The 2014 World Matchplay Darts semi-finals began with a real thriller between Michael van Gerwen and Simon Whitlock. That was followed by 15-time Matchplay champ Phil Taylor battling Gary Anderson.
Both matches were fittingly tense and exciting in Blackpool's famous Winter Gardens setting. Here are the full results and scores from a pair of memorable semi-final encounters:
|1||Michael van Gerwen vs. Simon Whitlock||17-13||Van Gerwen Wins|
|2||Phil Taylor vs. Gary Anderson||17-15||Taylor Wins|
All match information and statistics via PDC.TV, unless otherwise stated.
Van Gerwen Outlasts Whitlock in Classic Tussle
Van Gerwen didn't have things all his own way against Whitlock. The two matched each other during very even early exchanges.
Their parity was highlighted when each player won two legs in a row to begin proceedings. From then, momentum shifted sharply.
It first went to Whitlock, en route to a two-leg lead after six. He hit 180 and 162 during the sixth leg, undoubtedly the standout moments of his match.
However, Van Gerwen established a knack for just hanging around and refusing to yield. Later on, he again found himself two legs down as Whitlock held sway at 7-5.
That was the cue for Van Gerwen to shape up. He took the next five legs, beginning with a brilliant 11-dart rally.
From that point, the only time Van Gerwen came under real pressure was when he was closest to victory. Leading 16-13, the Dutchman left several points on the board.
Eventually though, Van Gerwen's nerve held and he suavely hit double three to book his place in the final.
Taylor Stays Calm to Reach Another Final
It's difficult to remember a more evenly fought and exciting big match than the superb semi-final played out between Anderson and Taylor.
A key moment came with the match tied at nine. Anderson had a trio of chances to hit double five and take the leg—but he squandered all three.
Taylor then used one shot to connect with double 10 and earn a 10-9 lead. But momentum rarely stayed faithful to one player during this gruelling battle of attrition.
Anderson immediately fought back and evened things up at 10 apiece. Both players then hit a 180 to start the 21st leg, a perfect illustration of how closely contested this semi-final was.
One of the strangest moments of the match came with Taylor leading 11-10 and Anderson in hot pursuit of a 180 to stay in touch. He hit his first treble 20 without any fuss.
But in a scarcely believable twist of fate, his next dart landed in the back of his first. That wiped out the 180 and Anderson then missed bullseye to let Taylor back in.
It was an opportunity the seasoned winner didn't waste.
After that, Taylor always stayed just enough in front. He shot controlled darts from a deliberate throwing action.
But there was still time for another nail-biting twist. Anderson got the match back to 16-15 and Taylor botched a quartet of shots to hit double 18, including three in a row, any one of which would've won it.
However, Taylor soon regained his calm when it mattered most. He cut a serene figure as he hit treble 19 and double 12 to end a remarkable match.
Updated Standings and Draw for the Final
Van Gerwen and Taylor merit their place in this final. It is just reward for the pair having led from the front of the standings most of the way.
For a full look at the updated draw and overall tournament standings and bracket, visit OddsPortal.com.
Here's how the draw looks like for what promises to be an epic final:
|Sunday, July 27||Michael van Gerwen vs. Phil Taylor||7 p.m. BST||Winter Gardens, Blackpool|
Van Gerwen may be the current king of the mountain, but Taylor's shadow always looms over that particular summit. As well as he's played, Van Gerwen won't relish facing a man who has won so many Blackpool finals.
But despite the big-game aura around Taylor, there's no denying he's not quite as dominant as he once was. Major scoring flurries have been replaced by savvy and steady nerves in pressure situations.
With the pressure naturally that much more intense in a final, Taylor's cool hand could unnerve Van Gerwen and his usually fast scoring.