BLACKPOOL KING TAYLOR SECURES 13TH BETFAIR WORLD MATCHPLAY VICTORY
PHIL TAYLOR won his 13th Betfair World Matchplay title with a superb 18-15 win over James Wade in the final at the Winter Gardens in Blackpool on Sunday night, equalling his own record of five successive titles as he scooped the £100,000 first prize.
Taylor continued his dominance of the prestigious tournament with a fine performance in a tense final, as he defeated Wade in the decider for the fourth time in seven years.
Wade levelled from behind four times in an enthralling contest as the pair shared the first 20 legs, but Taylor took the next four to lead 14-10 and take control.
Wade hit back to trail just 15-14, but missed double ten for a 140 finish to level and Taylor seized his opportunity to seal victory.
"It^s a massive achievement," said Taylor. "It^s one of the hardest finals I^ve ever had.
"James put me under tremendous pressure and I put myself under pressure a bit too. Every time he came back at me I seemed to push on a little bit and I put all my energy into that final leg to finish him off."
Taylor secured an immediate break in the opening leg as his tactic of winning the bullseye but allowing Wade to throw first paid off - with the reigning champion hitting a 180 with his first visit to the oche before punishing a miss at tops from the left-hander to land double five.
Wade replied with a break in the second leg following three misses at tops from Taylor, who moved 2-1 up by winning the third as he hit a 180 to leave 24 and took out double 12.
Taylor then landed tops to move 3-1 up, but missed the bull for a 130 finish in the next after the pair had traded 180s, with Wade returning to post double ten and hit back.
Wade hit a 180 as he sought to level in the sixth, but Taylor hit double ten for a 14-darter only to miss three darts in two visits to win the next, as the world number three landed double nine to pull back to 4-3.
Taylor regained his two-leg lead on double 16, but Wade finished tops and then punished three more misses from the Stoke great to level with a 14-darter of his own.
The pair shared the next two, with Taylor hitting a 171 to set up double 16 in leg 11 before Wade took out 84 on double 11 to level at six-all as they continued to trade blows.
Taylor regained the advantage by landing a 180 and an 86 finish to break in the next, and then took out 60 following a missed bull from Wade to move 8-6 up.
Both players hit 180s in the 15th leg as Wade was let off from three missed doubles to return and hit double three, but Taylor landed a brace of double 16 finishes to win the next two and create a 10-7 cushion, moving three legs clear for the first time.
Wade, though, hit back, with double five to break throw, followed a 180 with a two-dart 92 finish and then posted a 177 and a 67 checkout to tie the match again at ten-all.
The game took another turn as Taylor won the next four legs to move into a 14-10 advantage, winning three legs on double 16 and the other on double eight as he took command before Wade landed his seventh 180 and double ten to hit back and win his 11th leg.
Taylor landed a 177 as he moved 15-11 up, but Wade took out 112 and 114 in consecutive legs to hit back in remarkable fashion, with Taylor opting not to throw for the bull in the second.
Wade then took out double six to cut the gap to one leg, but missed double ten for a 140 checkout to level the game as the drama intensified.
Taylor stepped in on double 16 to lead 16-14, and although Wade finished 76 to reply again the Stoke great hit tops to move 17-15 up before sealing the title with a 13-darter on double ten.
"I^m so pleased to have won this but I^m also pleased to see James on the comeback trail too," added Taylor. "He^s a brilliant player and he^s dedicated himself again, and I think we can have plenty more finals in the future.
"I don^t think I was fit enough and I didn^t perform as well as I can, which I^ll work on over the summer. It was one of the most difficult finals for me because I^m getting older and I^m not as fit, so I^ve got to work harder.
"I tried the new darts at the start of the week and they are the best darts I^ve ever played with, but they weren^t flying through the air in this heat as they should do.
"I need to practice a bit more with them, which I will do, and to be honest I was thinking about them too much."
Taylor had lost in the second round of the World Championship for the first time in PDC history in December to Dave Chisnall, but his Blackpool triumph follows his McCoy^s Premier League Darts win as he retained his status as world number one ahead of Adrian Lewis.
"Winning the Premier League and now this has set me up for the year," he said. "I think the players will respect me again because they were like a pack of wolves - they can sense that you^re not playing well and they^ll attack you.
"Wes Newton, Andy Hamilton and Adrian Lewis are examples of hungry players who want to be where I am."
Wade, the 2007 World Matchplay champion, was condemned to defeat for a fourth time to the world number one as he became only the second player - behind John Part in 2002 - to take 15 legs from Taylor in the final.
"From a spectator^s point of view it was a great final and from Phil^s point of view it was a great final too," said Wade. "For me, I was playing at half-mast, so to not play that well and get 15 legs from Phil is very good.
"I^ve never felt this happy playing darts and I^ve never felt so encouraged to play darts, because I^ve had seven weeks of hard practice and done this, which should be quite frightening for other players.
"I didn^t score as well as I wanted to for the first 20 legs or so and that^s where Phil is so great in what he does because he^s so consistent and solid, and he did enough to win."
PHIL TAYLOR 18-15 JAMES WADE
0-0 - James Wade will throw first - Phil Taylor won the bull and gave James Wade the throw in the opening leg.
0-0 - The players take to the stage in style, with the walk-ons accompanied by an impressive light show involving special wristbands given to the capacity crowd by sponsors Betfair.
1-0 - Taylor opens the final with a 180, but misses double top, ten and five to take an immediate break - only for Wade to miss tops to finish 76 and allow him back on double five.
1-1 - Wade lands a 180 in reply, and is handed a reprieve as Taylor misses three darts at tops to let him come back for double two to break back.
2-1 - Taylor hits a 180 to leave 24, and lands double 12 with his first dart to break again.
3-1 - Taylor moves two legs clear by landing a confident double top.
3-2 - Taylor opens with a 180 before Wade replies with his second maximum of the contest to leave 121. The left-hander misses the bull to complete the combination, but Taylor is also off-target on the middle double to allow Wade back on double ten.
4-2 - Wade hits a 180 to leave 100, but is unable to complete the finish and Taylor takes out double ten for a 14-darter.
4-3 - Taylor opens with 140 and 180, but misses the bull for a 124 finish and two further darts at doubles to allow Wade back in on double nine to hold throw.
5-3 - Taylor finishes double 16 at the first time of asking to win his fifth leg.
5-4 - Wade posts tops at the first time of asking to cut the gap to one leg.
5-5 - Both players leave a double after 12 darts, with Taylor missing double 16 and two darts at double eight to allow Wade to break on double ten with a 14-darter.
6-5 - Taylor hits a 171 to leave 32, and when Wade misses double 14 to take out 121 the reigning champion returns to break on double 16.
6-6 - Taylor leaves 32 but sees Wade break back by finishing 84 on double 11.
7-6 - Taylor hits his fifth 180 of the game, and takes out 86 in two darts to break throw again.
8-6 - Wade lands a 180 but misses the bull for a 123 finish, and Taylor takes out 60 to hold throw and regain his two-leg lead.
8-7 - Wade opens with a 180 before Taylor replies with another maximum, but the reigning champion misses a dart at tops to punish three earlier misses from Wade, who returns to hit back on double six.
9-7 - Wade steps up needing 125 but hits a second bullseye - rather than 25 - to deny him a dart to break throw, and Taylor finishes 45 on double 16 to move two legs ahead once more.
10-7 - Taylor establishes a three-leg lead for the first time as he finishes 45 for a second successive leg on double 16.
10-8 - Wade breaks back by landing double five with his third dart to hit back.
10-9 - Wade reduces the gap to one leg once again, hitting a 180 to leave 92 and finishing the checkout in two darts.
10-10 - Wade lands a 177 and finishes 67 on tops to level the game.
11-10 - Taylor finishes double 16 with his third dart to edge back ahead against the throw.
12-10 - Taylor lands double eight to regain his two-leg cushion.
13-10 - Taylor breaks again, initially missing two darts at double 16 to finish 82 but being allowed to return when Wade fails to finish 120, landing double 16 to move three legs clear.
14-10 - Taylor puts daylight between the players with a superb 13-darter, hitting a 180 and double 16.
14-11 - Wade hits back to win his first leg in five, hitting his seventh 180 of the game and recovering from three misses to return and land double ten.
15-11 - Taylor fires in a 177 to be first to a finish and posts double two with his third dart to move three legs away from the title.
15-12 - Wade hits the first ton-plus finish of the final by taking out 112 on tops.
15-13 - Taylor opts against throwing for the bull when left with 50, hitting 18 to leave 32 - only for Wade to take out 114 on tops to break throw.
15-14 - Wade wins a third successive leg, finishing double six to reduce the gap to just one.
16-14 - Taylor lands his eighth maximum of the game but initially misses double 16 to give Wade a chance to take out 140 - only for the left-hander to wire double ten and allow Taylor to win a key leg on double 16.
16-15 - Taylor opens with a 171 and both players leave a finish after nine darts, but Wade is first to a double as he takes out 76 to pull back to one leg behind.
17-15 - Taylor lands tops to move leg away from the title.
18-15 - Wade misses double 12 to finish 144 and Taylor finishes double ten for a 13-darter to seal a 13th World Matchplay win.