Sunday, 2 January 2011

World Championship 2011 - Quarter Finals

Something of a Changing of the Guard at the Alexandra Palace, with both Raymond van Barneveld and Phil Taylor following Wes Newton and Vincent van der Voort out of the competition in dramatic style. Whatever happens now, there'll be a new name on the trophy come tomorrow evening.

Let's begin with the most sensational: Phil Taylor ending a two year, 16 match, unbeaten run at the Ally Pally, and losing 5 sets to 2 to Mark Webster.

It's not unusual for commentators to speculate, pretty much every time Phil Taylor loses a match, that it's the end of an era. Let's deal with that straight away by saying this: anyone, on any given Sunday, can lose a darts match, especially to someone in the kind of steady, clinical and downright excellent form Mark Webster was in last night.

For let us be in no doubt: Webster was in scintillating form and this was a convincing victory. He came out shooting from the start, and never looked back. He did, in fact, exactly what the commentators say you need to do to beat the Power: put him under pressure straight away, and make sure he can't get back into his comfort zone. Webster was solid, and in spite of Taylor's steadily rising average (101.74 by the end, higher than Webster's own) he never really looked like faltering, his clinical finishing contrasting with Taylor's own unusually slack doubles: several missed bulls, especially, costing him vital legs. And it wasn't just his doubles; Taylor is known for his exceptional ability at switching down for treble 19, but yesterday he was hitting treble 19 with all the confidence and accuracy of an England footballer taking a penalty.

Webster, in the form of his life and doubtless remembering his 6-0 semi final defeat at Taylor's hands last year, was just too strong. Adrian Lewis now stands between him and a PDC World title to add to his 2008 Lakeside title; win or lose, if his plumbing's as good as his darts he can do my bathroom any time :o)

Jackpot Adrian Lewis secured his semi-final place with an equally convincing 5-2 defeat of Vincent van der Voort, who was not the same player that took out Simon Whitlock what seems like an age ago. Lewis looked solid throughout, hitting 13 maximums and coming away with an average of 100.03, with the exception of a brief period during the middle of the match when his focus and concentration appeared to be wandering.

The ability to maintain his concentration, and thus the remarkably high standard of play we know he can produce, for the whole of a long match has let him down in the past, and if I were a betting man (which I'm not, so please don't complain on tomorrow's post about how you lost a fiver at the Bookies after reading this :o) ) I would, on the basis of yesterday, put my money on Webster to reach the Finals. However, we shall see.

Gary Anderson, who's been tipped for a World Championship win ever since decamping from the BDO at the beginning of 2009, was responsible for putting out van Barneveld, the other remaining member of the PDC Big Three (with Taylor and Wade), with darts so electrifying even Michael van Gerwen's hair was standing on end. Barney took the first set; the Scot reacted as though the Dutchman had stolen his deep fried Mars bar, taking the next 5 sets, dropping only 5 legs, hitting 10 maximums (including 4 back-to-back, setting up two possible but sadly unachieved nine darters) and posting an average of 102.75.

Anderson has been in cracking form throughout the tournament; Barney just had no answer to him no matter how hard he fought (and he did, hitting a ten dart leg in the 6th set). Anderson now faces Raging Bull Terry Jenkins.

Speaking of whom...

Terry Jenkins prevailed in a 5-4 marathon slugging match against Wes 'Av' It' (or is it the Warrior now?) Newton. Both players had their moments in this 9 set epic, which like any good drama had an uncertain outcome, but ultimately Wes Newton's missed doubles cost him the chance of a first ever semi-final appearance as Jenkins came back from 4-3 adrift to 5-4 victor, hitting a magnificent 170 check out in the 8th set along the way. Newton's a very good player, and I'm sure he'll be back, but it's good to see an old campaigner like Jenkins go a long way in this tournament. He held his nerve to come from behind, pressurising Newton into, for example, missing four doubles to save the match in the 9th. Newton will kick himself, but he shouldn't do it too hard :o)

So - Anderson v. Jenkins and Webster v. Lewis. I don't usually do this, but what the heck... Courage, mon ami!, Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead, and various other expressions of reckless derring-do :o)

I suspect that Anderson will beat Jenkins and Webster will beat Lewis; my money would then be on Anderson to come out victorious over Webster in the final, though on current form not by much. However, that is just a thought and we shall have to see what happens - which should be fun :o)

Now, I must take my other half to the Doctors - I've been writing this post all day, in between my ham-fisted attempts at nursing someone with what seems like diabolical flu. Wish us luck...

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