his opponent, but Lewis showed his class to edge through in dramatic circumstances.
Norris wired tops for a 160 finish which would have levelled the contest at 14-14, and Lewis followed up another classy 177 with a nerveless 102 checkout for a 12-dart break, to move to the brink of victory. This visibly deflated ‘Chuck’ and ‘Jackpot’ clinically dispatched a two-dart 65 combination to seal his progression with a 14-dart hold.
In Thursday’s quarter-finals, Daryl Gurney’s sensational form continued as he dumped out seventh seed Mensur Suljovic 16-13. ‘Super-Chin’ will face UK Open champion Peter Wright in Saturday’s other semi-final, after the world number three won seven of the remaining eight legs to defeat a tenacious Darren Webster 16-12.
Photo Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC
BetVictor World Matchplay
Friday July 28 (7pm)
Alan Norris 13-16 Adrian Lewis
Michael van Gerwen 6-16 Phil Taylor