- World Darts Championship
Taylor weathers storm to add 16th world crown
Phil Taylor clinched the 16th world championship title of his career with a memorable 7-4 victory over Michael van Gerwen in the PDC World Darts Championship on Tuesday.
Taylor, who claimed he had "never seen a player like Van Gerwen" prior to their final meeting, was not ahead at any point in the contest until the ninth set - but by then he had got to grips with his 23-year-old rival's prodigious talent as he reeled off five successive sets and used all his experience to close out the contest.
Van Gerwen, bidding to become the youngest PDC champion in history, burst out of the blocks as he played some quite spectacular darts - but the magnitude of the occasion seemed to get to him at key junctures, as the Dutchman twice saw significant leads slip away as Taylor added to his lengthy list of career achievements.
"I'm probably the proudest man in the world right now," Taylor said afterwards. "I have to give Michael huge credit. He's phenomenal that kid.
"I just couldn't seem to crack him. But the crowd lifted me, honestly, and they won it for me."
He added: "I really don't know how long I can keep doing this for. I'm chuffed to bits."
Van Gerwen noted: "It wasn't quite enough. Phil played great tonight. It was a tough game for me, but also he played very well.
"I want to say thanks to the crowd and everyone who helped me along. It means a lot to me."
As the final got underway between too well-matched opponents - in ability, if not quite experience - Van Gerwen showed few immediate nerves, winning a 14-dart opening leg on his throw. But Taylor made his own statement straight after, completing a maximum checkout of 170 to prevent Van Gerwen getting an early break.
The next two legs proceeded with serve - although not without a few scares - before Taylor eased himself into position to win the fifth and steal the set. But Van Gerwen, on his throw, delivered when he needed to - with a 140 checkout of treble 20, treble 20, double 10 drawing first blood in the contest.
The first break of the match came in the second set - and it went to Van Gerwen. With the legs tied at 1-1, Van Gerwen hit treble 20, double 19 to steal matters as Taylor faced one dart to close things out.
A wayward shot at bull then threatened to see the Dutchman give that break back in the next, but Taylor missed his three-dart checkout to let his opponent back in to open up a 2-0 advantage.
The third set saw a few chances at breaks - with Van Gerwen missing a double-11 to repeat the thievery of his first break, before nailing a 123 checkout to prevent Taylor, waiting on 68, converting his advantage.
But Taylor made a statement in the next to checkout from 120, sending the set to a deciding leg. And the young Van Gerwen showed his first sign of nerves - barely mustering 30 in successive trips to the board as Taylor used the three darts he had from 41 to get back to 2-1.
The fourth set thus took on extra importance, as Taylor tried to restore parity. At 2-2 in legs, Taylor got the start he wanted with a 140 - immediately matched by Van Gerwen. Van Gerwen then repeated that haul as Taylor nailed only 99 - with a follow-up 84 not what was required.
But Van Gerwen missed the 116 checkout he ended up with - on the final dart, no less - and Taylor hit double top at the second time of asking to get things back to 2-2.
Taylor threw away a great chance to break to start the fifth set, as the high-quality of play briefly faltered. The two men exchanged scratchy breaks, before Van Gerwen moved back ahead at 3-2 thanks to a slightly stumbling finish at double four.
Van Gerwen stepped it up immediately after that, however, breaking Taylor in the first stanza of the sixth set and exploiting that to reopen a two-set advantage.
The match went with throw in the seventh set, with Van Gerwen forced into special measures in the third leg - as he checked out from 83 to leave Taylor rueing a missed bull attempt. That ultimately set things to a decisive fifth leg, although not before Van Gerwen narrowly failed with a 158 checkout.
Then came a crucial mistake from Van Gerwen, as an errant few darts left him chasing a 116 finish to save his throw and move three sets clear - but he missed his shot at double 16 as Taylor, no doubt relieved, tidied up the 41 he had remaining and got back within one.
If Van Gerwen was stunned he did not show it - and, more importantly, Taylor did not immediately punish it - as he was handed the first leg of the next set. But Van Gerwen suddenly started missing at key junctures, and Taylor took advantage to reel off the next three legs and leave the score at 4-4.
In the next set Taylor took the lead for the first time - as Van Gerwen again stumbled on his throw at the decisive moment, allowing Taylor to claim the stanza in the fifth leg with double top at the second attempt.
Another break followed in the 10th, as Taylor put together the first whitewash of the final to put himself on the verge of victory as the magnitude of the occasion seemed to really weigh Van Gerwen down.
While Van Gerwen will rue a few points in the contest, it was the third leg of the 11th and final set that ultimately cost him. After seeing Taylor miss three chances to break his throw, Van Gerwen proceeded to step up and miss three double shots with just 24 remaining - putting Taylor within a leg of the win.
That he did with ease - checking out from 91 with three perfect darts to end the contest in fitting fashion.
All that was left was for Taylor to receive the 16th world title trophy of his career - but the first Sid Waddell Trophy, the new silverware for the tournament named after the legendary commentator who sadly passed away in 2012.