Stan James World Match Play - Qtr Finals Eve
WAYNE MARDLE produced one of the greatest comebacks in the history of the Stan James World Matchplay to dump out Raymond van Barneveld in the quarter-finals on Thursday night.
The 2003 runner-up looked set to exit the event when van Barneveld took a 12-7 lead in their contest, only for Mardle to string together eight legs in a row to take the lead.
Crowd favourite Mardle then held off van Barneveld^s challenge to take victory and set up a semi-final against defending champion James Wade on Friday night.
"When I was five legs down I felt he wasn^t playing well and I had to push him," said Mardle. "When I did he faltered, but I^ve proven I can battle it out now in all three games I^ve played this week."
Wade remains on course to defend his title following a 16-12 win over Manchester^s Matt Clark earlier on Thursday, while 58-year-old Dennis Priestley edged out Alan Tabern 16-14.
Priestley takes on eight-time champion Phil Taylor in a repeat of the 1995 final - won 16-11 by Taylor - as the long-time rivals meet once more on the Blackpool stage.
Taylor took a 16-6 win over Kevin McDine in Thursday^s other quarter-final, taking out finishes of 160 and 158 in taking an 8-0 lead to effectively see off the challenge of the 23-year-old.
"It felt weird being so far in front and it put me off a bit," admitted Taylor. "I lost concentration and I won’t be able to do that against Dennis, but that’s a different game."
Stan James World Matchplay
Dennis Priestley 16-14 Alan Tabern
James Wade 16-12 Matt Clark
Wayne Mardle 18-16 Raymond van Barneveld
Phil Taylor 16-6 Kevin McDine
Phil Taylor v Dennis Priestley
Wayne Mardle v James Wade
Best of 33 legs
WAYNE MARDLE 18-16 RAYMOND VAN BARNEVELD
WAYNE MARDLE made one of the greatest comebacks of his career to edge out Raymond van Barneveld 18-16 and win a place in the semi-finals of the Stan James World Matchplay.
Mardle trailed the Dutchman 12-7 before a run of eight straight legs saw the 2003 runner-up move in front.
He then looked to have blown his chance when van Barneveld levelled, only to sneak home in a tie break.
"When I was five legs down I felt he wasn^t playing well and I had to push him," said Mardle. "When I did he faltered, but he still came back to take me all the way.
"It was a battle and I^ve proved I can battle it out now in all three games I^ve played this week. You get more resilient from each game and it makes you stronger."
Van Barneveld took the game^s opening two legs before Mardle levelled and then hit the front with a 120 ^Shanghai^ finish.
The Dutchman, aided by some fine finishing on double top, took four of the next five to hit the front, and a key break of throw in leg 15 put him 9-6 up.
Double 16 extended the lead to four legs before Mardle hit the first maximum of the match on his way to the 17th leg.
Double 12 and double eight put the Dutchman 12-7 up, before Mardle produced arguably his best spell of darts since a win over Phil Taylor in the World Championship last December.
A two-dart 80 finish saw him break van Barneveld^s throw, and he took two more legs before misses from the Dutch ace allowed him to level.
The pair then missed a host of doubles before Mardle went 13-12 up on double two.
Two more legs gave Mardle a three-leg cushion and put him to the brink of an improbable win, only for van Barneveld to reignite his challenge with a 95 checkout.
A break of throw on double 18 was then followed by another maximum and a double 16 finish as he tied the game at 15-all.
However, four misses at double 16 allowed Mardle to edge back in front, and though the Dutchman levelled he also took a 17-16 lead.
Further misses from van Barneveld gave Mardle his chance in leg 24, and he took out double 18 with his final dart to seal a semi-final berth against James Wade on Friday.
"I^m in the semi-finals and it^s my first one since the World Championship, so it^s a huge boost," said Mardle.
"I was the favourite then and everyone expected me to beat Kirk Shepherd, but James is expected to beat me and I^m pretty dangerous in that situation.
"I^m loving it and there^s no better feeling than winning - losing hurts and that^s what^s given me the fight.
"I want to win one big major tournament and who knows, this could be the first."
PHIL TAYLOR 16-6 KEVIN McDINE
PHIL TAYLOR remains on course for a ninth Stan James World Matchplay title following a 16-6 win over Kevin McDine - but insisted he has to improve if he is to reclaim the Blackpool trophy.
Taylorseemed on course for a comfortable win when he romped into an 8-0 lead against the 23-year-old.
However, McDine reduced the arrears to 13-6 to give the world number one some nervous moments before Taylor wrapped up the win.
Taylorlanded 180s in the opening two legs, and also took out a 160 finish in moving 4-0 up.
Further checkouts of 110 and 158, with McDine sat on a finish, saw him extend the lead to 8-0 without his opponent having a shot at a double.
However, McDine landed a maximum on his way to winning leg nine on double four to get off the mark, and double top reduced the arrears to 11-2.
Although Taylor won the next, McDine took three successive legs - including two bullseye finishes for checkouts of 83 and 84 - to reduce the gap to 12-5.
McDine shared the next two, but Taylor restored his cushion on double 12, took advantage of two missed darts from McDine to move 15-6 up and then sealed the win on double eight.
"I saw Kevin was under pressure and felt weird for me to be so far ahead when I got 10-1 up," admitted Taylor.
"It put me off a bit and I did lose concentration, but tomorrow^s a different game. I know I won^t be able to do that against Dennis Priestley in the semis because he^s a brilliant player.
"Everyone knows how good Dennis is, and he simply doesn^t give in. Kevin didn^t either but he gave himself too much to do at the start of the game."
McDine admitted: "It^s disappointing because I felt great going into the match and it just didn^t happen for me when I got on stage.
"But to reach the quarter-finals is a good achievement for me and it^s all experience too - I^ll be a better player for this."