Darts: Young Dutch master 'Mighty Mike' takes nervous Taylor to the wire
Maybe it has been the thought of conquering one of London's palaces that has prompted the biggest Dutch invasion of the capital since Prince William of Orange toppled King James II. Almost everywhere you turn at Alexandra Palace this week there is an arrow-throwing Lowlander aiming to bring down a home player at the Ladrokes.com PDC World Championship.
Raymond van Barneveld's successful defection last year to the Professional Darts Corporation - the four-times winner of the rival British Darts Organisation's world championship beat Phil Taylor in the final on his first attempt to take the PDC crown - prompted four more of his fellow countrymen, Michael van Gerwen, Jelle Klaasen, Toon Greebe and Vincent van der Voort, to make the same move earlier this year.
Van Gerwen faced the toughest task of them all when he was drawn with Taylor in the first round, but last night the 18-year-old came within one shot of causing one of the biggest darts upsets of all time. "Mighty Mike", who became the youngest winner of a major event when he took the World Masters 14 months ago, lost 3-2 as an unusually nervous Taylor repeatedly let his opponent back into the game.
When Taylor took the first set 3-0, closing out each leg with his first dart at double top, victory looked to be a formality, but the world No 1's form suddenly deserted him. Taylor missed all 11 of his shots at a double in the second set, which Van Gerwen won 3-0.
A 106 check-out saw the Dutchman go in front for the first time to lead 2-1 in the third set, which he closed out at 3-2. At 2-2 in the next set Van Gerwen had one dart at double 12 to take the match but missed. Taylor, never beaten in the first round in 19 appearances at the World Championship, promptly levelled the match. Van Gerwen led 3-2 in the decider before Taylor won three legs in a row, the last of them with a 12-dart finish, to take the match.
Taylor, who now plays Mark Walsh, said: "I gave him too much respect and the nerves got to me, though I never thought I was on the way out. I thought that if he got close he would get nervous. Mind you, I was concentrating so hard that I never knew he actually had a dart for the match."
In the previous contest, the 19-year-old Greebe pushed Peter Manley, the world No 5, all the way before losing another thrilling encounter 3-2. Greebe led 2-1 in the final leg and had the chance to win the match with three darts at 142. He did not take his chance, however, and Manley responded in impressive style, taking three legs in a row to win the final set 4-2.
The first match featured another Anglo-Dutch encounter, with Manchester's Matt Clark up against Roland Scholten, renowned for his ability to hit maximums. Eight 180s, as well as two 11-dart finishes, helped Scholten to a 3-2 win.
PDC World Championship: First round: P Manley (Eng) bt T Greebe (Neth) 3-2; R Scholten (Neth) bt M Clark 3-2 (Eng); P Taylor (Eng) bt M Van Gerwen (Neth) 3-2.
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