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Article: Whyte & Mackay Premier League Darts Play-Offs Preview

Whyte & Mackay Premier League Darts Play-Offs Preview



PHIL TAYLOR is bidding to claim a fourth successive Whyte & Mackay Premier League Darts title when this year^s play-offs take place on Monday night.

Taylor, James Wade, Raymond van Barneveld and Adrian Lewis will battle for the £100,000 first prize at the Cardiff International Arena.

Defending champion Taylor faces Lewis in an all-Stoke semi-final and world number one van Barneveld meets rising star Wade in the other last four contest, with the winners returning to play for the title.


has won all four previous Premier League titles, and recovered from losing three of his opening four matches to eventually top the league table after 14 games.

"People laughed at me at the beginning when I changed things, like my darts, but I kept confidence in what I was doing and everything^s coming together for me now," said Taylor, who won last weekend^s PDC US Open.

"Adrian^s got a tough game and he^s got to play well. He starts off slowly and then picks his game up but he^s a great player and full of natural talent - like a Ronnie O^Sullivan - and I don^t think he knows how good he can be yet.

"I used to practice with him all the time, I took him under my wing a bit and he thought he could take on the world. He^s done that, and he^s in the top ten of the world now but he^s got to go to Cardiff and beat me now.

"I^ll be very motivated for it, and I want to win the title again."

Lewis has never defeated Taylor in their seven previous televised meetings, but is confident he can end that record in their first-to-11 contest.

"I^ve beaten him three times away from the TV stage and I^m looking forward to doing it on TV," said the 22-year-old.

"I^m not scared of him, I^m not scared of anybody, and I^ve just got to go up there and play my own game. If I can score like I can and hit my doubles, I^ll give Phil a run for his money.

"He is probably playing better now than he ever has done and I know what I^ve got to do to beat him."

Lewis has yet to pick up a major title but has reached sixth in the world rankings, and he feels success in Cardiff could be a turning point in his career.

"Winning the Premier League would mean more to me at the moment than winning the World Championship," he said.

"I^ve been playing the world^s top eight and other players in the semi-finals is the current top three.

"To win the tournament would boost my confidence more than anything and I^ll look to follow that up by winning a big major this year."

World number three Wade suffered just three defeats during the 14 weekly rounds, with two coming against van Barneveld - losing 8-6 in Bournemouth and Belfast.

The 24-year-old said: "They were both close games and could have gone either way but they^re gone now, history.

"Monday is a new day and it^s all about me taking my chances. I love the knockout format and it seems to bring out the best in me."

Wade has now recovered from missing last week^s PDC US Open through illness, and is preparing for the play-offs by practising with Robert Thornton, the leading Scottish player who joined the PDC circuit this week.

"It was obviously disappointing to miss the US Open last week but the break may have done me some good," said Wade.

"I^ve have a good preparation and I^m looking forward to the play-offs. It^s great for me that Robert has travelled from Scotland to help my practice and

Van Barneveld has also enlisted the help of another leading player, Michael van Gerwen, in his preparations this week after suffering a last 32 defeat to Gary Mawson in the PDC US Open.

"I was disappointed not to do better in America," said van Barneveld. "It^s a long way to go to lose early on, and my doubles let me down against Gary Mawson.

"I have practiced well since I returned and had some intense sessions with Michael, and I^m looking forward to playing James.

"He had a fantastic year in 2007, winning the SkyBet World Grand Prix and Stan James World Matchplay and getting into the top four and he^s done well this year too."

Van Barneveld has been a semi-final loser in the last two Premier Leagues, but admits he was in danger of even missing out on this year^s play-offs following a mid-season slump.

"I have my belief back and my first target is to get into the final," he said. "In the last two Premier Leagues I haven^t reached the final so I can^t look beyond James.

"People who know me know I^m at my best in a knockout situation. It^s hard to prepare for 14 weeks and I was worried near the end, but if it goes to knockout, it^s a different Barney."

The play-offs will be screened on Sky Sports 2 from 6pm, and also shown live in Holland, Germany and as far afield as the Middle East and India.

Whyte & Mackay Premier League Darts Play-Offs

May 26, CIA, Cardiff, 6pm Start


James Wade v Raymond van Barneveld

Phil Taylor v Adrian Lewis

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