William Hill Grand Slam - Taylor in top form
PHIL TAYLOR turned on the style as he kicked off his bid to win a fifth William Hill Grand Slam of Darts title with a whitewash of Stuart Kellett on Friday night, as Michael van Gerwen won the all-Dutch battle with Vincent van der Voort.
Four-time Wolves Civic champion Taylor was at his unstoppable best as he picked up a sensational first win of the round-robin phase, averaging 112.16 - a record for the event's group stage - and allowing Kellett just one dart at a double in the game.
Taylor took out finishes of 108 and 100 as he established a 3-0 lead, finishing an 11-darter in the process before adding legs of 14 and 12 darts to complete a brilliant performance.
Taylor, who now meets Paul Nicholson in Sunday night's second Group A game, had won The Masters in Edinburgh last weekend, and was delighted to take his imperious form to the Wolverhampton Civic Hall stage.
"I'm really pleased with that and to end the game with a 112 average sends a message out to the rest of the field that they are going to have to play very well to beat me right now," said Taylor.
"The main objective at this stage of the Grand Slam is to get through the group stage whatever way you can, and winning 5-0 against Stuart gives me a good leg difference, but I won't be relaxing and I'll aim for another 5-0 win tomorrow.
"It's a massive tournament but I'm under no pressure and I'm playing better for it. I'm comfortable, happy and I enjoy the competition and the players coming through."
Nicholson kicked off his challenge in the tournament with a 5-2 win against Kevin Painter, completing victory in the battle of former Players Championship Finals winners with a 125 checkout.
"I'm very happy with that because there was a lot riding on this game," said Nicholson. "It was an edgy game but I was glad I started well - I was very nervous because I knew what the game meant and it puts me in a good position.
"Kevin and I have become very close in the last few years and we practice together a lot, but he didn't play his best game and I took advantage.
"Kevin's a very tough competitor, he's tough to beat and I did the job. The 125 shot to win the match felt huge, and it shows I can take out big finishes under pressure."
2012 Grand Slam of Darts runner-up Michael van Gerwen bounced back to winning ways on the Wolverhampton stage with a 5-3 win over Vincent van der Voort, as the pair put aside their close friendship in a quick-fire contest.
Van der Voort led 2-1 as the Premier League Darts champion was punished for early missed doubles, before van Gerwen regained his range to win four of the final five legs to take victory.
"Nobody can understand how difficult the game was because we know each other so well," admitted van Gerwen. "I'm the world number two but I was still nervous because he's my best mate and he'll be the best man at my wedding!
"We don't like to play each other so I'm glad we played in the first game of the group, and I hope I can hit my doubles better in the next game now. He was a bit unlucky with missing the doubles to make it 3-3 and I took advantage.
"My tournament starts in the next game - I won't be as nervous and I can play my own game tomorrow."
Van Gerwen will face Dean Winstanley in their second Group D game, after the 2012 semi-finalist produced some brilliant darts to defeat in-form Kim Huybrechts 5-2.
"I feel fantastic and I'm over the moon to have come out of that game as the winner," said Winstanley. "I went up there and did a good, professional job and I'm happy to hit the winning double.
"Kim was a bit unfortunate and the 5-2 scoreline doesn't really reflect the game, he missed two doubles to go three-each and that's not like him because he's been in fantastic form for the last couple of months.
"I reached the semi-finals last year and the buzz I got playing in front of that crowd tonight felt like it did last year."
Two-time World Champion Adrian Lewis came from 2-1 down to win 5-2 against Richie George, the Lakeside Championship semi-finalist and son of Bobby George who was making his debut in the event.
"Everybody's under a bit of pressure in the first round here and I wasn't brilliant, but I'm happy to get over the winning line," said Lewis.
"I know my form's good but it wasn't there tonight, but the most important thing was to get the two points."
Lewis' opponent in their second Group C contest will be Ronny Huybrechts, who enjoyed a 5-3 win over former Lakeside Champion Christian Kist.
Gary Anderson stormed to 5-1 win over Wesley Harms in their Group B opener, averaging 107.14 in a fine display which saw him win the first four legs without reply and also have darts to claim a whitewash, before hitting a 13-darter to deny the Dutchman a comeback.
"Wesley did really well here last year and you're always nervous going into the first game, so it's nice to get a win and to play the way I know I can on the big stage," said Anderson, who has returned to his plain black playing shirts following a year in his multi-coloured variety.
"Hopefully this is the start of a run of good games and that I can get some consistency. It's a hard group because Peter's been one of the most improved players this year and James Wade is world class, so it's good to get points on the board straight away."
Anderson now plays 2010 Grand Slam of Darts runner-up Wade, who opened his clash with Wright with checkouts of 130 and 160 before completing a superb 5-2 win over the debutant.
Sunday's play sees the second group matches split across two sessions at the Wolverhampton Civic Hall, with Groups E-H competing in the afternoon before Groups A-D play in the evening.
William Hill Grand Slam of Darts
Saturday November 9
Groups A-D First Games
Gary Anderson 5-1 Wesley Harms (B)
James Wade 5-2 Peter Wright (B)
Christian Kist 3-5 Ronny Huybrechts (C)
Adrian Lewis 5-2 Richie George (C)
Kevin Painter 2-5 Paul Nicholson (A)
Phil Taylor 5-0 Stuart Kellett (A)
Michael van Gerwen 5-3 Vincent van der Voort (D)
Kim Huybrechts 2-5 Dean Winstanley (D)
Sunday November 10
Afternoon Session (1.30pm-5.30pm)
Groups E-H Second Games
Mervyn King v Ricky Evans (E)
Andy Hamilton v Mark Walsh (F)
Wes Newton v Ross Smith (G)
Dave Chisnall v Ted Hankey (H)
Robert Thornton v Justin Pipe (F)
Scott Waites v Michael Smith (H)
Raymond van Barneveld v Tony O'Shea (E)
Simon Whitlock v Mark Webster (G)
Evening Session (7pm-11pm)
Groups A-D Second Games
Christian Kist v Richie George (C)
Wesley Harms v Peter Wright (B)
Kevin Painter v Stuart Kellett (A)
Kim Huybrechts v Vincent van der Voort (D)
Adrian Lewis v Ronny Huybrechts (C)
Phil Taylor v Paul Nicholson (A)
James Wade v Gary Anderson (B)
Michael van Gerwen v Dean Winstanley (D)
Gary Anderson v Wesley Harms
1-0 - Anderson makes a confident start by breaking throw with a 14-darter in a leg which included a 180 from the Scotsman.
2-0 - The former Premier League Champion takes out 80 in two-darts to establish early command of the game.
3-0 - Anderson lands double 18 to convert a 96 finish and leave Harms in deep trouble.
4-0 - Both players miss two opportunities to win the leg before Anderson lands double six to move closer to victory.
4-1 - Anderson lets two chances to win the match slip away and Harms capitalises by converting a 62 finish.
5-1 - Anderson closes out the game in style with an excellent 13-dart-finish on tops ending with a 107.14 average.
James Wade v Peter Wright
1-0 - Wright dominates the leg with scores of 180 and 140 but a missed dart at bullseye is expensive as Wade records a fabulous 130 checkout.
2-0 - Wade continues the brilliant finishing with a 160 checkout after Wright missed tops for a 116 finish.
2-1 - Wright lands double eight with a pressure third dart after Wade missed a dart at bullseye to increase his lead.
2-2 - Wright levels the game with a fantastic 11-darter completed with a two-dart 100 finish.
3-2 - Wright hits a third 180 before Wade hits a 174. Wade wins the leg on double ten after Wright missed a dart at tops.
4-2 - Wade lands double four to complete a 13-dart-finish and move two legs clear again.
5-2 - The world number six completes a fine performance as he takes out 70 on double ten.
Christian Kist v Ronny Huybrechts
1-0 - Kist hits back-to-back 140 scores to take command of the leg which he wins on double seven.
2-0 - Huybrechts struggles to find his range as Kist doubles his lead by taking out a 90 finish.
2-1 - Huybrechts hits the first 180 of the game to leave 43 which he takes out in two-darts.
2-2 - The Belgian hits double 16 at the first attempt to level the match.
3-2 - Kist hits a 180 before landing double 12 to regain the lead.
3-3 - Both players record maximums before Huybrechts takes it on double 16 for a 12-darter.
3-4 - Huybrechts converts an excellent 106 finish on double 16 to lead for the first time.
3-5 - Kist leaves 40 after just 12-darts thrown only for Huybrechts to take out 71 to claim the two points.
Adrian Lewis v Richie George
1-0 - Lewis takes the opening leg with a 100 finish to hold throw.
1-1 - George levels with a clinical two-dart finish after Lewis misses opportunities to double his lead.
1-2 - Three missed darts at double 12 from Lewis prove expensive as George takes out 58 in two-darts.
2-2 - George lets four chances for a 3-1 lead slip and Lewis accepts the opportunity to level by hitting double ten.
3-2 - Lewis lands double five with a pressure third dart to regain the lead.
4-2 - The two-time World Champion takes out 54 in two-darts to edge closer to the winning line.
5-2 - Lewis hits double 18 to end the contest and get two points on the board.
Kevin Painter v Paul Nicholson
0-1 - Nicholson wins the opening leg of the game with the aid of a maximum.
1-1 - Both players miss three chances to win the leg before Painter hits double five to level.
1-2 - Nicholson takes out an 89 finish to regain the lead.
1-3 - Nicholson pulls further clear as he hits double four.
1-4 - The excellent run continues for Nicholson as he converts an 86 finish to move to closer to victory.
2-4 - Painter lands double four to keep the match alive.
2-5 - Nicholson claims victory in style by taking out a 125 finish on 25, treble 20, double 20.
Phil Taylor v Stuart Kellett
1-0 - Taylor holds throw to take the opening leg with a 64 finish.
2-0 - Both players hit maximums before Taylor wins the leg with a 108 checkout.
3-0 - Taylor hits five treble 20s to ignite hopes of a nine-darter. It's not to be but the leg is won in 11-darts with a 100 finish.
4-0 - Taylor hits double 16 to complete a 14-darter and move within a leg of victory.
5-0 - Taylor lands six straight treble 20s to leave the opportunity of a nine-darter. The seventh attempt is just high of the target but the world number one wins the leg in 12-darts. The 15-time World Champion ends the match with a 112.16 average - a record for the Group Stage of the tournament.
Michael van Gerwen v Vincent van der Voort
1-0 - Both players sprint of the blocks as they register 180s before van Gerwen wins the first leg with an 85 finish.
1-1 - van Gerwen misses one dart for a 2-0 lead and van der Voort lands tops to level.
1-2 - van der Voort hits a 177 in the process of winning the third leg.
2-2 - van Gerwen lands a 180 but the winning double a problem before managing to hit double 180.
3-2 - The world number two moves ahead for the second time by landing double five.
4-2 - van der Voort fails with two attempts at double 12 and van Gerwen hits double 18 at the first time of asking.
4-3 - van Gerwen is left to rue five chances to close out the game as van der Voort hits tops to keep his hopes alive.
5-3 - van Gerwen wastes two more chances to win match before finally closing out the game on double six.
Kim Huybrechts v Dean Winstanley
0-1 - Huybrechts lands a 180 in the opening leg but Winstanley claims by taking out 58 in two-darts.
1-1 - The Belgian ace lands another maximum before landing double 16 for a 13-darter.
2-1 - Huybrechts hits a 180 for the third leg running and lands double four to secure the first break of throw.
2-2 - Winstanley hits back immediately as he lands a 180 of his own before landing double eight to level.
2-3 - Huybrechts is off-target with one attempt at double 16 and Winstanley holds his nerve to land double ten.
2-4 - Winstanley applies pressure to his opponent as he hits back-to-back 140s and Huybrechts succumbs as three missed darts at doubles allow Winstanley to hit tops.
2-5 - The Yorkshireman wins a fourth leg in a row thanks to an accurate attempts on double ten and claims the two points.