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DARTS
Picture: Lawrence Lustig/PDC

After the dust had settled from two consecutive weeks of darts on the TV, the European Tour was back in the limelight at the weekend.

Phil Taylor took home the Austrian Darts Open title, taking home £25,000 for his weekend’s work in Vienna as he capped off his first European Tour appearance for two years with victory.

It has guaranteed his place at the European Championship in October and is a second successive win after winning the World Cup of Darts the previous weekend alongside Adrian Lewis.

The 16-time world champion was a class apart in Vienna, as he consistently averaged above the 100 mark and even wired double 12 for a nine darter against Kim Huybrechts in the third round.

Many see him as favourite for the upcoming World Series double header in Auckland and Shanghai.

Crucially this upturn in form has come in the run-up to next month’s World Matchplay, with the 55-year-old looking to end his barren spell without a major trophy by winning the Blackpool event for a 16th time.

No other player has dominated a tournament quite like the Stoke ace has with the World Matchplay. A 15-time champion, Taylor had won seven World Matchplay’s in succession, going 38 games and almost eight years unbeaten on the Winter Gardens stage.

Therefore, I along with everyone else was stunned to witness James Wade end his imperious run of dominance when he beat Taylor 17-14 in last year’s semi-finals.

Nonetheless, Taylor typically bounces back from such setbacks in ruthless fashion. Since his third Matchplay triumph in 2000, Taylor has twice responded to losing his title by instantly winning it back the next year.

And his recent form aside from successive titles suggests that history could quite easily repeat itself this year.

‘No other player has dominated an event quite like Taylor has with the Matchplay’

2016 has seen Taylor arguably produce some of the greatest performances of his career, in terms of averages, and but for the continued brilliance of Michael van Gerwen, he himself would still likely be dominating on the tour.

Van Gerwen is the defending champion this year, and while at the start of the year he looked invincible, the last couple of weeks have shown there may be slight chinks in the armoury of the world number one.

Taylor might be able to exploit them. The Power beat van Gerwen at the World Cup a fortnight ago, albeit in a race to four legs, but it signalled his first TV win over the Dutch maestro for 21 months.

Many speculated that van Gerwen had developed a huge psychological advantage over Taylor, but with that now seemingly erased, who’s to back against Taylor ending his major trophy hoodoo on one of his favourite stomping grounds in Blackpool next month?

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