Nicholson Wins totesport.com Players Championship
Nicholson produced the greatest form of his life to claim the £60,000 first prize and mark his rise to 16th in the PDC Order of Merit with a superb finale to the Essex-based event.
Following wins over former World Champions Dennis Priestley and Steve Beaton in the opening two rounds, he saw off Adrian Lewis in Sunday afternoon^s quarter-finals before then ending Phil Taylor^s hopes of retaining the title in an incredible semi-final.
Nicholson hit four ton-plus finishes - including a 170 - in coming from 3-1 down to lead against Taylor, and held his nerve in a deciding leg to reach the final.
There, he defeated King in a tight battle, eventually prevailing 13-11 after the pair shared the opening 20 legs of the final.
Nicholson continued his superb finishing with a 105 checkout to claim the opening leg against the darts, but King hit back immediately to take the second.
The next two were shared, with Nicholson landing a 96 checkout in the fourth leg, before double 16 gave King the cushion at the first break.
Nicholson won the next two to edge back in front, only for King to reply with finishes of double 16 and double ten to put himself 5-4 up, although double 12 ensured parity once more for the Geordie.
King lifted again to take the next two legs, including a 14-darter against the throw, to hold a 7-5 advantage, but Nicholson broke back and then took out 108 to square the game.
Another double-burst from King took him 9-7 up and in a strong position, but Nicholson showed no signs of tiring despite his efforts by claiming the next three, with finishes of 76, 90 and 68.
King stemmed the tide to win the 20th leg and effectively make the match a best-of-five leg contest, with Nicholson producing superb legs of 14 and 11 darts to move a leg away from the title.
King rallied with an 80 checkout in the next, but his usual high scoring deserted him to allow Nicholson in on double eight to claim the title.
"It^s absolutely incredible and means a massive amount to me," said Nicholson. "I had a lot of my energy sapped from the semi-final against Phil, but I was desperate to win the final.
"It was hard playing Mervyn because he^s been a good friend to me since I came through, particularly with some advice he gave me last year in June when I was at a low ebb following a Players Championship in Barnsley.
"That put me back on the right track, and now I can say I^m the Players Champion for the next year, which is a great achievement."
Newcastle-born Nicholson only emerged in 2008 when, based in Melbourne, he dominated the DartPlayers Australia circuit and qualified for the Grand Slam of Darts and World Championship, before being based for much of the past year in the UK during his rise up the rankings.
"I^ve put in a lot of hard work to get where I am and this may take a bit of time to sink in," said Nicholson. "I^ve got to thank my family and friends and my sponsors for backing me, and they^ve all been really supportive of me.
"But I won^t rest on this now. I^ll have Monday off but be back on the practice board on Tuesday because I^m playing in Gibraltar in Players Championships next weekend.
"I may have reached 16th in the world but I don^t want to settle for that, and the top ten will be my next aim."
King was denied his first major title since joining the PDC by Nicholson, but claimed £24,000 for his weekend^s work in Essex and also moves up to fourth in the PDC Order of Merit.
He had come from 5-2 down to win against world number three James Wade in round one, and swept past Jelle Klaasen and Wayne Jones to reach the semi-finals before edging out Colin Osborne 10-8 to book his spot in the decider.
"I^m a little bit gutted because I feel I saved my worst game for the final," said King. "I tried my best but it didn^t quite happen and Paul took advantage.
"He^s a good friend and it was hard to play against him, but my game and mentality are there to be a winner and hopefully on another day the title will be mine."
totesport.com Players Championship
Paul Nicholson 9-7 Adrian Lewis
Colin Osborne 9-8 Wes Newton
Phil Taylor 9-7 Colin Lloyd
Mervyn King 9-2 Wayne Jones
Mervyn King 10-8 Colin Osborne
Paul Nicholson 10-9 Phil Taylor
Paul Nicholson 13-10 Mervyn King
PAUL NICHOLSON 9-7 ADRIAN LEWIS
PAUL NICHOLSON reached his first televised semi-final with a hard fought 9-7 victory over Adrian Lewis at the totesport.com Players Championship.
Nicholson held the upper hand for most of the match but fell 7-6 down to the Stoke youngster, before producing three superb legs to secure victory.
Lewis, for the third successive game, hit a maximum with his first three darts, but wasted five chances to win the opening leg, which Nicholson pinched by hitting double top at the first time of asking.
Nicholson hit a 101 checkout in the second, despite another 180 from Lewis, but the Stoke youngster won the next with a 104 finish.
Nicholson moved 3-1 ahead with by hitting double two with his last dart, but missed an opportunity move three legs clear and Lewis landed double 16 to win it.
Nicholson, who has beaten Dennis Priestley and Steve Beaton on his way to the quarter-finals, hit a 106 checkout to win the sixth leg before Lewis won the next by hitting double 16 to keep the gap to just one leg.
A 15-dart-finish put Nicholson 5-3 ahead, but Lewis fired in a 124 checkout to win the ninth leg then took the tenth by converting a 64 finish to level the match.
Nicholson broke throw with a 13-darter to win the 11th leg, but Lewis immediately hit back by hitting double top to level at 6-6.
A tight 13th leg saw both players miss a chance to win it before Lewis was successful with a dart at double ten to move 7-6 up and lead the match for the first time.
But Nicholson hit double six in the next leg to level and then took out a 13-dart-finish to break throw and go within touching distance of victory.
Nicholson forged ahead in the 16th leg despite an eighth maximum of the match from his opponent, and he landed double eight with his third dart to end Lewis^ hopes.
"As far as guts and sticking in there goes, that^s the number one win of my career," said Nicholson. "Adrian out-scored me but I hit some key doubles and some big finishes early on which were important for me."
Lewis admitted: "I started too slowly and that cost me in the end. I played my game in reverse because I played better later in the game, but I had too much to do."
COLIN OSBORNE 9-8 WES NEWTON
COLIN OSBORNE came through a deciding-leg thriller against Wes Newton in the quarter-finals of the 2010.totesport.com Players Championship at the Circus Tavern, Purfleet.
Osborne, the Championship League Darts winner in 2009, had fallen 6-3 down to newton before winning five legs on the spin to put himself on course to win the match.
But the third seed missed three chances to take victory as Newton showed great character to battle back and force a final-leg, before Osborne finally prevailed.
Newtonmanaged to hold throw in the opening leg after missed a dart at double top before Osborne managed to level after the Fleetwood ace was off-target with an opportunity to double his lead.
Newton, who defeated Ronnie Baxter in a second round thriller on Saturday night, took the third leg, but the third seed won the next with an impressive 141 checkout.
The fifth leg was taken by Newton, holding throw for the third successive time before Osborne replied with a 64 finish to keep matters finely balanced.
Newton moved 4-3 ahead by hitting double top after Osborne was off-target with his attempt at bullseye for a 130 checkout.
The Lancastrian then secured the game^s break of throw in the eighth leg with another successful attempt at double top, before moving three legs clear by winning the next with the aid of a maximum.
Osborne kicked off the tenth leg with back-to-back maximums to leave the chance of achieving a nine-dart-finish.
An attempt at a seventh successive treble 20 fell short, but the leg was won in comfortable fashion by the Derby-based thrower to reduce the gap to two at 6-4.
Osborne then broke Newton^s throw first time by hitting double four, defying a maximum from his opponent, before winning the 12th leg after both players had missed earlier opportunities.
The 2009 UK Open runner-up converted a 70 finish to lead the game for the first time, and then moved one leg away from victory by hitting double top at the first time of asking.
Osborne forged ahead in the 15th leg but missed three darts to win the match, and Newton kept his hopes alive by hitting a 96 finish, landing double eight with his third dart.
Newton then broke his opponent^s throw with a fabulous 124 checkout, completed on the bullseye, to force a decider, with Osborne waiting on a two-dart finish for victory.
That gave Newton the momentum in the deciding leg and he had the advantage but throw, only to struggle to find his range on the trebles, allowing Osborne to be first to a finish, and he landed double eight reach the semi-finals.
"It was a battle more than a darts match," said Osborne. "I had to dig in and keep plugging away when I was 6-3 down and I did that.
"It^s great to be in the semis but the job isn^t done yet, and I want to go on and win this tonight."
Newton said: "I^m gutted. I got myself 6-4 up at the second break but went a bit flat.
"I tried to dig in and gave myself a chance by getting back to eight-all, but I couldn^t find the treble in the last leg and Colin did what he had to do."
PHIL TAYLOR 9-7 COLIN LLOYD
PHIL TAYLOR was pushed all the way for a second successive game in the totesport.com Players Championship before ending Colin Lloyd^s challenge with a 9-7 quarter-final triumph.
Lloyd had led 5-3 in the early stages of the contest - as he continued an impressive start to 2010 - but Taylor rose to the challenge to battle back for victory.
The reigning champion defied a ten-darter from Lloyd to finish the contest with a three-dart average of a 106.44, and now meets Paul Nicholson in the semis.
Taylor started the game in superb fashion by hitting two-dart finishes of 84 and 100 to win the opening two legs in 11 and 14 darts.
Lloyd managed to win the third against the darts with a 70 finish after Taylor missed an opportunity for a 3-0 lead.
The local man then hit back-to-back maximums to set-up the chance of a nine-dart finish in the next, and although the attempt at a seventh treble 20 was off-target, Lloyd managed to win the leg on double four.
Taylor moved ahead for a second time by winning the fifth legm but Lloyd won the sixth with a clinical two-dart 80 finish.
Lloyd hit his third 180 of the game in the next leg, the maximum sandwiched between scores of 140 and 145 in setting up double 18 for a fabulous ten-dart finish to lead for the first time.
Lloyd then won the eighth leg by converting an 84 finish to establish a 5-3 cushion before Taylor won the next, courtesy of a 112 checkout.
The defending champion then broke Lloyd^s throw with a 15-dart finish to leave the game in the balance at five-all.
Taylor then moved ahead by winning the 11th leg on double eight for the second successive leg, and then landed a two-dart 76 finish to break Lloyd^s throw.
Lloyd kept fighting and hit an excellent 130 checkout, on the bullseye, before Taylor won the 14th leg in 11 darts to go 8-6 up.
Taylor was on course to seal the match after setting himself double top after 12 darts in the next, but Lloyd hit a fantastic 121 checkout under immense pressure to keep the game alive.
He also had the advantage of throw in the next leg, but Taylor kicked off with a 177 and reached the finish first, before completing the leg in 14 darts to book a semi-final spot.
"It was a cracking game to be involved in," said Taylor. "When I put Colin under pressure he responded well and did brilliantly.
"His ten-darter was great and he had some good finishes too, but I^m pleased to come through it."
Lloyd said: "I knuckled down and played to the best of my ability, and I knew if I got stuck in I^d get chances, but Phil is a champion and responded superbly."
MERVYN KING 9-2 WAYNE JONES
MERVYN KING enjoyed comfortable passage into the semi-finals of the totesport.com Players Championship with a 9-2 drubbing of Wayne Jones.
King ended the match with an excellent checkout ratio of 69 per cent, and will now take on Colin Osborne for a place in the final after following up Saturday^s romp against Jelle Klaasen with another big win.
Jones appeared to be in command of the opening leg, but a 180 put pressure on the man from Wolverhampton and he succumbed by missing four darts at doubles before King took out double five for an early break of throw.
King won the second leg by hitting double 16 before Jones managed to hold throw to win the third and get off the mark.
Finishes of 72 and 64 helped put King 5-1 ahead and he began to pull away from his opponent with double eight giving him the seventh leg.
Jones managed to hit an 11-dart finish to stop the rot, but King hit replied in kind to restore his five-leg advantage.
King hit another 64 finish to move one leg away from the match, and double 16 was hit once again to wrap up the victory.
"It^s good to be through to the semis but the scoreline flattered me," said King. "I^ll take the win and look forward to the semis.
"I had one iffy leg where he bashed me and there were a few legs where he let me off but I took advantage."
MERVYN KING 10-8 COLIN OSBORNE
MERVYN KING won a place in the totesport.com Players Championship final with a 10-8 triumph over Colin Osborne at the Circus Tavern.
King was always in command of the game after taking an early 4-1 lead, and held off a revival from Osborne to confirm his place in the final.
Both players struggled to find the winning double in the opening leg before King hit double two to obtain an immediate break of throw.
King then won the second with a 14-dart-finish before Osborne managed to win the next leg with the aid of a maximum.
King held throw by hitting double eight to win the fourth leg and then took the fifth to move three legs clear with an accurate attempt at double 16, after Osborne missed a dart at the bullseye to grab a second leg of the game.
Maximums were recorded by both players in the sixth leg, but Osborne managed to win it against the darts with a 13-dart-finish and then claimed the next in 14 darts to reduce the gap to one leg.
King won the eighth leg to move 5-3 up before Osborne missed darts at doubles in the ninth, and he was made to pay as the world number five converted a 101 checkout to move three legs clear again.
King hit double top to move 7-3 up, but he missed one dart at the same double to increase that advantage in the 11th and Osborne managed to hit double eight.
Osborne hit his fifth 180 of the game in the next, but missed a dart at tops for a 116 checkout and King hit double eight with his last dart to move four legs clear.
The Derby-based thrower held throw to win the 13th leg before King recorded a 90 finish in the next to go a leg away from victory.
In the 15th leg, King left himself on a two-dart finish to win the match only to see Osborne take out 64 on double 16 to keep his hopes alive.
Osborne then secured a broke of throw in the 16th leg by hitting double eight, after King wasted two chances at double 12 for the match.
Osborne kept the pressure on his opponent by taking out a two-dart 81 finish but King put the contest to bed by hitting double top in the next.
"Colin^s a fantastic player but he started slowly and I took full advantage of it," said King. "I couldn^t believe my luck to be 4-1 up at the first break, and then I was in a strong position after winning the next session 3-2.
"I expected Colin to start firing and he did, but I knew if I could hold my own throw I^d hold him off and I did that.
"I^m really happy to be in the final, and I^ll prepare the best I can for the final and give it my best shot."
Osborne conceded: "The start cost me the game eventually.
"When I went into the first break 4-1 down I knew I had an uphill battle and I gave it my best shot, but it wasn^t good enough at the end of the day."
PAUL NICHOLSON 10-9 PHIL TAYLOR
PAUL NICHOLSON produced the performance of his life to defeat defending champion Phil Taylor 10-9 in an incredible semi-final at the 2010 totesport.com Players Championship.
Taylor had led 3-1 in the early stages, but fell 6-4 and 9-7 down thanks to some superb finishing from his opponent, who took out four ton-plus checkouts amongst seven flawless attempts at doubles in taking the lead.
The World number one levelled to force a decider, but Nicholson managed to win a dramatic final leg and to reach his first ever televised final, as well as guaranteeing himself a cheque for at least £24,000.
Taylor held throw at the start of the match with a 61 finish but Nicholson won the second leg with a 104 checkout.
Taylor won the third leg with a clinical two-dart 79 finish and a 14-darter put the 15-time World Champion 3-1 ahead.
But Nicholson hit back superbly with checkouts of 121 and 130 to win the next two legs before Taylor regained the lead by hitting double 16 to win the seventh leg.
Nicholson won the eighth with a 76 finish, hitting double 16 with his third dart, and then a fantastic 170 checkout - with Taylor waiting on 32 - put him ahead for the first time in the match.
Nicholson hit a 13-darter in the tenth leg to pull two legs clear, but Taylor won the next with a successful attempt at double four to reduce the deficit.
Taylor squared the game by winning the 12th leg in 13 darts but two missed darts at double 16 to lead in the next, which allowed Nicholson to step in and hit the same double to pinch it.
Nicholson pulled two legs clear once again by hitting double four to win the 14th, before Taylor hit his fourth 180 of the game in a 13-dart-finish to keep matters tight.
Nicholson won the next leg in 14 darts to go 9-7 ahead and one leg away from the match, but Taylor hit double four in the next to keep the defence of his title alive.
The 18th leg saw Nicholson have the advantage of throw, and he got the finish first only to miss two darts at double top as the pressure rose.
Taylor had 64 to win the leg, and he managed to convert it by hitting double top with his last dart to set up a dramatic deciding leg.
Taylor had the advantage of the throw in the final leg, but Nicholson forged ahead with two ton-plus scores, and with Taylor waiting to pounce on a two-dart finish he landed double five with a crucial last dart to record a famous victory.
"It means so much to me, I can^t put it into words," said Nicholson. "When I got in front I had to try and hold my throw and take my chances.
"My finishing was the key. It^s been a trademark of mine and I^ve worked hard on my finishing, and that proved the difference."
Taylor said: "He played superbly and deserved to win. He played better than I did and hit some superb finishes which hurt me.
"I wasn^t 100 percent in this event and I didn^t seem to find an extra gear, but Paul was great. After I got back to 9-9 and had the throw in the decider I should have won, but fair play to Paul."
Taylor will begin his bid to reclaim the Whyte & Mackay Premier League Darts title on February 11 at The O2, and he said: "I^ll get back on the practice board now and try to put things right.
"Since winning the World Championship I^ve had a lot of commitments and I didn^t prepare properly for the Players Championship, but that^s no excuse. It^s up to me to put it right now."