RECAP: Looking back at the 2017 PDC World Matchplay
The 2018 PDC World Matchplay will soon be under way.
32 of the world's best players will meet at the Winter Gardens in Blackpool. For one of them, a £115,000 grand prize and a major title awaits. The battle for World Matchplay dominance will certainly be fierce. It was last year, when Phil Taylor signed off in style to take the trophy which now bears his name.
A lot of pre-tournament talk concerned the Power's route to the final. A worst-case scenario would see him face Raymond van Barneveld, Michael van Gerwen and Adrian Lewis, all before the final. First up though was Gerwyn Price, a serious banana skin. Taylor navigated the tough tie with ease however, sealing a 10-5 win.
The first round was characterised by tight matches; only Robert Thornton managed a meagre three legs. The tightest tie saw James Wade surrender a 6-2 lead, and three match darts, to lose 13-11 to Darren Webster. Peter Wright was also pushed but saw off James Wilson 10-8, while van Barneveld set up a Taylor tussle, beating Joe Cullen by the same scoreline.
Adrian Lewis made a successful return from injury woes to defeat Steve Beaton. Meanwhile, Rob Cross won on debut against Ian White, unseeded Daryl Gurney edged an 11-9 thriller against Benito van de Pas, and Michael Smith was dumped out by Steve West.
Naturally, all eyes were on what would prove to be the final time Phil Taylor and Raymond van Barneveld met in a major. In the end, it was an anti-climax. Barney missed a dart at tops to make it 4-4 in the second-round clash, and that prompted a blistering run from the Power. A 10-3 win saw him cruise through.
Van Gerwen beat Simon Whitlock by the same scoreline, but Gary Anderson bowed out following a blockbuster 11-9 loss to Gurney. The Northern Irishman showed real class with a 103 average and 55% doubles success rate as he shocked the Scot.
Alan Norris and Dave Chisnall also served up a thriller in Blackpool. Chizzy struck four maximums in the first two legs but wilted after taking a 7-4 lead, allowing Chuck to grab five legs on the spin. The pair could hardly be separated, but successive finishes of 109 and 100 claimed the win in Norris' favour.
Tensions were high going into a mammoth tie between Taylor and van Gerwen. The Power was riled up following rumours of the Dutchman texting Vincent van der Voort during his win over Whitlock; van Gerwen was determined to be the one to end Taylor's Blackpool love affair once and for all. In the end, experience won through. Taylor crushed van Gerwen 16-6 with a 101.85 average, having taken an 8-1 lead at one stage.
Lewis set up a clash with his fellow Stokie, battling past Norris to make the final four. "I didn't have any expectation at the start of the week, so to be in the semi-finals I'm over the moon," he said afterwards. Peter Wright and Daryl Gurney arranged a semi-final meeting of their own, with Webster and Mensur Suljovic bowing out.
There was just no stopping Taylor in the semi-finals. A 102.74 average sealed a 17-9 success against Lewis, whose profligacy ultimately cost him a chance of getting back into the game. The other semi-final was a hot-tempered affair. Wright and Gurney clashed in more senses than one, with Snakebite aggrieved by the crowd and Gurney's antics. In the end, the Scot saw off Superchin, squeezing past the unseeded man 17-15.
Once he reached the final, there really was no stopping Phil Taylor. The Power established a lead in no time, and took 13 of the first 20 legs to put himself within reach of victory. Wright, averaging 99 to Taylor's 104, struggled to get into the game at any stage. It was a foregone conclusion, but the Winter Gardens still erupted when Taylor struck the winning double to turn 15 World Matchplay titles into 16.
"I'll miss this place tremendously - I've loved it since I first walked through the door," he said afterwards.
Taylor will be back in 2018, but in the commentary box. The trophy will change hands for sure. Who adds their name to the history books remains to be seen.