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Stuart Dalgleish 10th Feb 2010 - 15:41

Taylor doubtful for 2010 Premier League Darts opener

Please find below a media release previewing the start of the 2010 Whyte & Mackay Premier League Darts, which begins at The O2 in London on Thursday.

Courtesy of David Allen, Media Officer, Professional Darts Corporation

The 2010 Whyte & Mackay Premier League Darts season kicks off on Thursday night at The O2 in London - but four-time champion Phil Taylor is battling to shake off a virus ahead of his opening clash with Simon Whitlock.

A crowd of up to 10,000 fans are expected to pack into the Greenwich venue, which is hosting the Whyte & Mackay Premier League Darts for the first time on the opening night of the 2010 event.

The four fixtures on the night are due to culminate in a rematch of the Ladbrokes.com World Darts Championship final as Phil Taylor takes on Simon Whitlock.

However, Taylor - who won the first four years of Premier League Darts from 2005-2008 - has been laid low with a virus this week and was unable to travel to The O2 for Wednesday's event launch, and admits he could be forced to withdraw from the opening night

"I've been seeing a doctor since Sunday but feel dreadful," said Taylor. "I'm doing everything I can to be well enough to play on Thursday because I'm desperate to be at The O2 in front of such a great crowd.

"It will be one of the most memorable nights of my career to play in such a fantastic venue, against a player in Simon Whitlock who I really enjoyed facing in the World Championship final."

Whitlock, meanwhile, landed back in the UK on Tuesday after spending a month back in Australia following his World Championship success, winning three events from four on the PDC's DartPlayers Australia circuit in that time.

However, he also endured late drama after his Visa to enter the UK was only granted on Monday; hours before he was due to fly from Sydney back to London.

"I was a little bit nervous for a time there but I'm glad it's all sorted," said Whitlock, whose mother was born in Brighton. "I just want to get playing again now and I'm really excited about playing Phil again, if he's well enough."

Reigning Whyte & Mackay Premier League Darts champion James Wade begins the defence of his title against five-time World Champion Raymond van Barneveld at The O2.

"I can't wait to get back into action," said Wade. "It's obviously a hard tournament for us because you have to try and be at your best for 14 weeks and the play-offs, but I love it.

"Every week is like being in a big final because the crowds are sensational and you're up against the best players in the world. I start against the world number two so it couldn't be much tougher."

The night will open when 2007 runner-up Terry Jenkins takes on Ronnie Baxter, who returns to the Premier League after moving back to sixth in the PDC Order of Merit over the past year, including reaching three major semi-finals in 2009.

"Finishing in the top four is the obvious goal for me going into this year's tournament, and then you want to go on and win it," said Baxter.

"One of the big changes since I was last involved in the Premier League is the size of the crowds, because the biggest audience then was at Bournemouth when we had 3,000 fans and now we're talking between 8,000 and 10,000 at The O2. That's great, bring it on!"

The opening night's other game sees Stoke's Adrian Lewis, returning to Premier League Darts as a Sky Sports Wildcard, meet Mervyn King - who celebrated his debut season in 2009 by knocking out Taylor in the semi-finals before losing to Wade in the decider.

"I hit the ground running and had a good first year in 2009," said King. "I had a few hiccups along the way, but to beat Phil Taylor in the semis was a great feeling.

"I was a bit gutted about losing the final to James Wade, but you can't win every game and it was an excellent first year. Hopefully I can improve on that in the next few months."

After opening at The O2, where a crowd of up to 10,000 is expected, the Whyte & Mackay Premier League Darts will travel around the UK for the other 13 league nights, where the players face each other twice in a league format over the best of 14 legs.

The top four players will then return to London's Wembley Arena for the play-offs on Sunday May 23, with a £125,000 first prize on offer for the champion, while over 80,000 fans in total are expected to pack sold-out venues to see the eight stars.

With the Whyte & Mackay Premier League Darts filling arenas usually reserved for the biggest bands in the music industry, this season's tour sees a partnership between Whyte & Mackay and the Everyman Male Cancer Campaign.

In every city the tour will visit, darts fans are being encouraged to support the Everyman campaign and raise awareness of the risk of cancer by purchasing and wearing a series of t-shirts sporting the top players re-creating famous music album imagery and slogans, including the top six players re-creating Madness' iconic 'One Step Beyond' pose and 'Choose Darts' t-shirts.

Philip McTeer, Head of Brand for Whyte & Mackay, said "We are delighted to be involved with the Whyte & Mackay Premier League Darts, now the best attended indoor sporting event in the country.

"This is underlined by the fact that the Whyte & Mackay Premier League Darts tour is filling the biggest arenas around the UK, starting with the superb O2 Arena on Thursday night.

"We can't wait for Whyte & Mackay Premier League Darts to start and look forward to some enthralling encounters from the biggest players in the game."

Coverage of the Whyte & Mackay Premier League Darts is live in the UK in High Definition on Sky Sports, while coverage will also be screened live in Australia via Fox Sports as Whitlock becomes his country's first representative in the event.



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