Taylor’s defeats resurrect the darting year

When Phil Taylor loses one darts tournament it may be regarded as
misfortune; two looks like carelessness; but four, in just nine days,
and questions arise about The Power’s continued dominance of the darting
world.

Until last weekend, Taylor had been unbeaten on television since
January. Major victories were being achieved with considerable ease,
with televised finals regularly turning into processions. 2010 has seen
the darting record books being re-drafted yet again.

Sport needs unpredictability; it requires tension, shocks and surprises.
With Taylor vincible once more, the Grand Slam and, particularly the
World Championship, will now have that extra sprinkling of volatility
that the sports’ fans, administrators and broadcasters so desperately
require. (Sky and the PDC will breathe more easily knowing that this
months’ Taylor-less World Grand Prix final was watched by one-third of a
million viewers, the same numbers as his 2009 final clash with Van
Barneveld).

Of course, Taylor has brushed aside such blips in the past. Talk of the
end, or even the beginning of the end, for the western world’s most
successful sportsmen is premature. Three of his defeats were in very
short formats of the game, and the same number went to a
winner-takes-all final leg. Darts is a game of millimetres, and all
players have days or weeks when the darts don’t quite drop.

These defeats are, however, hugely significant – not in their quantity,
nature, or even their close proximity, but due to the opponents that
inflicted them.

The loss yesterday to rising star Joe Cullen will give genuine hope to
every young pretender in the sport. Twenty-four hours earlier Simon
Whitlock gained a huge victory in the psychological battle that he had
been losing with ever increasing speed since the World Championship
final in January. Prior to his Championship League of Darts victory last
Thursday, five times major winner James Wade had never previously
beaten Taylor in a significant final (nor had he played The Power on the
way to any of those five major). Most significantly of all, Adrian
Lewis will take enormous heart from the knowledge that he finally found a
crack in the armour of his former mentor’s defences, in the semi final
of the World Grand Prix.

Expect a rested Taylor to return to our screens with a bang at
Wolverhampton and again at Alexandra Palace. Revenge will be sweet, and,
history suggests, by a significant margin. Yet Whitlock, Wade and Lewis
will – possibly alongside Anderson and Van Barneveld – all now actually
believe that they could win either tournament. In darts, belief is key.

The rest of the year has much to excite the fans of the sport. Taylor’s
four defeats have brought back to life a year which his darting
dominance was in danger of destroying.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.