PHIL TAYLOR began his bid for a tenth stanjames.com World Matchplay title with a 10-4 win over Robert Thornton on Monday.
The defending champion overcame early nerves to see off the Scot, who wasted chances to win the opening three legs but never recovered from going 5-0 down.
Taylor eventually took a 10-4 win, but a match average of only 97 was 12 points behind the performance which gave him a ninth Winter Gardens win last summer.
He now takes on Kevin Painter in round two on Wednesday, and Taylor admitted he will need to improve if he is to progress.
“It was like having a boxer who is not hitting you back in the first five legs against Robert and I’ve got to stop giving players too much respect,” said Taylor.
“I’ll have to play well on Wednesday because Kevin will bring the best out of me, and I know I bring the best out of him too. I’ll have to average 105 or 110, maybe even as high as 116 against him.”
Painter, the 2004 World Championship runner-up and twice a loser to Taylor in Blackpool, produced the best display of the tournament’s opening two nights with a 10-3 win over local hero Wes Newton.
Painter took a 7-0 lead before Newton took three successive legs to hit back, but closed out victory with a 101 average to progress.
Steve Beaton won his first game in the World Matchplay since 2004 with a 10-7 win over Colin Osborne.
Osborne, last month’s UK Open runner-up, led 4-1 early on but paid for missed doubles at key moments in the second half of the game as he crashed to a second successive first round loss, after his disappointment in the Las Vegas Desert Classic recently.
Wayne Mardle also moved into round two on Monday night, with the 2003 finalist seeing off Tony Eccles 10-1 with a clinical performance, including a run of five successive legs which were won on his favoured double 18.
The first round continues on Tuesday evening, including 2007 champion James Wade against Derby’s emerging star Jamie Caven, the quick-fire clash between Ronnie Baxter and Jelle Klaasen and Gary Anderson’s Winter Gardens debut, against Andy Hamilton.
stanjames.com World Matchplay
First Round – Monday July 20
Kevin Painter 10-3 Wes Newton
Colin Osborne 7-10 Steve Beaton
Phil Taylor 10-4 Robert Thornton
Wayne Mardle 10-1 Tony Eccles
Tuesday July 21 (7pm start)
Andy Hamilton v Gary Anderson
John Part v Vincent van der Voort
James Wade v Jamie Caven
Ronnie Baxter v Jelle Klaasen
KEVIN PAINTER 10-3 WES NEWTON
KEVIN PAINTER powered past local star Wes Newton 10-3 to reach the second round of the stanjames.com World Matchplay.
Painter produced the highest average of the tournament so far, 101.02, in seeing off Newton comfortably to set up a potential clash at the last 16 stage with Phil Taylor or Robert Thornton.
Newton failed to settle early on and left himself with too much to do after falling 7-0 down, with a brief rally not enough to stop Painter’s charge.
Newton landed a nerve-settling 180 in the opening leg, but double 16 put Painter into the lead before he hit the same bed to move 2-0 up with a 14-darter that included his first maximum.
Double top moved him further clear, and he added a 130 bullseye checkout and a two-dart 71 finish in taking a 5-0 cushion.
Painter took out double 16 for a sixth leg, and punished a missed bullseye from the local hero with double five to edge 7-0 up.
Newton opened leg eight with his third 180 of the game, and a 96 finish for a 12-darter saw him finally get off the mark.
He also landed a maximum in taking a second leg, before double 18 reduced the gap to 7-3.
However, Painter returned from the break with a 14-darter to slow the momentum, and hit a 180 and double 12 in moving to the brink of victory at 9-3.
The duo traded maximums in the next, but Painter held the advantage and took out double 16 to complete a fine win.
“It all came together nicely,” said Painter. “I scored well and my doubles were good, and I’m happy with that.
“I’ve changed my darts recently, I’m using a shorter barrel with a longer point and it’s working well.
“Sometimes you have to change things to give you a new incentive. You can change things and be successful and that’s my aim.
“I’ve had some good games here in the past and been beaten, but too many times I haven’t played to my ability. Hopefully I can this week.”
STEVE BEATON 10-7 COLIN OSBORNE
STEVE BEATON battled from 4-1 down to defeat Colin Osborne 10-7 in the first round of the stanjames.com World Matchplay.
The former World Champion set up a second round clash with Mervyn King at the Winter Gardens, picking up his first win in the event since 2004.
However, it was not plain sailing against the UK Open runner-up, who led 4-1 early on but paid for missed doubles in the second half of the contest.
Osborne made an ideal start by winning the opening leg with a 136 checkout, and hit a 180 in the second before Beaton got off the mark on double eight.
Osborne landed another maximum on his way to the third, before taking out 116 for a 3-1 lead and then punished two misses from Beaton to land double 11 for a three-leg cushion.
Beaton returned from the break to take out double top, and then stepped in following four misses from Osborne to hit double eight and reduce the gap to 4-3.
A timely 177 score aided his cause in the eighth, with double 16 levelling the game before a bullseye finish edged him in front for the first time.
He also missed four darts at a double in the next, with Osborne stepping in to level matters on double top.
But Beaton immediately broke back, on tops, and also won the next two legs to secure a crucial 8-5 lead.
He also landed a maximum in the next, but misses at double top and double ten allowed Osborne to check out 108 to stay in the hunt.
A 12-darter put Beaton a leg away from the win, and though Osborne won a seventh leg there was to be no comeback as the qualifier took out double top for victory.
“When I was 4-1 down I didn’t think I deserved that scoreline and I’m glad I didn’t give up,” said Beaton.
“Colin started off well and I got back into it, but then I should have made it 6-4 at the second break and let him in to level it.
“But Colin didn’t come out quickly in the second half of the game and at 8-5 I thought I’d got him – and then I started thinking about winning and nearly slipped up!
“It’s hard to describe to people what it’s like on stage when you’re in a position to win a game. You try to keep yourself calm but it’s hard to know how to stay composed and it’s a learning curve.
“I’ve got the darts to do well this week and it’s about staying composed enough to do it.”
PHIL TAYLOR 10-4 ROBERT THORNTON
PHIL TAYLOR began his challenge to win a tenth stanjames.com World Matchplay with a 10-4 win over Robert Thornton.
The defending champion set up a second round clash with Kevin Painter with a comfortable win, although a 97 average was below his usual high standards.
Thornton had chances in the first three legs, but paid the price for poor finishing as Taylor made the most of his opportunities to hit double 16, double four and double six to lead 3-0.
Double top moved Taylor 4-0 up, and a timely 180 and a double eight checkout moved him five legs clear.
Thornton got off the mark on double ten in the next, and hit the same bed to pull back to 5-2 – after Taylor hit a 180 but then missed darts at double eight and four to win the leg.
Taylor responded with a 12-darter to take the eighth leg, and a 107 finish moved him 7-2 up before double ten extended the lead further.
Thornton took two of the next three to stay in the hunt, as further Taylor misses allowed the Scot his chance to hit back.
But Taylor was too strong at 9-4, and closed out the win on double two to progress to the last 16 and a date with in-form Kevin Painter on Wednesday.
“Robert didn’t play half as well as he can and I was expecting him to play well tonight,” said Taylor. “He’d hit one good leg and then didn’t follow it up.
“But I really enjoy this tournament. The format of the event suits me and I love Blackpool as a place.
“It’s the best venue in my mind, it’s a little bit extra special and to take a tenth title would mean a lot to me.”
Taylor has twice defeated Painter in the World Matchplay as well as in their classic 2004 World Championship final, but the Daventry-based star impressed in a 10-3 round one win over Wes Newton.
“Kevin has changed things in his game and he’s right to do that because it works,” added Taylor.
“He was very good against Wes and looked relaxed and up for it. He’s putting the work in and it’s going to be a cracking game.
“He’ll push me and there could even be a nine-darter on Wednesday.”
WAYNE MARDLE 10-1 TONY ECCLES
WAYNE MARDLE romped past Tony Eccles with a clinical display to reach round two at the stanjames.com World Matchplay with a superb 10-1 victory.
Mardle produced arguably his best display on the big stage for 18 months to power into the last 16, showing no ill-effects from the bout of mumps which wrecked his Whyte & Mackay Premier League Darts campaign in April.
He hit a 180 in a 13-darter to make an ideal start to the game, although Eccles took out 76 in the second leg to level matters.
However, the Hartlepool man missed the bullseye in the third as Mardle posted double eight to return to the lead, before double 14 gave him a 3-1 lead with the game’s first break of throw.
Eccles was again left on a finish in the fifth as Mardle landed double ten to move three legs clear, before further misses from the qualifier in the next two saw him fall 6-1 down.
Mardle had landed double 18 in both of those legs, hitting a 115 finish in the latter, and his accuracy on the bed continued with first-dart finishes in the next three legs as he opened up a 9-1 cushion.
He missed four darts for the match in the next, but Eccles wasted his only chance to stay in the contest on double top before Mardle returned to hit that bed and wrap up the win.
“Tony is a tough player but he didn’t play well,” said Mardle.
“He didn’t score or finish like he can but I can’t ask any more from myself than finishing off a game and beating a very good player 10-1.
“I finished on 36 like I know I can and I think I’ll try and leave it on every shot now!”