Firstly, I must apologise for the absence of write-ups for the last couple of days. An impromptu Theology Department curry prevented me from watching the 2nd night, whilst yesterday was spent at teacher training sessions (from Monday I shall have my very own group of students to teach - which is exciting and terrifying), thus preventing me from writing up the 3rd night. Letters of complaint for this shoddy service should be addressed to Durham University Theology Department :o)
Wes Newton, John Part, Raymond van Barneveld; 3 more big names fell to relative outsiders on Night Three - Big John Henderson, Brendan Dolan and Andy Smith respectively. This tournament has inflicted heavy casualties on the bigger names this year, which is good because it demonstrates how healthy the distribution of big-match-winning talent is amongst the PDC players, and also because it is simply good to see players who don't appear on TV very often doing well on the big stage.
Two big names also went head to head - James Wade and Vincent van der Voort - and the result was no less epic for the shorter format. VvdV started brilliantly, and took the first two sets, which in previous years might have got the better of the Machine, but Wade fought back with a cool, calm, professional persistence - effectively, a point blank refusal to go away - which, if he can keep it up, marks him out as someone with dazzling potential in years to come - he is, after all, only 28 (like me) and I'd be amazed if come retirement his name didn't appear at least once on the World Championship Trophy. You've got to feel a bit sorry for VvdV as well; he's played very well this tournament, and is always an entertaining player to watch.
And so to Night 4, which held out the glittering prospect of another Taylor-Nicholson grudge match. I'm glad these two have put much of the aggro behind them; competitve fighting talk should never degenerate into personal animosity, and it's always best when players have respect for each other. For all the hype, however, the match was something of an anticlimax. True, it was a masterful display from Taylor, who won in straight sets, lost only 3 legs, and pulled off 3 ton plus checkouts, most impressively a magnificent 147 that he made look ridiculously easy. But there in lay the problem; Nicholson wasn't throwing at his best - which is superb - and there wasn't really the roller-coaster atmosphere which previous matches between these two have generated. Still, it was a cracking match nonetheless, and Taylor rather threw down the gauntlet to anyone who stands between him and the trophy with a ruthless, professional display.
Taylor said in his post match interview that he'd like to see Nicholson in the Premier League, and that it would be the making or breaking of him. It's hard to disagree with that sentiment; Nicholson would be a great asset - I'm here all week; try the fish and tip your waiter :o) - to the Premier League, and I think it would be great for him too. The downside is that my lecherous girlfriend would have many extra weeks to coo over him, but then there's no such thing as a free lunch :o)
Simon Whitlock joined the honour roll of fallen big names in the evening's big upset, losing 3-1 to Mile High Mark Hylton. Hylton was 45 when he quit his job to turn professional, and it's great to see it working out for him - even if he does have a throwing action which is almost Stompe-esque in its awkwardness :o)
Hylton shot down Whitlock in flames in a scintillating match, with both players throwing terrific darts. It really was a classy display from Hylton, who goes on to face the resurgent Richie Burnett, himself fresh from cooling the Heat of Denis Ovens.
In other quarter finals, the Power takes on Webby, Wade faces Andy 'Pieman' Smith and Brendon Dolan toes the oche with Big John Henderson. A great evening's darts ahead, I think you'll agree, and great to see that as many as 5 of the 8 quarter finalists were considered relative outsiders at the start.
Happy darting :o)