TAYLOR CHASING HISTORIC VICTORY IN BETVICTOR WORLD DARTS MATCHPLAY
World Champion Taylor has enjoyed a remarkable run of success in the past two decades in Blackpool, winning 13 World Matchplay titles and hitting the tournament^s first nine-darter back in 2002.
Taylor^s victory over James Wade last summer saw him claim not only his 13th Winter Gardens victory but also saw the Stoke legend equal his own record run of five successive World Matchplay titles, having previously won the event from 2000-2004 before beginning his current winning streak in 2008.
The 52-year-old, who also won the UK Open title last month, has prepared for this year^s World Matchplay with ten days locked away at a lodge near Blackpool, and is in a positive frame of mind ahead of Sunday night^s first round clash with debutant Stuart Kellett.
"We play in lots of great arenas but Blackpool^s my favourite," said Taylor. "It^s been very kind to me over the past 20 years and I^ve got a lot of great memories at the Winter Gardens.
"It^s a venue that everybody wants to play in and it has something magical about it.
"I know it^s going to be a massive challenge in Blackpool next week, not just with the quality of the field but also for everyone with the lovely weather we^re having because it makes it hotter on stage.
"Last year was one of the hardest finals I^ve had because I^m having to work harder as I^m getting older and James Wade pushed me all the way, and I know it will be even tougher this year.
"I^ve been doing a lot of hard work recently to get fitter and lose some weight and it^s coming together. I^m practising well too and looking forward to Blackpool. I^ll be ready."
The tournament kicks off on Saturday at the Winter Gardens with four mouth-watering first round clashes, including two-time finalist John Part taking on world number four James Wade - the 2007 champion who has also reached four other World Matchplay finals in the last seven years.
"I know what John Part can do and he knows what I can do, and if we both do it then it should be a great game on Saturday," said Wade, who pushed Taylor all the way in last year^s decider and has been a World Championship and Premier League semi-finalist since.
"I^ve been working hard over the last 12 months and I^m sure that will come to fruition at some point. It would be great if it happened in Blackpool.
"It^s my favourite tournament and I^m really looking forward to it. I^ve done well in Blackpool so far and I think that^s because I feel very comfortable; the venue is fantastic and so are the crowd."
Number five Simon Whitlock, the European Championship runner-up recently, plays Jelle Klaasen and best friends Terry Jenkins - a two-time World Matchplay finalist - and Andy Smith meet in the tournament^s opening fixture.
2010 runner-up Raymond van Barneveld completes Saturday^s line-up, as he faces Austrian debutant Mensur Suljovic.
"Mensur is a tough opponent and it^s hard to find your rhythm against him because he^s quite slow and deliberate, where I prefer playing against quicker players," said the Dutch star.
"He^s had a great run in the last six months, mainly in the European Tour events, so I won^t be taking him lightly.
"I really like the Winter Gardens, and it^s probably the most beautiful venue we play in. It^s one of the tournaments that I really look forward to playing in and that^s especially so this year."
Sunday sees a double session of first round action take place, which begins when number nine seed Justin Pipe - a quarter-finalist last year - faces Welsh star Mark Webster.
Kevin Painter faces debutant Jamie Lewis - who secured qualification by reaching the Gibraltar Darts Trophy final three weeks ago - before Belgium^s Kim Huybrechts takes on UK Open semi-finalist Peter Wright, and Brendan Dolan meets Steve Beaton.
2009 semi-finalist Mervyn King kicks off Sunday^s evening session against Scottish ace Gary Anderson, who returns after missing the European Championship through illness, before Dave Chisnall plays Paul Nicholson and Taylor meets emerging star Kellett.
Sunday^s play will conclude when Michael van Gerwen, the 5/2 pre-tournament favourite with sponsors BetVictor who also hit a nine-darter in Blackpool last summer, takes on the 2005 World Matchplay champion Colin Lloyd in a tasty contest.
"It is a tough start for me against Colin because he is a fantastic player," said van Gerwen, the world number two.
"I have a good record against him recently and he will want to get one over on me, but most players want to beat me now and there is a fantastic standard.
"No tournament is easy to win but if I play my game, I know I can do it."
The Dutch star has won the World Grand Prix and Premier League Darts titles and reached the Grand Slam of Darts and World Championship finals since last summer^s World Matchplay.
"Last year in Blackpool was where it really started to happen for me in the big tournaments," reflects van Gerwen. "I managed to get a good couple of wins and hit a nine-darter so I already have special memories here.
"This year is completely different because I am one of the favourites but the pressure is the same really because I always want to do well.
"I have two PDC majors under my belt now and I have come close in a couple more but coming close is not enough - I want to win and I hope I can do that in Blackpool."
The first round will then conclude on Monday night, as recent European Champion Adrian Lewis, the world number three, kicks off his challenge against Belgian debutant Ronny Huybrechts.
Number six seed Andy Hamilton plays Blackpool^s Ronnie Baxter, Fleetwood ace Wes Newton - another player who landed a nine-dart finish last summer - meets Jamie Caven and Scottish ace Robert Thornton plays Ian White.
The second round will be held across Tuesday and Wednesday evenings at the Winter Gardens, with the quarter-finals split across Thursday and Friday before the £400,000 tournament concludes next weekend with Saturday^s semi-finals and the final on Sunday July 28.
This year^s BetVictor World Matchplay is the first to be played under the amended ruling regarding games needing to be won by two clear legs, with the tie-break situation now running for just five additional legs beyond the scheduled length of match before a sudden-death leg comes into play.
The BetVictor World Matchplay will be screened live on Sky Sports HD across the UK & Ireland, with coverage also live on RTL7 in the Netherlands, Sport1 in Germany, OSN across the Middle East, Fox Sports Australia, Sky New Zealand and through www.LIVEPDC.TV.
BetVictor World Matchplay
Schedule of Play
Saturday July 20 (7pm)
Terry Jenkins v Andy Smith
Raymond van Barneveld v Mensur Suljovic
James Wade v John Part
Simon Whitlock v Jelle Klaasen
Sunday July 21
Afternoon Session (1pm)
Justin Pipe v Mark Webster
Kevin Painter v Jamie Lewis
Kim Huybrechts v Peter Wright
Brendan Dolan v Steve Beaton
Evening Session (7pm)
Mervyn King v Gary Anderson
Dave Chisnall v Paul Nicholson
Phil Taylor v Stuart Kellett
Michael van Gerwen v Colin Lloyd
Monday July 22 (7pm)
Robert Thornton v Ian White
Wes Newton v Jamie Caven
Adrian Lewis v Ronny Huybrechts
Andy Hamilton v Ronnie Baxter
Tuesday July 23 (7pm)
van Barneveld/Suljovic v Pipe/Webster
Whitlock/Klaasen v Painter/J Lewis
Taylor/Kellett v Jenkins/Smith
Wade/Part v King/Anderson
Wednesday July 24 (7pm)
Hamilton/Baxter v Thornton/White
A Lewis/R Huybrechts v Dolan/Beaton
van Gerwen/Lloyd v K Huybrechts/Wright
Newton/Caven v Chisnall/Nicholson
Thursday July 25 (7pm)
Friday July 26 (7pm)
Saturday July 27 (7pm)
Sunday July 28 (7pm)
All times are approximate estimations and are subject to change based on the running time of other matches within the session.
First Round - Best of 19 legs
Second Round - Best of 25 legs
Quarter-Finals - Best of 31 legs
Semi-Finals - Best of 33 legs
Final - Best of 35 legs
* Each game must be won by two clear legs, with up to a maximum of five additional legs being played before the sixth "extra" leg is sudden-death. There will be no re-throw for the bull in this instance.
For example, should a First Round game (best of 19 legs) reach 12-12, then the 25th leg would be the final and deciding leg.
Winner - £100,000
Runner-Up - £50,000
Semi-Finalists - £25,000
Quarter-Finalists - £15,000
Last 16 - £7,500
Last 32 - £5,000
Total - £400,000
Nine Dart Finish - Should any player achieve a nine-dart finish during the tournament, they will receive a prize of £5,000. If more than one player achieves the feat, the bonus will be split pro-rata between the players involved.
First Round Draw & Tournament Bracket
Phil Taylor (1) v Stuart Kellett
Terry Jenkins (16) v Andy Smith
Raymond van Barneveld (8) v Mensur Suljovic
Justin Pipe (9) v Mark Webster
Simon Whitlock (5) v Jelle Klaasen
Kevin Painter (12) v Jamie Lewis
James Wade (4) v John Part
Mervyn King (13) v Gary Anderson
Michael van Gerwen (2) v Colin Lloyd
Kim Huybrechts (15) v Peter Wright
Wes Newton (7) v Jamie Caven
Dave Chisnall (10) v Paul Nicholson
Andy Hamilton (6) v Ronnie Baxter
Robert Thornton (11) v Ian White
Adrian Lewis (3) v Ronny Huybrechts
Brendan Dolan (14) v Steve Beaton
BetVictor Pre-Tournament Odds
5/2 Michael van Gerwen
11/4 Phil Taylor
8/1 Adrian Lewis
14/1 Raymond van Barneveld
16/1 James Wade
16/1 Simon Whitlock
22/1 Robert Thornton
28/1 Gary Anderson
33/1 Andy Hamilton
40/1 Dave Chisnall
40/1 Jamie Caven
40/1 Peter Wright
40/1 Wes Newton
40/1 Kim Huybrechts
50/1 Justin Pipe
50/1 Jelle Klaasen
66/1 Paul Nicholson
80/1 Kevin Painter
80/1 Mervyn King
80/1 Terry Jenkins
100/1 Mark Webster
125/1 Ian White
125/1 Ronnie Baxter
150/1 Brendan Dolan
150/1 Colin Lloyd
150/1 John Part
150/1 Steve Beaton
150/1 Stuart Kellett
150/1 Jamie Lewis
150/1 Ronny Huybrechts
200/1 Andy Smith
300/1 Mensur Suljovic