Phil Taylor was only here as a spectator, but the legend of the greatest player in history lived on as his former protégé, Adrian Lewis, won the Professional Darts Corporation's Ladbrokes.com World Championship for the first time here last night. Lewis, another product of the Potteries hotbed that has produced a succession of world-class players, beat Scotland's Gary Anderson 7-5 in a final of the highest quality.
Like his former mentor, Lewis comes from Stoke-on-Trent, which is where Eric Bristow also made his home. The 25-year-old has long been recognised as a potential world champion and claimed the sport's biggest prize in spectacular fashion. Lewis hit the first nine-dart finish in a world championship final as well as 20 maximum scores of 180, which took his tournament total to a record 60.
Lewis climbed to No 2 in the world rankings with his win and will bank a winning cheque for £210,000, including a £10,000 bonus for the nine-dart finish. However, he admitted that most of the prize money would be spent on settling his tax debts. "I owed a lot of money, but now I can pay it off," he said afterwards. "It's a big weight off my mind. I was obviously feeling the pressure all the way through the tournament, but winning this will get myself clear."
Anderson had been the most consistent performer over the whole tournament and had been hoping to equal Taylor's record as the only player to finish every match with a three-dart average in excess of 100. On this occasion, however, his final figure stood at 98.86.
The 40-year-old Scot admitted that on occasions he had been put off by the noise of the crowd, who were mostly supporting his English opponent. Nevertheless Anderson still hit 10 maximum 180s to take his tournament tally to 58, which equalled the previous record.
The match got off to an extraordinary start. Anderson, having opened up with 140, hit a 104 check-out to take the first leg, only to be swept aside by a torrent of high scores from Lewis.
Two maximum 180s helped Lewis to level the set with an 83 check-out, but that proved to be only an appetiser for the dish he served up in the next leg as seven treble 20s, a treble 19 and a double 12 took him to the first nine-dart finish in the history of world championship finals. A smiling Anderson raised a glass of water in congratulations, in response to which Lewis planted a kiss on his cheek, having done the same 24 hours earlier to Prince Harry, who had hugged him after watching his semi-final victory.
By the time Lewis had won the next leg to take the first set, his three-dart average stood at an astonishing 123. When he checked out on 100 to win his sixth leg in a row and take the second set it seemed that Anderson might get blown away, but the Scot responded in magnificent fashion to take the third set 3-0 after successive check-outs of 130 and 136.
When Anderson levelled the match at 3-3 it seemed that the momentum had swung his way, but Lewis wrested it back again to lead 6-3. This time, however, it was the turn of the Englishman to wobble as Anderson reduced the arrears to 6-5. Lewis, nevertheless, quickly rediscovered his touch to take the last leg 3-0, completing victory on his third attempt at double 11.
Taylor admitted that he had a lump in his throat as his former protégé took the prize. "I couldn't be more proud of him if he was my own son," Taylor said. "It was a great final and I can't say enough about the pair of them."