Phil Taylor has admitted that some of his recent criticism towards fellow professionals has been unjustified, before revealing that ‘the fire is gone’ in a candid interview following his first-round World Championship victory at the Alexandra Palace on Friday evening.
The 16-time world champion is competing in his final professional tournament before retirement and is bidding to round-off his astonishing career by lifting his 17th World Championship title on New Years Day.
He kicked off his farewell campaign with a battling victory over talented Newcastle ace Chris Dobey, averaging 96.33, landing three maximums and converting 44% of his attempts at a double. Dobey struggled early on, but spurned two darts to force a fifth and final set and Taylor admitted he was mightily relieved to have sealed his progression.
Speaking to the PDC’s official media channel, ‘The Power’ claimed: “There was a lot of pressure on me, but to get through Chris Dobey… when they keep on about the future of darts, that’s your fella I think. And you’ve got Dimitri as well, they’re lovely kids and they’re the ones to push the game on I think.”
The Stoke-on-Trent veteran claimed that he hasn’t had much preparation time ahead of the tournament due to various commitments, and revealed that he struggled with fatigue against the 2016 Grand Slam quarter-finalist.
“I’m fine. I haven’t practised that much for it to be honest with you. I haven’t had a lot of time; I’ve been playing, doing exhibition work and a few charity events and I’ve loved it, and I’ve been classing that as my practice.
“I lacked a bit of energy against Chris tonight, I slacked a little bit and it’s not me. I’m tired. I never used to be like that before, I could win a tournament and then play another tournament, it’s strange. I’ve got a few days off now to get ready for the next one,” he added.
Taylor rolled back the years to win his 16th World Matchplay title back in July, defeating the established quintet of Gerwyn Price, Raymond van Barneveld, Michael van Gerwen, Adrian Lewis and Peter Wright to sign off from the Winter Gardens in style. Yet in recent months, he has hit the headlines for a series of controversial post-match interviews.
Taylor has been highly critical of the likes of Daryl Gurney and Michael van Gerwen in recent weeks, particularly at the Grand Slam of Darts. Taylor labelled Gurney ‘miserable’ and accused him of lacking respect, before also criticising Van Gerwen for his boisterous celebrations.
Nevertheless, the legendary 16-time world champion gave an extremely honest assessment of his comments, revealing that they were largely borne out of frustration at his inability to ‘play like he can’; whilst admitting that his criticism towards certain players were ‘unjustified’.
‘The Power’ added: “It’s gone. The fire’s gone. I want to win, I’ve still got the fire in the belly to win, it’s just the old utensils are not working as good as they used to. It’s awful, it’s killing me. And you know by my interviews, I have been very critical of certain players, sometimes justified maybe sometimes not.
“I’ve been a little bit bitter and I’m gutted that I can’t play what I can, and that’s what’s killing me really. I’m really trying so hard and I can’t do what I used to do. So I’ve got to shut up now.”
Despite this, Taylor’s first-round victory maintained his astonishing record of having never lost in the opening round of the World Championship, and he now faces either Justin Pipe or the winner of the preliminary tie between Xiao Chen Zong or Bernie Smith in round-two on December 23rd.
Photo Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC