Phil Taylor reflects on his brace of Premier League nine-darters a decade ago today
Taylor: "It's a massive feat. It sets a record. All the players want to break records"
By Josh Gorton
Last Updated: 24/05/20 11:02am
Phil Taylor revelled in creating history. His career was littered with unprecedented success and exactly 10 years ago today, the Stoke-on-Trent legend wrote another iconic chapter that changed the face of the sport, writes Josh Gorton.
Premier League Finals night always represents one of the highlights of the darting calendar and being a man for the big occasion - Taylor marked the 2010 showpiece by becoming the first man in the sport's history to land two nine-darters in the same match.
Ironically, there was no darts scheduled to take place 10 years ago on Monday, May 24, but a power cut at Wembley Arena 24 hours earlier curtailed any prospect of play, which caused the play-offs to be rescheduled for the following night.
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The sentiment 'everything happens for a reason' could not have been more poignant, as on that famous Monday evening, Taylor turned on the power to regain his Premier League crown in spectacular style.
Taylor was an impenetrable force during the Premier League's infancy. He enjoyed a 44-game unbeaten run before James Wade inflicted his first defeat in 2008, and he won the opening four editions of the event before succumbing to Mervyn King in the 2009 semi-finals.
It was therefore fitting his famous 2010 triumph saw him defeat King and Wade on the same night to reclaim his title - a night Taylor insists remains one of the proudest of his career.
The 16-time world champion demolished King 8-1 with a 108 average before producing his history-making exploits against Wade; firing in a sensational brace of perfect legs and averaging 111.67.
Irrespective of the occasion, nine-darters are considered the sport's holy grail. However, the twin nine-darters proved decisive, because despite his sustained brilliance, 'The Power' only prevailed 10-8 against an unflappable Wade.
"To be honest, I could have done eight nine-darters and it would not have made a scrap of difference, it still would have been 10-8. It was one of those games," Taylor told Sky Sports this week.
"James was the man to beat over a short format because his finishing was so good. If he ever left anything down the right-hand side of the board it's Goodnight Vienna. It was very rare that he ever missed tops or tens.
"I would say out of every player he's got the edge on the finishing. James was very consistent on the finishing and once his scoring is good, you're up against it."
The pair had been embroiled in a host of classic contests prior to their 2010 showdown but this was special - Wade setting the tone with a majestic 136 checkout for a 12-darter.
The Stoke stalwart fired back in trademark style, following up visits of 174 and 180 by finishing 147 with treble 20, treble 17 and double 18 to record the first nine-darter in a televised final.
"I remember coming off at the break and saying to Rod Harrington: 'There could be two nine-darters hit tonight and I wasn't thinking I was going to hit them," Taylor recalled.
"I was thinking we'll maybe get one each because we were both practising and playing that well. We were full of confidence. I've played in good atmospheres, but this was probably the best atmosphere I've ever played in."
Taylor averaged an incredible 109.83 across 27 legs on that famous night at Wembley Arena.
Taylor began to assert his dominance to lead 5-2 and 7-4 only for 'The Machine' to rally and restore parity at seven apiece, which sparked another magical moment from the sport's greatest arrowsmith.
The 59-year-old crashed in back-to-back maximums and then converted the 141 checkout to complete the historic second nine-dart leg - an iconic moment magnificently captured by the legendary duo of Sid Waddell and Dave Lanning in commentary.
"Dave Lanning say it, because I am gobsmacked. I am gobsmacked. Say it Dave," roared Sid.
"You are present in a moment of the greatest sporting history, certainly in darts. Two nine-darters in one night from Phil Taylor. Tell your grandchildren about that," Lanning famously remarked.
"It was unbelievable," Taylor admitted. "Sid and Dave Lanning - it was like Morecambe and Wise. They were brilliant together. I have never known two commentators like it."
Remarkably, Taylor threatened a third nine-darter in the very next leg, posting scores of 174 and 180 before pinning the treble 20 on the seventh dart, only to miss the treble 17 with his eighth.
Taylor returned to complete a 10-darter and move 9-7 ahead, before wrapping up a pulsating 10-8 triumph in 12 darts to regain his title on a night that will forever be etched into darting folklore.
"I wasn't thinking about making history. I was more worried about winning the tournament and James was playing that well. It was all about winning my title back," Taylor insisted.
"The only thing he did which I remember - when I came backstage, James shrugged his shoulders and he went: 'I wasn't good enough. I've got to get better'.
"I said not much better to be quite honest with you, because that was probably my A-game. I just couldn't play any better than that."
Michael van Gerwen is the only other player to land two nine-darters in one game, achieving perfection twice in a UK Open qualifier in February 2017.
The Dutchman memorably missed double 12 for consecutive nine-dart legs at the 2013 World Championship - ironically against Wade - but nobody has ever replicated Taylor's feat on television.
I didn't realise really what I had done and I wish now that I had got the third one, but on the day you're just happy to win the leg.
Taylor reflects on an unforgettable night...
"It's a massive feat. It sets a record. All the players want to break records. I know Michael (van Gerwen) loves competing against my records which he should do, and I was the same with Eric (Bristow) and John Lowe," added Taylor.
"I didn't realise really what I had done and I wish now that I had got the third one, but on the day you're just happy to win the leg."
The accomplishment is made even more astonishing given the magnitude of the occasion and Taylor admits it's made more satisfying because of how competitive a final it was.
Unrivalled dominance was a feature of Taylor's career, but he relished being challenged. He used to channel his hatred of losing to elevate his game to new heights - a catalyst for the way in which he was able to reinvent himself and maintain his longevity.
"I'd been playing well for weeks and once you get to the semi-finals and you do a massive average, that's a massive shot over their bows," he said.
"You know you're going into a final, you're playing well and you want your opponent to play well, because you want a decent game.
"The games I've won 5-0 or 6-0 in sets - they're not as nice to be involved in. It is great to win it, but as a player you don't want that, you want a bit of a battle. You want to entertain the crowd."
The magical evening was encapsulated by the presence of Stephen Fry - the revered actor, writer and director who joined Sid and Rod Harrington in the Sky commentary box during Taylor's semi-final win over King.
Fry was originally booked by Sky for the Sunday and had a prior engagement on the Monday which included Prince Charles among the attendees - although his decision to turn down royalty was vindicated as he witnessed a masterclass from the king of darts.
The 62-year-old presented Taylor with the trophy following his victory over Wade and 'The Power' was full of praise for Fry's unbridled passion for the sport.
"For his first darts match as such, and the first night he'd been in the commentary box, to get the best game I think that's ever been on TV is an extra bonus," Taylor said.
"It created a different audience. I kept in touch with Stephen after that. We still text each other. He just loves the darts. He admires anybody who is good at what they do.
"One of the best quotes I've ever heard is: 'Are you okay Stephen?' 'I'm like a pig in Chardonnay.' I thought that was brilliant - it was so clever."
Taylor's brilliance could almost breed complacency among darts fans. He was a relentless winning-machine but even by his extraordinary standards, 2010 was a golden period for 'The Power'.
He went unbeaten throughout the entire Premier League campaign, fresh from lifting his 15th World Championship crown in January.
Just one month later, Taylor recorded a then-world record 118.66 average at the UK Open in a 9-0 success over Kevin Painter, going on to lift the title before claiming third successive triumphs at the World Matchplay and European Championship.
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Taylor was subsequently nominated for the BBC Sports Personality of The Year award having featured in the top 10 in 2006, but on this occasion he was voted as runner-up to champion jockey Tony McCoy.
It was not just acknowledgement for Taylor. It was also recognition for darts and the sport's sustained progress - a trend which has been maintained throughout the last decade.
The Stoke-on-Trent veteran has been at the forefront of so many iconic moments in the sport's history and his illustrious haul of titles is the envy of the darting world.
Nevertheless, this was an evening that typified Taylor's sheer genius - his audacious brilliance. It transcended the sport to new heights and it's a feat that may never be repeated.