In any other sport qualifying for five out of the past seven finals in a major tournament would suggest a significant dominance. But in darts James Wade’s extraordinary World Matchplay record is blown out of the water by Phil Taylor’s 12 titles, including the last four consecutively.
Three times since 2006 Taylor has beaten Wade in the final at Winter Gardens, in what has become the blueprint for Major tournament finals between the pair. Despite The Machine’s impressive roll of honour – six major crowns – he has never beaten the 15-time World Champion in a Major final, and it is now a notable blot on his copybook.
It’s been a typical tournament for Wade so far; getting the job done in the early rounds then upping his game in the latter stages as the quality of opposition increases. Taylor’s route to the final, however, hasn’t been quite as characteristic as we have come to expect from the world number one. In the opening round Mervyn King pushed him all the way and, on another night, could have perhaps sent him packing early doors, then in the second round he was completely out of sorts in posting a relatively measly 91.71 three-dart average to beat Ian White.
Those lacklustre performances prompted Taylor to ditch his new darts and revert to the tried-and-trusted arrows that had been serving him so well. Why he felt the need to change in the first place is a question that only the man himself would be able to answer. Nevertheless, that decision has paid dividends and in his quarter-final win over Andy Hamilton and semi-final triumph over Ronnie Baxter The Power has looked every inch the player that has been so successful in Blackpool over the past two decades.
That said, I find myself leaning towards Wade at the 3.70 available in the Match Odds betting. It’s been clinical stuff so far from The Machine this week and his new what-will-be-will-be attitude towards the game appears to be serving him well. He’s also the type of player that learns from past experiences and although it may be a long time coming I’m certain that it is more a question of when, not if, he gets the better of Taylor in a televised final.
At the start of the week I suggested a bet on Taylor to win the title at odds of 2.50. If you followed my advice then you have every right to be feeling fairly confident ahead of tonight’s game, and can rest in the knowledge that you have an extremely good value bet. But based on the way that the week has gone, and the odds on offer now, Wade has to be the selection.
Best Bet: Wade to beat Taylor @ 3.70