- European Championship
Taylor bidding for more Euro glory
Phil Taylor will be bidding to win a fifth successive PartyPoker.net European Championship this weekend, as he prepares to face Sweden's Magnus Caris as the tournament kicks off in Muelheim, Germany on Thursday.
Taylor has been at his imperious best in the previous four stagings of the European Championship which was introduced to the PDC circuit in 2008, twice defeating Adrian Lewis and also seeing off Steve Beaton and Wayne Jones in the final.
The world No. 1 begins the defence of his title in front of the ESPN cameras against Swedish No. 1 Magnus Caris on Thursday night when the £200,000 tournament gets underway.
"It's a great tournament and I'm really looking forward to getting started on Thursday night," said Taylor. "The fans in Germany are great and create a brilliant atmosphere, and I've enjoyed the previous European Championships.
"I've had a nice break this summer and I'm keen to get back up there on stage. I know it will be tough against Magnus because he's been a quality player for years.
"I remember playing him in the World Championship 20 years ago and it's been great to see him come back onto the circuit in the last couple of years, and the fact that he's one of the leading European qualifiers for this event shows how well he's playing."
Taylor's Stoke rival Andy Hamilton, the World Championship runner-up in January, will play last year's European Championship quarter-finalist Paul Nicholson in another tasty first round contest on Thursday.
Wes Newton, the No. 4 seed for the tournament, meets Germany's Tomas Seyler as two other home hopes, Andree Welge and Michael Rosenauer, face Mark Webster and Ronnie Baxter respectively.
Mervyn King plays Kevin Painter and Justin Pipe faces 2011 World Grand Prix finalist Brendan Dolan, while the tournament's opening fixture sees emerging Dutch youngster Jerry Hendriks make his European Championship debut against Austrian No. 1 Mensur Suljovic.
The first round will conclude with the remaining eight matches on Friday night, headlined by World Champion Adrian Lewis' all-Stoke clash with in-form Ian White.
The pair met in the final of the German Darts Masters European Tour event a fortnight ago in Stuttgart, while White has since reached his fourth ranking final of the year in last weekend's Players Championships in Barnsley.
"Ian's in a great run of form at the moment and I know it's going to be a very hard match but it's exciting," said Lewis.
"I've enjoyed the European Championship and done well previously - I've got to two finals and hit a nine-darter last year against Raymond van Barneveld before coming up against a brilliant Phil Taylor in the final.
"I'm really looking forward to this year's event though. I won an event in Germany a couple of weeks ago and can't wait to get back there.
"Germany is one of the fastest growing countries for darts at the moment and the crowds get involved. It's like a party atmosphere, it's fantastic and I love playing in Germany."
White often practises with Lewis, and was also a guest at the World Champion's wedding this summer, adding: "It was a lovely day when Adrian got married - I got to see him dressed up nice and smart too, which you don't see all that often!
"He's a great friend and he even drove me home from Germany the other week after we'd played in the final - but all that goes out of the window when we get up on stage on Friday." World number three James Wade - who lost to Taylor in the World Matchplay final in July - faces Colin Lloyd, while Terry Jenkins and Raymond van Barneveld meet in another heavyweight contest and Australian ace Simon Whitlock faces Mark Walsh.
Emerging Belgian Kim Huybrechts, who was a quarter-finalist in last year's European Championship on his debut in a major PDC event, faces quick-throwing Dutchman Vincent van der Voort.
Three other Dutchmen are also in action on Friday night, with youngster Gino Vos playing Dave Chisnall, Co Stompe meeting Richie Burnett and in-form Michael van Gerwen - who hit a nine-darter in the World Matchplay and won a Players Championship last weekend - taking on Andy Smith.
The second round will be played across two sessions on Saturday, with the quarter-finals taking place on Sunday afternoon before the tournament concludes with the semi-finals and final on Sunday evening.