The final four remain

Ronnie Baxter

Ronnie Baxter

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PHIL Taylor enjoyed a successful return to his old style of darts as he booked a Betfair World Matchplay semi-final place at Blackpool’s Winter Gardens, where he faces Blackpool’s Ronnie Baxter tonight.

Taylor had defeated both Mervyn King and Ian White earlier in the tournament using a new design of dart, but after producing a below-par display against the latter on Thursda opted to change back.

Phil Taylor

Phil Taylor

Despite going 2-0 down, Taylor produced his best performance of the event so far this year as he overcame the World Championship finalist, who hit 12 180s but was unable to match the world no.1.

Taylor produced key early finishes of 126 and 127 in successive legs, and after taking a 7-6 lead he then won six of the next eight legs in setting up the win, which was sealed with a 170 checkout and earns him a semi-final against Ronnie Baxter tonight.

Taylor said: “I decided to change back to my old darts this morning – in my living room I was unbeatable but it wasn’t working on stage and I had to go back to my old darts,” said Taylor.

“I needed to do that against Andy because he hit buckets of 180s and his concentration levels are unbelievable. He battled hard and played some great darts there, and I could never shake him off.

“I’m glad the 170 went in at the end and I know I’ll be in for another battle now against Ronnie. The tournament’s getting better and better and I’ll be doing everything I can to win this title again now.”

Friday night’s other winner was 2007 World Matchplay champion James Wade, who held off a spirited comeback from Michael van Gerwen to set up a semi-final against two-time finalist Terry Jenkins.

Wade made the early running as he took five successive legs in moving 6-2 up, and he also led 11-5 before van Gerwen remarkably pulled back to within a leg after winning six legs from seven.

However, the world no.3 won a key 24th leg to deny van Gerwen the chance to break, and he went on to seal his victory with legs of 11, 13 and 14 darts.

Earlier in the day, Blackpool favourite Baxter - the 1998 finalist - defeated rising start Justin Pipe 16-11 and Terry Jenkins overcame World Champion Adrian Lewis 16-12 in a thrilling encounter.

Jenkins won through to the semi-finals of the £400,000 event for a third time following a superb 16-12 win. He hit ten 180s to Lewis’ nine during a see-saw contest and also hit 121 finishes in successive legs in mid-game before breaking the deadlock at 11-all by winning five of the final six legs.

“I got off to a good start and then went to sleep a little bit, but it was a good match,” said Jenkins.

Lewis entered the event knowing that he could succeed Phil Taylor as the no.1 in the PDC Order of Merit should he progress further than his Stoke rival in the World Matchplay.

“I had the world no.1 on the back of my mind, which doesn’t help really,” he admitted.

Baxter won through to his first major semi-final for three years with his 16-11 win over rising star Justin Pipe, who had defeated the other local hero, Wes Newton, in the previous round.

Pipe played his part in another thriller by sharing the 16 180s which were hit during the game, but Baxter’s mid-game surge into a 14-7 lead proved too much for the Taunton thrower to overcome.

“It’s great to be back in the semi-finals,” said Baxter. “I’ve dropped from sixth down to 20 and it’s been a hard slog for the last 18 months but my form’s getting back there.

“My finishing was good and I stayed focused on my game. I began to miss a few doubles but I held on for that one good leg and I got there in the end.”

Pipe said: “It wasn’t my day and Ronnie played well. I was practising well but I didn’t get going and even eight 180s wasn’t enough.”