Tag Archives: Robert Thornton

PDC Unibet Masters Preview: James Wade set to defend title

Fresh from the awards night at The Dorchester – yes, modern-day darts has expensive taste – the top 16 are back on the scene to contest the Unibet Masters in Milton Keynes this weekend.

With changes in both venue and scheduling – the former likely due to the rather vocal Scottish crowd at the last edition – James Wade is back to defend the title he won in dramatic fashion a little under three months ago in Edinburgh.

Here’s a preview of the first-round match-ups, all best-of-19 leg encounters.

James Wade vs Mervyn King

Wade starts his campaign against the man who squandered a cluster of match darts to beat him in last year’s final, Mervyn King. Both suffered early exits at the World Championships – King was ousted in the first round by Max Hopp while Wade fell in the next round to Stephen Bunting – and will be keen to start 2015 off on a good note.

The match should be full of high-quality finishing – a trait which served both of them well as they enjoyed strong 2014’s. It’s a tough one to call but with King’s recent Achilles trouble, as well as a trapped sciatic nerve, Wade has the edge in this one.

Gary Anderson vs Andy Hamilton

Playing his first match as a world champion, Gary Anderson opens his title bid against the struggling Andy Hamilton. Victory over Phil Taylor in the final at the Alexandra Palace capped off a brilliant 12 months for the Scotsman, and he is a massive favourite for this match.

Hamilton was fortunate to reach the last 16 at the Worlds, with unconvincing wins over Dave Richardson and Kyle Anderson, before being whitewashed by Peter Wright. It capped off an unassuming year for The Hammer and his form of late makes it hard to envisage him getting close in this one.

Simon Whitlock vs Raymond van Barneveld

Simon Whitlock is the higher seed for his clash with five-time world champion Raymond van Barneveld but the Australian has been out of sorts, with his first-round exit at Ally Pally culminating a torrid year for The Wizard – a result which has also seen him miss out on this year’s Premier League.

A dogged run to the semi-finals in London displayed fighting qualities from van Barneveld that have become all too rare. Despite not playing his best darts, the Dutchman is finding a way to win matches. If the new-found grit is on show, Barney should have little trouble dispatching Whitlock, who could hurtle down the rankings in 2015.

Phil Taylor vs Terry Jenkins

After the Daily Mirror incorrectly reported Phil Taylor would miss this event following the death of his mother, the 16-time world champion confirmed he would be participating and he faces a testing opening match against Terry Jenkins.

Taylor was solid, if unspectacular, in his run to another world championship final whilst Jenkins gave a good account of himself in a run to the third round. In normal circumstances Taylor progressing would seem almost a certainty, but with his personal situation, and Jenkins’ penchant for an upset, The Bull could score an upset win.

Michael van Gerwen vs Wes Newton

With his world title defence ending in a 6-3 semi-final beating by Anderson, Michael van Gerwen will look to get back on track as he takes on Wes Newton. The world number one dazzled at times at the Worlds while Newton was bounced out ignominiously by Spanish qualifier Cristo Reyes on the opening night. The Dutchman should win through comfortably.

Adrian Lewis vs Ian White

Adrian Lewis is probably still scratching his head from his last 16 loss to van Barneveld last month in a match he dominated, but somehow failed to close out. Stoke-on-Trent’s Ian White meets Lewis in Milton Keynes and a similarly off-guard Lewis performance could see White with a chance. That said, if Jackpot is near his best he should prevail in a race to 10 legs.

Robert Thornton vs Dave Chisnall

Robert Thornton threw some of his best arrows in a run to the quarter-finals at Ally Pally, and will be confident ahead of his clash with Dave Chisnall. After reaching the final in November’s Grand Slam of Darts, Chizzy failed to replicate that form at the Worlds, as he was conquered in the second round by Benito van de Pas. Both players are evenly matched though and this one is fiendishly difficult to call. It could go 10-9 either way.

Peter Wright vs Brendan Dolan

Following a confident run to the last eight in London, Peter Wright matches up against Northern Ireland’s Brendan Dolan at the Masters. Snakebite, who has vowed to prove his doubters wrong this year, should have enough in hand to beat a steady opponent whose tendency to miss doubles at crucial times could ultimately cost him.

Predicted Quarter-Finals
Michael van Gerwen vs Robert Thornton
Peter Wright vs Adrian Lewis
Phil Taylor vs Raymond van Barneveld
James Wade vs Gary Anderson

Predicted Semi-Finals
Michael van Gerwen vs Peter Wright
Phil Taylor vs Gary Anderson

Predicted Final
Michael van Gerwen vs Gary Anderson

Predicted Champion: Gary Anderson

The action gets under way on Saturday at 12.45pm and all of the matches are broadcast on ITV4 in the United Kingdom.

Now Taylor has survived Huybrechts scare it could be too late to stop him

It was out of his hands. Kim Huybrechts had 15 darts to knock Phil Taylor out of the World Championship in the last 16. He couldn’t do it, he failed to even get a dart for the match.  He never recovered, and like a thief in the night, The Power was gone. Now Taylor has survived a huge scare – he eventually triumphed 4-3 in sets – it’s hard to see past the 54-year-old notching a 17th world crown on Sunday night.

For most, a tournament gets tougher as it goes on, that isn’t the case with Taylor. He thrives on the longer format, able to maintain a staggering consistency while the rest wilt. His ability to build leg-on-leg pressure without relent, makes him fiendishly difficult to beat. Unlike a Michael van Gerwen, or an Adrian Lewis, Taylor rarely has poor legs, ensuring his opponents are nearly always under tremendous pressure to hit their checkouts. There is no respite.

His dominance of the set-play format hasn’t been quite as strong as that of his leg-play – he hasn’t lost a match in excess of 25 legs since his 16-14 loss at the 2010 Grand Slam to Steve Beaton – but it is still unprecedented.

On the 19 occasions where he progressed to the last four of the world championships, only three times has he not gone on to lift the title. Those blots on the CV came courtesy of a  6-1 smashing by Dennis Priestley at the first WDC World Championship in 1994, and defeats in final-set epics against John Part and Raymond van  Barneveld in 2003 and 2007 respectively. The Power has also never lost a world semi-final.

So with the knowledge of Taylor’s supremacy in the latter rounds, if he is going to be beaten, the quarter-finals may be the last good chance to do it – a round which has brought his demise three times, most recently to Mark Webster in 2011.

Realistically, despite  a successful season for Vincent van der Voort, there is little to suggest he can threaten to beat Taylor over a nine-set contest. The Dutchman’s power scoring may create chances, but his frailties on the doubles and lack of experience at the business end of TV tournaments, do little to convince me he can upstage The Power on the grandest stage. A set, possibly two, but a win would require an effort unlike any he has produced before. It’s hard to envisage a vulnerable Taylor – especially considering any concerns with his new darts would have been quelled after the Huybrechts match.

Of course, the calibre of the remaining participants will hopefully – in the interests of competition – prevent a cruise to the title, seen so often in many PDC World Championships in the late 90s and early 2000s. Since van Barneveld’s switch of codes in 2006, which sparked a mass exodus of players from the BDO, Taylor has won the title just three times out of eight. Age, of course plays a part, but the increase of serious challengers is undeniably the main factor.

Providing he beats van der Voort, a semi-final match with either van Barneveld or reigning BDO world champion Stephen Bunting will await. A clash with van Barneveld would see a battle of titans, but the striking truth is, despite his win over Taylor in this year’s Premier League, that has been his only TV victory over his adversary in the last six-and-a-half years. – a period which has seen his mental strength battered through, a result of countless defeats against Taylor. In addition, van Barneveld has not shown form capable of triumphing over 11 sets. He may have possessed bottle in spades to dump out Adrian Lewis on Tuesday evening, but his scoring inconsistency would surely be punished more severely by Taylor. Past scars and current indicators point firmly to the Stoke-on-Trent master prevailing in a match between the two.

Bunting is the dark horse in this event and the BDO world champion is three games away from becoming the first undisputed world darts champion in over 20 years – if only for a week. The 29-year-old has moved swiftly through, dispatching James Wade in the last 32 and then Michael Smith in the third round with a ton-topping average. Bunting has secured a TV win against Taylor this year, in a deciding leg at the European Championship. While he would still be an outsider if a contest between them arises, Bunting has the game, and is in the form to beat Taylor if he is not at his best. It would be a fresh and intriguing semi-final.

Gary Anderson and van Gerwen are favourites to win their quarter-final matches against Peter Wright and Robert Thornton, and the two have an edgy rivalry, stemming from van Gerwen’s victory here against Anderson 12 months ago. The Dutchman has had the best of their matches in 2014, with key wins from 3-1 down at Alexandra Palace last year, along with another close win in the Premier League semi-final. Both have achieved success against Taylor and either would pose a strong test over 13 sets.

Defending champion van Gerwen lost the 2013 final to Taylor 7-4 in sets, but could have assumed total control at 5-2 if not for a missed double. Taylor has also had the best of their most recent battles, bouncing back from van Gerwen’s wins in two TV finals in 2013, handing out a pummeling at the 2014 World Matchplay, almost reducing his opponent to tears. The Dutchman is playing himself into the tournament, with a convincing win over Terry Jenkins on Monday. Set-play helps his up-and-down game, allowing him peaks and troughs without causing irreversible damage. If he can tighten up on the doubles, he could topple Taylor, but judging on his patchy year he would be the underdog over a 13-set marathon.

Could Anderson be best placed to take the title from Taylor? His Players Championship win in Minehead, and improving play at Ally Pally puts him in with a genuine chance. He overpowered Taylor in the quarter-finals in Minehead, and his 7-3 sets win over The Power in the 2007 World Trophy is testament to his credentials over the long format. That match may have been seven years ago, but Anderson’s current consistency and temperament, is arguably as great as it has ever been. However, in 2011 where he looked primed to win the tournament, he fell at the final hurdle to Lewis. The glut of 180s and strong double-hitting the Scotsman is showing at the moment will make him tough to overcome. If he doesn’t buckle and produces at his very best, the match is in his hands. His scoring prowess will offer up enough chances, it is whether he can take them.

Much is telling in that the quest to make an impermeable case for someone to defeat Taylor is so tough. His improvements round-on-round are ominous, and his character to fight back against Huybrechts was a far cry from his loss to Michael Smith in the second round 12 months ago. The Power looks assured and composed, in contrast to the edgy and uneasy version we saw earlier in the year.

Few chances come to knock Phil Taylor out of a World Championship and if not noticed when they present themselves, like that they’re gone. We may only be at the quarter-finals, but it might already be too late…