Taylor eyes more records in Blackpool as World Matchplay begins
Last Updated: July 20, 2013 11:01pm
Some darting greats talk of how the World Matchplay championship began and joined forces with the Winter Gardens.
Phil Taylor enters the World Matchplay this weekend looking to re-write history by taking a record-breaking sixth successive title to take his Blackpool tally to 14 overall.
Winter Gardens has become a stronghold for the World Champion with Taylor claiming 13 World Matchplay titles as well as hitting the first ever nine-darter in the tournament back in 2002.
Taylor triumphed over James Wade in last summer's final to claim a 13th title and equal his own record of five successive tournament wins.
The 52-year-old, who added the UK Open trophy to his cabinet last month, has spent the last 10 days in a lodge near Blackpool as he prepares for a first round encounter with debutant Stuart Kellett.
"We play in lots of great arenas but Blackpool's my favourite," Taylor said. "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.
"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.
"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 gets under way on Saturday with four thrilling first round ties, including 2007 champion James and two-time finalist John Part.
"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," Wade, who pushed Taylor all the way last year, added.
"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.
World number five Simon Whitlock plays Dutch ace Jelle Klassen while two-time World Matchplay finalist Terry Jenkins takes on Andy Smith in the opening fixture.
2010 runner-up Raymond van Barneveld completes the opening day line-up with a clash against Austrian debutant Mensur Suljovic.
"I really like the Winter Gardens, and it's probably the most beautiful venue we play in," Barneveld said. "It's one of the tournaments that I really look forward to playing in and that's especially so this year."
There will also be plenty of action to enjoy on Sunday with two sessions as Justin Pipe, last year's quarter finalist, takes on Mark Websiter before Kevin Painter faces Jamie Lewis.
First Round - 1PM
Justin Pipe v Mark Webster
Kevin Painter v Jamie Lewis
Kim Huybrechts v Peter Wright
Brendan Dolan v Steve Beatonn
First Round - 7PM
Mervyn King v Gary Anderson
Dave Chisnall v Paul Nicholson
Phil Taylor v Stuart Kellett
Michael van Gerwen v Colin Lloyd
2009 semi-finalist Mervyn King will start the evening session against Scot Gary Anderson, who returns after missing the European Championship through illness, before Dave Chisnall plays Paul Nicholson and Taylor puts upcoming star Kellett through his paces.
Sunday will conclude with World Grand Prix and Premier League champion Michael van Gerwan, a strong tournament candidate, taking on 2005 Matchplay winner Colin Lloyd.
"Last year in Blackpool was where it really started to happen for me in the big tournaments," Van Gerwen added. "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."
This year's tournament will be the first under amended rulings as players will need to win by two clear legs, with the tie-break now running for just five legs before sudden-death applies.