Stoke Rivals To Meet In Bournmouth
The Premier League Darts continues on Thursday night at the BIC in Bournemouth, as six-time champion Phil Taylor bids to kick-start his season against Stoke rival Adrian Lewis.
Taylor suffered a nightmare start to the new season on the opening night in Liverpool last Thursday, when reigning champion Michael van Gerwen picked up an unprecedented whitewash victory over the 16-time World Champion.
That game had marked Taylor's return to action following a six-week break after the World Championship, but the Stoke ace used the three UK Open Qualifiers last weekend to gain valuable match practice.
And the 53-year-old suggested that he is returning to his best with an amazing two nine-dart finishes in Sunday's third event, including one in the winning leg of the final as he defeated Lewis 6-2.
The pair will lock horns once again in Bournemouth on Thursday, with Taylor also drawing on the memories of his wins over Lewis in the finals of the World Matchplay and The Masters last year, as well as their classic Grand Slam of Darts semi-final.
"I'm really looking forward to playing Adrian," said Taylor. "The weekend was great for me. It was brilliant to win Sunday's qualifier but the weekend as a whole did me the world of good.
"To play in three tournaments was really good match practice, and to top it off with two nine-darters was the icing on the cake.
"I've had a ProTour weekend before where I've hit nine-darters in successive days but only ever hit two in the same day in the Premier League final [against James Wade in 2010], so that's a nice achievement.
"I'm working hard with my new darts and it can take a bit of time to settle sometimes, but this shows that I'm going in the right direction.
"After the game we've just had on Sunday I'm looking forward to playing Adrian again on Thursday - he knows what he's up against!"
Reigning European Champion Lewis, in contrast, made a brilliant start to the season with a 7-1 win over Simon Whitlock in Liverpool, and also reached two finals in the weekend's UK Open Qualifiers.
"Kicking off with a great win last week was perfect for me and I want to keep that going against Phil," said Lewis. "I'll be ready for him, but I know he'll be ready for me too!
"I said last week that it might take him a little bit of time to get used to his new darts, and he showed that at the weekend in Wigan. Hopefully that's got the defeat to Michael out of his system.
"After hitting a nine-darter against me I know what he can do with his new darts and I'll have to play well - but I'm in good form and I feel great going into the game."
Van Gerwen will hope to continue his strong start to his defence of the title when he plays Robert Thornton in Bournemouth, with the Scot having paid for missed doubles against Dave Chisnall a week ago.
"It was a great start the season last week but this is a new day," said van Gerwen. "You want to play 100-plus averages all the time so it's important that I prepare myself well this week.
"I want to enjoy this event and win the tournament in May, so every league game is important and I know Robert will be better than he showed last week. He's a quality player and it will be a hard game."
The visit to Bournemouth sees Raymond van Barneveld return to the venue where he landed the Premier League's first nine-darter, back in 2006 against Peter Manley.
The Dutchman takes on Wes Newton in Thursday's opening game, and is on a high following his superb 7-2 win over Gary Anderson in Liverpool.
"Last week showed people what I'm capable of and I want to show the world and the crowd every week that I can still play great darts," said van Barneveld.
"Wes is another top player, but if I believe in myself week-in, week-out, I know I can win this league and my aim at the moment is to keep winning and make sure I'm in the top four in May."
Newcomers Dave Chisnall and Peter Wright will be looking to continue their bright starts to the tournament when they clash in Bournemouth, having enjoyed debut victories in Liverpool.
"I really enjoyed last week and the crowd were brilliant, and I'm looking forward to more of the same in Bournemouth," said colourful Scot Wright, who defeated Newton in Liverpool.
"I think I'm proving that I'm not just a gimmick, I'm actually a guy who can throw some good darts.
"I've been working hard on making a good start to matches, and I did that last week. Dave did well last week and deserved his win, but I want to smash him up!"
The night's other game sees 2011 champion Gary Anderson take on 2012 runner-up Simon Whitlock, with both having suffered defeats on the opening night last week.
"Even though I lost to Raymond last week, I played well - I had an average over 100 and finished well, when I was given the chance!" said Anderson. "My game's getting back to its best and I'm looking forward to this week.
"I've had a play catch-up in the last couple of Premier Leagues so I know I can't afford to lose again, so I'm determined to win against Simon."
The Premier League Darts is being screened live on Sky Sports HD from 7pm on Thursday night.
A small number of tickets for Thursday's league night at the BIC in Bournemouth are still available by calling 0844 576 3000 or online via www.bhlivetickets.co.uk.
Premier League Darts Week Two
February 13, BIC, Bournemouth
- Wes Newton v Raymond van Barneveld
- Dave Chisnall v Peter Wright
- Gary Anderson v Simon Whitlock
- Adrian Lewis v Phil Taylor
- Robert Thornton v Michael van Gerwen