Phil Taylor made a winning start to his bid for a 14th BetVictor World Matchplay title by sweeping aside Stuart Kellett 10-1 at Blackpool last night.
Taylor returned to the Winter Gardens stage in typically imperious form, as he began his bid to claim a record sixth successive World Matchplay title with a dominant display.
“It was more comfortable than I thought it would be,” said Taylor, who next meets Terry Jenkins tomorrow.
“Stuart’s a lot better player than he showed tonight – he beat me in a Players Championship a few weeks ago and maybe he had some nerves.”
No.2 seed Michael van Gerwen held off a brave fightback from 2005 champion Colin Lloyd before he progressed to a second round clash with Peter Wright 10-7.
Van Gerwen raced into a five-leg lead before Lloyd, aided by a 120 finish, hit back to trail just 7-6 at one stage, but a key bullseye from the Dutchman denied him the chance to pull level before the Premier League Darts champion edged into the last 16.
Gary Anderson knocked out no.13 seed Mervyn King with a fine 10-5 victory, showing flashes of his brilliant best as he returned from the illness which recently saw him miss the European Championship.
Dave Chisnall twice hit back from behind before defeating Paul Nicholson 10-8, claiming his first victory at the Winter Gardens in his third World Matchplay appearance.
Last night’s results have seen reigning champion Taylor’s odds of retaining the BetVictor World Matchplay crown cut to 9/4 with the sponsors, while van Gerwen is now 5/2 to lift the trophy next Sunday.
In yesterday’s afternoon session, Kevin Painter held off debutant Jamie Lewis with a 10-7 victory.
Painter booked his place in the second round against Simon Whitlock tomorrow with a strong display against the Welsh youngster.
World no.9 Justin Pipe progressed to a second round clash with Raymond van Barneveld by defeating Mark Webster 10-4, as the Welshman limped throughout the game after tearing ankle ligaments playing five-a-side football.
Kim Huybrechts became the first seeded player to be knocked out as he went down 10-4 to Wright, a UK Open semi-finalist last month who continues to impress on the big stage.
Northern Ireland’s Brendan Dolan picked up his first World Matchplay win with a narrow 10-8 defeat of former World Champion Steve Beaton in the final game of the session.
Beaton led 3-1 and 5-2 before Dolan won five successive legs to turn the game on its head.
Big guns James Wade, Van Barneveld, Whitlock and Jenkins all enjoyed victories on Saturday’s opening night.
2007 champion Wade booked his place in the second round with a gritty 10-8 victory over two-time finalist John Part, who led 2-0 and 4-3.
Van Barneveld, the 2010 finalist, defeated Austrian debutant Mensur Suljovic 10-4 aided by a 101 finish and two 12-darters. The Dutchman took six successive legs to put himself in the driving seat.
Fifth seed Whitlock held off Jelle Klaasen’s fightback from 8-3 down to trail just 9-7 before the Australian produced a timely 12-darter to book his second round place.
Two-time finalist Jenkins was the night’s other winner, as he defeated Andy Smith 10-3, landing seven 180s in a fine display. Smith took out 116 as he won the game’s first two legs, and also finished 101 as he led 3-2, but Jenkins won the next eight legs without reply.
The first round concludes tonight, when Fylde coast favourites Wes Newton (seeded seven) and qualifier Ronnie Baxter take to the oche