Taylor aiming for double-in dozen as partypoker.com World Grand Prix kicks-off

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Phil Taylor is aiming to complete his double-in dozen at the partypoker.com World Grand Prix as he begins his bid for a 12th title with a clash against Steve Beaton at Dublin’s Citywest Hotel tonight.

Taylor has dominated the history of the unique tournament – which sees all legs needing to both begin and end with a double – by claiming 11 titles since the Sky Sports-televised World Grand Prix was introduced to the PDC calendar in 1998.

The Stoke great had produced arguably his the dominant performance in the event’s history as he dropped only two legs in a 6-0 sets whitewash against Dave Chisnall in last year’s final.

Having won July’s World Matchplay and World Series of Darts events in Perth and Sydney during August, the 54-year-old returns to the big stage on Monday night for a clash with former World Champion Beaton, and is in confident mood ahead of their Dublin contest.

“I’m feeling great,” said Taylor. “My form is ticking over and I’m ready for it, but it’s always tough in the first round because it’s the best of three sets.

“You’ve got to start well because if you go a set down, you’re in trouble. I’ll be going up there and giving it my best shot because it’s always a great event and I love coming to Ireland.

“The fans come out to enjoy themselves and they look forward to this event, and they’re treated to some great darts.”

The opening night will also feature two-time champion James Wade, who claimed the 2007 and 2010 titles at the Citywest Hotel and takes on Andy Smith in his bid to complete a double-start treble.

“I’m pleased with how I’m feeling and I’m here to win the tournament this week,” said Wade. “A lot of people talk about the format but doubles are a strong point in my game and hopefully that will stand me in good stead this week.”

The tournament’s three Northern Irish qualifiers, Brendan Dolan, Mickey Mansell and Daryl Gurney, are also in action on the opening night.

Gurney takes on 2010 runner-up Adrian Lewis and Mansell takes on Stoke’s Ian White, while Dolan – the 2011 finalist who hit the first double-start nine-darter three years ago – faces resurgent Scottish ace Gary Anderson.

Dolan has led his country’s darting renaissance in recent years, and is backing his fellow countrymen to make an impression in Dublin this week after he made the early running by defeating Anderson in Sunday’s Players Championship final at the Citywest Hotel.

“It’s an exciting time for darts throughout Ireland, and especially in Northern Ireland,” said Dolan. “We’ve got three representatives in the World Grand Prix this week and we made the semi-finals of the World Cup back in June.

“Darts is going really well over here at the moment, and particularly for myself – but you’re seeing that individual players themselves are putting in a lot of extra dedication and time and have taken the leap.”

Dolan added: “There’s lots to play for in the next few months leading up to the World Championship and I could end up having a really good year if I can have a run of form.

“I’ve done well on the floor this year, but I was especially disappointed with how I played in the World Matchplay. I lost 10-4 to Richie Burnett and my doubles let me down, but I’ve been working really hard on them coming into the World Grand Prix.”

Debutants Darren Webster and Andrew Gilding will kick off the tournament on Monday, with Robert Thornton taking on Justin Pipe – who won Saturday’s Players Championship – and Kevin Painter playing Andy Hamilton.

World Champion Michael van Gerwen then enters the fray on Tuesday as he begins his bid to follow up his 2012 World Grand Prix win with a first round clash against Dutch compatriot Vincent van der Voort.

Van der Voort had been the world number one’s best man at his wedding in August, but the pair will put their friendship aside as they bid to reach the last 16.

“It’s a very difficult game because we’re very close friends, but we’ll be professional and will be trying as hard as we can to get the win,” said van Gerwen.

“It’s always special coming back to Dublin and it would be great to win the World Grand Prix again. The win in 2012 was a big moment in my career and it gave me a lot of confidence to go on and win the big titles I have since.”

Reigning Premier League Darts champion Raymond van Barneveld, a two-time World Grand Prix runner-up, takes on number eight seed Dave Chisnall, while 2010 runner-up Mervyn King meets Wes Newton.

New world number four Peter Wright plays Jamie Caven, number five seed Simon Whitlock takes on Richie Burnett and two-time Dublin finalist Terry Jenkins takes on Kim Huybrechts.

Debutant Stephen Bunting, the Lakeside Champion, will face Ronnie Baxter, while Dean Winstanley faces in-form Michael Smith, who won a European Tour event in Germany last month.

The second round is split across Wednesday and Thursday at the Citywest Hotel, with the quarter-finals on Friday night, the semi-finals on Saturday and the final next Sunday.

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