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Retirement talk heightens for Phil Taylor but Champions League victory shows there is life yet

DARTS
Picture: Lawrence Lustig/PDC

“Mike Gregory look at what you could have won,” was the final remark from Phil Taylor in his interview on stage moments after winning the inaugural staging of the Unibet Champions League of Darts, the newest tournament on the PDC calendar, and the first ever of a PDC dissuasion shown live on the BBC.

Taylor eluded to his last title triumph on the BBC, the 1992 Embassy World Championship, when he beat Gregory 6-5 in a tiebreak, and who would believe that close to 25 years later he would be on the BBC holding aloft another trophy?

As talk continues to heighten around when Taylor, 56, will call time on his glistening career in the sport, his performances on his way to winning the Champions League of Darts at the weekend shows he still has plenty of big titles left in him.

A 17th world title? After the way he dismantled the best player on the planet right now, Michael van Gerwen, twice in two days, it is certainly a bigger possibility now than it has been for a long time.

“I want to go out with a bang, that’s what I want to do,” the 16-time world champion said after beating van Gerwen 11-5 in Sunday’s final at Cardiff’s Motorpoint Arena.

“I want to go out with a bang – I’m over the moon to win this”

“It’s fantastic. I really appreciate the Cardiff crowd. They pushed me along. Some of them down the front really got behind me: ‘come on Phil, come on Phil’ they’re brilliant.

“I’m over the moon with this. Just to get to the final was tough.

“This is a tournament for the top eight players in the world. This ain’t no muppet show trust me.

“This is hard work and to play three games in one day for me was tough.

“I was worried about the final with my energy levels. I thought my energy levels were dropping down a little bit.

“But I just seemed to click at the right time and hit the right shots and put Michael under pressure.”

Van Gerwen went into the Champions League of Darts holding a 36 match unbeaten run, having followed up last month’s victory in the Perth Darts Masters with triumphs in two European Tour events and three Players Championship events.

And Taylor, who after being knocked out in the first round in Perth had a month break from competition, believes fatigue could have been a factor for van Gerwen’s performances over the weekend.

“I don’t think about Michael, Michael’s brilliant,” he said. “He’s been winning everything there is but I think he’s been playing too much and it showed a little bit during the final.

“Michael’s a better player than that. He’s just won three or four tournaments on the trot, week in week out, he’s probably played 12 days out of the last 14. It’s difficult.”

Taylor had beaten the Dutchman on the Saturday during the group stage of the tournament, following up a 10-5 win against Peter Wright with a 10-4 triumph over the world number one to qualify for the semi-finals.

“I think Michael’s been playing too much and it showed a bit in the final”

Van Gerwen edged past Wright 10-5 to take the final qualifying space in Group A, while in Group B, world champion Gary Anderson beat James Wade, Adrian Lewis and Michael Smith to top the group with maximum points.

Wade, posted 103 averages to beat both Lewis and Smith to finish runner-up behind Anderson in Group B.

In the semi-finals, Taylor and van Gerwen set up a rematch from the previous day, as Taylor swept past Wade 11-3 and van Gerwen got the better of Anderson 11-5.

A strong start saw Taylor take an early 4-1 lead in the final, before van Gerwen produced an 11 darter and a 110 finish to close the gap to 6-3.

Taylor then landed seven perfect darts in the 10th leg on his way to an 11 darter, and in the next leg punished misses from his opponent to pull six legs clear.

Van Gerwen hit back by finishing tops and 70, but the 15th leg proved crucial as the Dutchman hit a 180 and a 171 only to see Taylor check out 81 on the bull.

Taylor sealed the victory in style with a 114 checkout to complete an 11-5 win and scoop the £100,000 prize.

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