Taylor chasing 5th straight European Championship
PHIL TAYLOR will be bidding to win a fifth successive European Championship this weekend, as he prepares to face Sweden's Magnus Caris as the tournament kicks off in Muelheim, Germany on Thursday.
Taylor has been at his imperious best in the previous four stagings of the European Championship was introduced to the PDC circuit in 2008, twice defeating Adrian Lewis and also seeing off Steve Beaton and Wayne Jones in the final.
The world number one begins the defence of his title in front of the ESPN cameras against Swedish number one Magnus Caris on Thursday night when the £200,000 tournament begins at the RWE Sporthalle in Muelheim, Germany, and is determined to extend his run of success.
"It's a great tournament and I'm really looking forward to getting started on Thursday night," said Taylor. "The fans in Germany are great and create a brilliant atmosphere, and I've enjoyed the previous European Championships.
"I've had a nice break this summer and I'm keen to get back up there on stage. I know it will be tough against Magnus because he's been a quality player for years.
"I remember playing him in the World Championship 20 years ago and it's been great to see him come back onto the circuit in the last couple of years, and the fact that he's one of the leading European qualifiers for this event shows how well he's playing."
Taylor's Stoke rival Andy Hamilton, the World Championship runner-up in January, will play last year's European Championship quarter-finalist Paul Nicholson in another tasty first round contest on Thursday.
Wes Newton, the number four seed for the tournament, meets Germany's Tomas Seyler as two other home hopes, Andree Welge and Michael Rosenauer, face Mark Webster and Ronnie Baxter respectively.
Mervyn King plays Kevin Painter and Justin Pipe faces 2011 World Grand Prix finalist Brendan Dolan, while the tournament's opening fixture sees emerging Dutch youngster Jerry Hendriks make his European Championship debut against Austrian number one Mensur Suljovic.
The first round will conclude with the remaining eight matches on Friday night, headlined by World Champion Adrian Lewis' all-Stoke clash with in-form Ian White.
The pair met in the final of the German Darts Masters European Tour event a fortnight ago in Stuttgart, while White has since reached his fourth ranking final of the year in last weekend's Players Championships in Barnsley.
"Ian's in a great run of form at the moment and I know it's going to be a very hard match but it's exciting," said Lewis.
"I've enjoyed the European Championship and done well previously - I've got to two finals and hit a nine-darter last year against Raymond van Barneveld before coming up against a brilliant Phil Taylor in the final.
"I'm really looking forward to this year's event though. I won an event in Germany a couple of weeks ago and can't wait to get back there.
"Germany is one of the fastest growing countries for darts at the moment and the crowds get involved. It's like a party atmosphere, it's fantastic and I love playing in Germany."
White often practises with Lewis, and was also a guest at the World Champion's wedding this summer, adding: "It was a lovely day when Adrian got married - I got to see him dressed up nice and smart too, which you don't see all that often!
"He's a great friend and he even drove me home from Germany the other week after we'd played in the final - but all that goes out of the window when we get up on stage on Friday."
World number three James Wade - who lost to Taylor in the World Matchplay final in July - faces Colin Lloyd, while Terry Jenkins and Raymond van Barneveld meet in another heavyweight contest and Australian ace Simon Whitlock faces Mark Walsh.
Emerging Belgian Kim Huybrechts, who was a quarter-finalist in last year's European Championship on his debut in a major PDC event, faces quick-throwing Dutchman Vincent van der Voort.
Three other Dutchmen are also in action on Friday night, with youngster Gino Vos playing Dave Chisnall, Co Stompe meeting Richie Burnett and in-form Michael van Gerwen - who hit a nine-darter in the World Matchplay and won a Players Championship last weekend - taking on Andy Smith.
The second round will be played across two sessions on Saturday, with the quarter-finals taking place on Sunday afternoon before the tournament concludes with the semi-finals and final on Sunday evening.
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European Championship First Round Draw & Tournament Bracket
Phil Taylor (1) v Magnus Caris
Jerry Hendriks v Mensur Suljovic
Mark Webster (8) v Andree Welge
Justin Pipe v Brendan Dolan
Andy Hamilton (5) v Paul Nicholson
Ronnie Baxter v Michael Rosenauer
Wes Newton (4) v Tomas Seyler
Mervyn King v Kevin Painter
Adrian Lewis (2) v Ian White
Kim Huybrechts v Vincent van der Voort
Terry Jenkins (7) v Raymond van Barneveld
Michael van Gerwen v Andy Smith
Simon Whitlock (6) v Mark Walsh
Dave Chisnall v Gino Vos
James Wade (3) v Colin Lloyd
Richie Burnett v Co Stompe
Schedule of Play
All times local (BST+1)
Thursday September 20
8.05pm Jerry Hendriks v Mensur Suljovic
8.35pm Mark Webster v Andree Welge
9.05pm Justin Pipe v Brendan Dolan
9.35pm Andy Hamilton v Paul Nicholson
10.05pm Wes Newton v Tomas Seyler
10.35pm Phil Taylor v Magnus Caris
11.05pm Mervyn King v Kevin Painter
11.35pm Ronnie Baxter v Michael Rosenauer
Friday September 21
8.05pm Michael van Gerwen v Andy Smith
8.35pm Richie Burnett v Co Stompe
9.05pm Dave Chisnall v Gino Vos
9.35pm Simon Whitlock v Mark Walsh
10.05pm James Wade v Colin Lloyd
10.35pm Adrian Lewis v Ian White
11.05pm Terry Jenkins v Raymond van Barneveld
11.35pm Kim Huybrechts v Vincent van der Voort
Saturday September 22
2.10pm Webster/Welge v Pipe/Dolan
3.10pm Hamilton/Nicholson v Baxter/Rosenauer
4.10pm Newton/Seyler v King/Painter
5.10pm Taylor/Caris v Hendricks/Suljovic
8.10pm Whitlock/Walsh v Chisnall/Vos
9.10pm Jenkins/van Barneveld v van Gerwen/Smith
10.10pm Lewis/White v Huybrechts/van der Voort
11.10pm Wade/Lloyd v Burnett/Stompe
Sunday September 23
Order of Play for Quarter-Finals & Semi-Finals to be confirmed
First Round Best of 11 legs
Second Round Best of 19 legs
Quarter-Finals Best of 19 legs
Semi-Finals Best of 21 legs
Final Best of 21 legs