- PDC World Championship
Taylor survives first round scare, Part and Wright win
Phil Taylor endured a nervous start to the defence of his PDC World Championship title, but eventually came up trumps to see off preliminary qualifier Rob Szabo 3-1 in the first round at Alexandra Palace.
Szabo had earlier beaten Ian Moss in the qualifying round to set up a clash with the 16-time champion, and went on to shock the 'Power' in the opening set; pre-match, the debutant was 5/1 to avoid a whitewash.
Classy finishes of 128 and 105 saw Szabo take a set lead, despite Taylor breaking in the very first leg of the match. The New Zealander had not previously played in a television tournament prior to opening night at 'Ally Pally', but somewhat shockingly had Taylor rocking at the first break.
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However, Szabo missed five crucial darts to go two-nil up and inflict further pressure as Taylor responded with finishes of 115 and 114 to level. While appearing nervy in the opening exchange, the Stoke ace found a rhythm which saw him take eight straight legs without reply.
Szabo offered a brief response as Taylor missed eight darts for the match, before sealing double 16 to book his place in the second round.
"I was gone. If he hit that 160, he'd have beaten me," Taylor told Sky Sports. "My head was gone with him anyway. He was playing darts I've never seen before in my career.
"He did your head in. He was unorthodox, he was not the normal, standard dart player that you're used to."
Meanwhile, three-time world champion John Part survived a scare in his first round match with debutant Mareno Michels, edging through with a 3-2 win despite being two sets to the good.
Michels, who earlier took out a marvellous 136 finish, saw off 120 to take the match to a deciding fifth set. However, Part responded with a brilliant 13-darter before taking out the final two legs to advance.
"He hasn't had a lot of success necessarily, but he knows more than you think he knows," Part said. "And that's why he was dangerous at times for me and that's why he made some of the shots he made. Really he should have been dead and buried a couple of times and he did a sort of Houdini out there. He did very well."
Peter Wright could potentially meet Taylor at the third round stage and he may well give the 'Power' something to think about after dispatching Joe Cullen in straight sets.
Wright averaged just shy of 100 in his 3-0 victory, taking out a superb 151 to take the match. However, despite impressing on the tour for much of 2013, 'Snakebite' admitted he was nervous on stage and less than impressed with his own game.
"I was actually nervous playing Joe, I know he's a fantastic player. He beat me 6-2 last time I played him on a floor tournament. I think I got away with it really, I took a couple of good finishes out at the right times," Wright said.
"[The] Annoying thing is, I'm not doing it on the stage. When I do start doing it on stage then people will start talking about me. At the moment I'm disappointed in my game, a hundred average is just average to be honest. It's not good enough really."
Elsewhere, Richie Burnett produced a fine display of tungsten to run out 3-1 winner against Dean Winstanley. Burnett raced through the first two sets, averaging over one hundred in the process, but Winstanley took the third set to keep his hopes alive. However, former Lakeside champion Burnett saw off the challenge in the fourth to seal a place in the second round.
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