World Matchplay semi-finals: former Winter Garden foes Taylor and Wade tussle
What a year is has been for comeback king Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor, who is now one step away from his third consecutive televised final and adding an incredible 16th World Matchplay title to his bulging trophy cabinet, which includes recent captures of the World Cup of Darts and Japan Masters.
The Stoke-born darting superstar is understandably odds-on favourite at 1/4 with Coral to win his semi-final duel with James Wade, considering his unparalleled calibre in this competition, where he will be searching for his 39th consecutive match victory on the Blackpool oche.
Taylor is now a 13/8 chance to retain his crown in his favourite competition, and The Machine will have to have something special up his sleeve to usurp The Power, who has lost just six matches in the Winter Gardens since the tournament began in 1994. Quite the stat.
No stranger to a nine darter, the exceptional Englishman hit his first televised (and the first ever to be broadcast on UK TV) perfect leg here back in 2002, and is superbly priced at 16/1 to achieve another in Lancashire.
To get to this stage, second seed Taylor made light work of both John Henderson and Andy Hamilton, barely blinking as he took his opponents down by large 10-2 and 13-6 margins respectively. The Power thus deftly side-stepped the giant killings that befell big-name peers such as Gary Anderson, Raymond van Barneveld and Adrian Lewis.
Yet, fan favourite Taylor still looked to be in second gear, only bringing his best finishing out of the bag for slain quarter-finalist Dave Chisnall last time out, when fans finally got a glimpse of Taylor’s true prowess.
Following his 16-8 humbling of Chizzy, the darting great will now turn his attention to Wade, one of just six stars other than himself to have lifted the trophy.
The Machine, much younger at 32, survived a late surge from unseeded Mensur Suljovic to take the quarter-final spoils 16-11 and makes it to the semi-final stage relatively unruffled. Wade also saves his best for Blackpool, so is 3/1 for a famous win and a tempting 11/4 to take the most maximums.
Crucially, however, despite his 2007 tournament triumph, The Machine is yet to defeat current champion Taylor, 6/4 to be King of the Oche (player to win match, most 180s and highest checkout. If any of the markets are tied, bets will be settled as losers), in four previous World Matchplay meetings, though most have been close affairs.
Taylor holds an emphatic head-to-head record over his opponent with 45 victories to eight (plus five draws) and has also won all three of their last duels.
Despite the darting heavyweight’s excellent record, however, this clash should be much tighter than history suggests and punters can pounce on odds of 9/1 for a repeat scoreline of the pair’s last World Matchplay semi-final scuffle, when the Power surged to a 17-12 triumph.
Coral’s top tip: take terrific odds of 13/8 for second favourite Taylor to lift his 16th World Matchplay title while you still can.