- PDC World Darts Championship
Taylor & Van Barneveld book intriguing semi showdown
Phil Taylor will face Raymond van Barneveld in the semi-finals of the PDC World Championship after both former world champions produced impressive quarter-final performances on Friday.
Taylor demolished last year's finalist Andy Hamilton at Alexandra Palace after Van Barneveld had previously proven too good for Simon Whitlock - setting up a repeat of the memorable 2007 final at the same venue, won 7-6 by the Dutchman.
However, Van Barneveld has not beaten Taylor since 2009 - the year 'The Power' gained revenge for that 2007 loss with a 7-1 thumping in the final - and the 15-time world champion will have every reason to feel confident after a 5-0 thrashing of Hamilton.
Taylor was already two legs up in the opening set by the time Hamilton produced the first 180 of the match - but 'The Hammer' could not subsequently hit the mark with a double-16 shot as Taylor followed him up and found double top to move a set ahead in a matter of minutes.
It was a double four - at the second attempt, after shunning an attempt at a more difficult out in his prior visit to the oche - that ensured the same outcome in the second stanza, leaving Hamilton 2-0 down and yet to even claim a leg.
Handed the throw to start the third set, however, Hamilton took advantage of a slow start from his opponent to cruise to his first leg of the contest - applying a bit of pressure to 'The Power'. But Taylor won on his throw and then broke Hamilton after the Englishman narrowly missed out on a 146 checkout, restoring the status quo emphatically in the next leg to move to within two sets of victory.
That set, as it turned out, was about as good as it got for Hamilton - who was broken in the fourth set while still stranded on 241 as another 3-0 whitewash followed.
Hamilton ticked off the first leg of the fifth set to at least avoid a repeat to end the contest, before forcing Taylor to check out from 91 to avoid being broken for the first time all evening. Hamilton was then faced with a 94 checkout of his own in the next run, but missed the last double-16 as Taylor proceeded to clean up and move within a leg of victory.
A 171 start (double 20, double 19, double 18) got the fan favourite going in perfect fashion, and he duly ended the contest with a 65 checkout to move within one win of the final.
"It wasn't easy, he was just missing doubles. It was all about finishing," Taylor said.
"I was taught a lesson by the master," Hamilton acknowledged. "Yeah I missed a few doubles, but that's what it's all about.
"I was trying too hard to beat Phil Taylor, and the harder you try the more difficult it gets."
Earlier in the evening, an emotional Van Barneveld demolished Simon Whitlock 5-1 to become the first player to book his place in the tournament's semi-finals.
Van Barneveld rocketed out of the blocks against his Australian opponent - a finalist here just three years ago - to open up an early 2-0 lead and, perhaps overwhelmed by the high quality of his play, became visibly emotional as he clinched an all-important fourth set to move 4-1 ahead.
Whitlock - whose own average remained around 100 for the entire contest - pushed him all the way to the conclusion, but a final double 16 secured the Dutchman's comfortable progress into the final four - and a repeat of the 2007 and 2009 finals against Taylor.
"We've battled many, many matches, me and Simon," Van Barneveld, whose average at the end was 102.32, said afterwards. "I was thinking this was going to be a 5-4 game or whatever - he has a good record against me, he's often been the better player when we met - but that was a different Van Barneveld. "I believe in myself and now I'm thinking 'just play the board'."
Speaking of the semi-final prior to Taylor's match, Van Barneveld added: "I hope I play Phil. I'm not scared. I want to play the best players in the world - and he is."
Told about Van Barneveld's comments, Taylor said: "I think he does [fear me]. I think it's the best semi-final, the one everyone wanted.
"If he doesn't fear me, I'll have to make him fear me on Sunday."
Whitlock, magnanimous in defeat, acknowledged that he had been beaten by the better player on the night.
"I threw everything at Raymond then, but I just wasn't good enough," he noted. "He was just absolutely brilliant. I'm walking away with a smile on my face - I couldn't do much better.
"It just wasn't good enough on the day."