It was the 16-time world champion’s first ever whitewash defeat in a career spanning over two decades and only the fourth in the Premier League—now in its 10th season.
So does this van Gerwen victory start a new era in darting history?
Taylor will come back strong. Let’s not forget that, despite the heavy defeat, he still recorded the fourth-highest average of the night.
What it was was a fantastic performance from van Gerwen at a standard he can come close to hitting almost every week. He has already stamped his authority on the competition and proved that he is rightly world No. 1 and the man to beat.
There are a couple of reasons behind Taylor’s poor performance (relative to his own previous performances), but he needs to resolve them quickly as his next match comes against Adrian Lewis who beat Simon Whitlock 7-1 on Thursday night.
Taylor’s capitulation in the Players Championship final against van Gerwen followed by two poor performances in the World Championships—culminating in a shock second-round loss to Michael Smith—meant he played like someone low on confidence.
Sky Sports pundit Wayne Mardle suggested that this lack of confidence produced poorly thrown, weak darts. He told Sky Sports viewers after the match:
He just didn’t look confident. The darts were not going in with the authority that we would expect.
The darts with the flights should end up going in with quite some authority with them being so heavy at 26 grams and little flights—which makes the dart go through the air quicker.
He was still somehow managing to float them in which means they’re poorly thrown.
The dominance of van Gerwen’s victory will not do Taylor’s confidence any good though.
Taylor has been a master of stealing legs that he should not have won throughout his career—but on Thursday night it was van Gerwen doing that to him.
Taylor missed two darts at double 12 in the fourth leg to break van Gerwen’s throw. But he was duly punished for missing and again missed two darts in the seventh leg to hold his throw and stop the rot—again van Gerwen stepped in and completed the whitewash.
In the third leg, van Gerwen even had first attempt at a finish on Taylor’s throw.
As mentioned, Taylor plays Lewis next. He only averaged 99.13—lower than Taylor—against a below-par, and slightly ill, Simon Whitlock. However, in their last three televised meetings, he has averaged 100, 105 and 110. Therefore, it is clear Taylor needs to sort his problems out quickly.
Taylor was playing with a new set of darts, which, according to Lewis, he admitted that it will take him a few weeks to get used to.
Lewis told Sky Sports after his match with Whitlock that we should expect to see Taylor back to his best soon:
Tonight I was in the practice room with him and he was playing fantastic. He said to me 'it’s going to take a few weeks.'
I remember a couple of years ago when Peter Manley beat him 8-3 and he hadn’t won a game up to that point—about the fourth game in he played me and I think he averaged about 108 and after that he didn’t lose a game.
I think that was maybe similar to what’s coming up for us [this year].
Perhaps then Week Two is the perfect time for Lewis to play Taylor—a man low on confidence and still adjusting to his darts.
One thing is for certain though—despite what van Gerwen appeared to do on Thursday night—no match against Phil Taylor is an easy match.