GREAT rivals Phil Taylor and Raymond van Barneveld will battle it out for a place in the William Hill World Darts Championship final in Saturday’s semi-finals after they defeated Vincent van der Voort and Stephen Bunting in two classic last eight contests at Alexandra Palace on Friday night.

Legendary 16-time World Champion Taylor was given a big scare by van der Voort as the Dutchman won three sets on the spin to go 3-2 up before the number two seed battled his way to three successive sets as he secured a 5-3 victory.

The win puts Taylor into his 20th World Championship semi-final of his illustrious career, as he seeks to maintain his amazing 100 percent record at the last four stage when he meets old for Van Barneveld.

The five-time World Champion from Holland then completed the last four as he came through an epic struggle with reigning Lakeside Champion Bunting in a see-saw contest, with a mid-match switch back to wearing glasses helped him get through in a thrilling 5-4 victory.

Friday’s opening game saw Taylor race into a 2-0 lead in sets, only for van der Voort – despite the pain of a back problem – to come roaring back and win nine out of the next 11 legs to lead 3-2.

The Dutchman also teed up his chance to take a crucial deciding leg in the sixth set after Taylor initially missed six darts at doubles, but van der Voort was unable to close out 96 as his rival returned to win the leg with his ninth dart for the set to level.

From there, the 16-time World Champion took the next two sets after surviving a huge battle to remain on course to retain the Sid Waddell Trophy on Sunday.

Taylor averaged just over 100 despite not being at his best, while van der Voort battled on bravely to record a 99.22 average, hit nine 180s and a quartet of ton-plus finishes, as checkouts of 104, 100, 107 and 113 kept him in the game.

“Vincent played very well – he hit a lot of 180s and a lot of big finishes,” said Taylor. “He’s a very good player and people haven’t seen the best of him yet.

“It was all about survival there and I tried my hardest because I knew I had to keep battling to make it through.

“You need a battle and you’re going to get them during the tournament, but I’ve got to push on now. I’ve got to improve, and I will do.”

Van der Voort refused to blame his back problem for not being able to finish off Taylor, after putting himself ahead in the middle of the game.

“I gave everything I had but it wasn’t good enough,” said van der Voort. “I tried my hardest and I just wasn’t consistent enough in the end.

“Of course it’s very difficult with a bad back but I don’t want to make any excuses because it makes his effort less than it was; he played well, he’s the best player there’s ever been and I just lost to the better man tonight.

“I know what I can do, I know what it takes to do well here and I’ll be back next year.”

In the night’s second quarter-final, van Barneveld and Bunting played out another Alexandra Palace epic, with neither able to open up more than a one-set lead before the Dutcham prevailed in a thriller.

The pair had almost identical averages of 98.36 for Bunting and 98.37 for van Barneveld after 35 spellbinding legs of darts, with the Premier League champion landing 13 180s to his rival’s six.

Three of the first four sets were won 3-0, with two coming from Bunting as the Lakeside Champion levelled at two-all before he edged a tight fifth set in a decider to move 3-2 up in the game.

Van Barneveld had emerged for set four by returning to wearing glasses on stage – having successfully trialled the glasses during October and November only to play without them in his first three rounds at Alexandra Palace – and he wrested back the lead by taking the sixth and seventh sets.

St Helens man Bunting showed tremendous spirit to pull out a 12-darter to clinch a nerve-jangling fifth leg and send the clash into a decider, but van Barneveld stepped up again with a 124 finish the highlight as he took the final 3-0 to set up another clash with Taylor, this time for a place in Sunday’s final.

“I’m so proud to be back in the semi-finals again,” said van Barneveld, who lost out to Taylor at the same stage two years ago. “It was so good out there – Stephen played so well and the crowd were amazing.

“Stephen kept on coming at me all the time, and he showed what a great player he is. He’s going to be around for a long time and he can only get better.

“Like today, I’ll be fighting for my life in the semi-finals. I’m not afraid and I like to play Phil; he’s amazing and you know what you have to do to beat him.”

Van Barneveld, a diabetic who had been prescribed glasses earlier this year and has worn them in four previous TV events added: “I had to switch to the glasses again.

“At the end of the fourth set the board was looking a bit blurry, and they seemed to work well.”

The semi-finals will kick off on Saturday night when reigning World Champion Michael van Gerwen takes on Gary Anderson, the number four seed who won the Cash Converters Players Championship Finals title a month ago, before Taylor and van Barneveld resume their rivalry at Alexandra Palace.

Following four thrilling quarter-finals, sponsors William Hill now make van Gerwen and Taylor the joint 6/4 favourites to lift the title on Sunday night, with Anderson 9/2 and van Barneveld a 6/1 chance of lifting the Sid Waddell Trophy.

WILLIAM HILL WORLD DARTS CHAMPIONSHIP RESULTS

Friday January 2
Quarter-Finals
Phil Taylor 5-3 Vincent van der Voort
Stephen Bunting 4-5 Raymond van Barneveld

Saturday January 3
Semi-Finals
Michael van Gerwen v Gary Anderson
Phil Taylor v Raymond van Barneveld
Best of 11 sets

MATCH INFORMATION
PHIL TAYLOR 5-3 VINCENT VAN DER VOORT
(3-2, 3-1, 0-3, 1-3, 1-3, 3-2, 3-1, 3-2)
PHIL TAYLOR came through a tough battle with Vincent van der Voort to escape with a 5-3 victory and a place in the semi-finals of the William Hill World Darts Championship.

Taylor raced into a 2-0 lead but van der Voort came roaring back and took nine out of the next 11 legs to lead 3-2, and could have made it 4-2 as a tense final leg of the sixth set ended up being won by Taylor with his ninth dart at a double.

From there, the 16-time World Champion did enough to claim the next two sets after surviving a huge battle to secure a match against Raymond van Barneveld for a place in Sunday’s final.

Taylor averaged just over 100 in another strong showing, while van der Voort battled on bravely despite a back problem to record a 99.22 average, hittinh nine 180s and timely finishes of 104, 100, 107 and 113.

“Vincent played very well – he hit a lot of 180s and a lot of big finishes,” said Taylor. “He’s a very good player and people haven’t seen the best of him yet.

“It was all about survival there and I tried my hardest because I knew I had to keep battling to make it through.

“You need a battle and you’re going to get them during the tournament, but I’ve got to push on now. I’ve got to improve, and I will do.”
Van der Voort refused to blame his back problem for not being able to finish off Taylor, after putting himself ahead in the middle of the game.

“I gave everything I had but it wasn’t good enough,” said van der Voort. “I tried my hardest and I just wasn’t consistent enough in the end.

“Of course it’s very difficult with a bad back but I don’t want to make any excuses because it makes his effort less than it was; he played well, he’s the best player there’s ever been and I just lost to the better man tonight.

“I know what I can do, I know what it takes to do well here and I’ll be back next year.”

It was typical Taylor in the opening set as he took the lead against the darts – hitting two 180s in the fourth leg before punishing van der Voort for a missed bull on a 126 finish in the decider.

Van der Voort broke at the start of the second, but Taylor extinguished hopes of a comeback with three straight legs for the second set, finishing an 80 checkout on double top to move two sets up.

The big Dutchman came flying back at Taylor, though, as he kicked off the third set with a 180, then hit another maximum in the second leg, which he finished on 82 for a 12-darter and a break of throw before completing the set with a 13-darter.

Taylor took out 72 at the start of the fourth set, but was struggling to keep pace with a rampant van der Voort as the Dutchman finished 113 and 107 and then hit a 180 and 177 to set up a 44 outshot to level the match.

The onslaught continued from van der Voort as he took out 100 on double top and then hit a 180 and a 104 outshot before a 177 in the fourth helped him to claim a third straight set, a ninth leg out of the last 11 and a 3-2 lead.

The game’s crucial moment, though, came at the end of the sixth set, after van der Voort had fired in an 11-darter to take the set into a decider as he sought a 4-2 lead in the game – only to find himself trailing when Taylor initially missed six darts at doubles, and when the Dutchman was unable to finish 96 it was his rival who finally claimed the set, with his ninth dart at a double, to level matters.

A 13-dart break gave Taylor the impetus to then go back in front – despite another 11-dart leg from van der Voort – as he won the seventh set 3-1 to regain the edge.

The eighth set went all the way to a deciding leg, with Taylor having the throw as he landed double ten for his place in a 20th World Championship semi-final.

Match Information
First Set 3-2 – Classic Taylor as he pinches the set against the throw. Van der Voort holds with a 14-darter to start as the first four legs go with throw, Taylor hitting three 180s and two in the fourth leg alone. In the decider Taylor creeps ahead and when van der Voort misses the bull for 126 to hold Taylor nips in and typically takes out 87 to grab the set.
Second Set 3-1 – Van der Voort breaks in the opener to give him some hope, but Taylor breaks right back with two 140s and double 16. Double tops puts him ahead and then van der Voort misses three doubles to stay in it and Taylor takes out 80 to claim the set.
Third Set 0-3 – Great response from van der Voort with a 180 to start and another in the second as he hits a 12-darter to break with an 82 outshot. A 13-darter with the throw gives him a comfortable set.
Fourth Set 1-3 – More great darts from van der Voort, who hits a 180 but loses the first to a Taylor 72 finish. This time the Dutchman wins three straight, checking out 113 in the second, 107 in the third and hitting 180 and 177 to win the third and the set.
Fifth Set 1-3 – A 100 checkout puts van der Voort ahead, 82 levels for Taylor but the Dutchman is flying now and takes out 104 after a 180 to break and then hits a 177 in the third for a ten-darter for the set.
Sixth Set 3-3 – Incredible stuff as Taylor somehow wins the set. Both hit 180s in the second as van der Voort hits a 13-darter. Taylor goes back in front but an 11-darter from van der Voort forces a decider. Van der Voort’s scoring deserts him at the crucial moment as Taylor manages to miss eight shots at double before hitting double eight for the set, with the Dutchman unable to finish 96 to capitalise on his rival’s misses.
Seventh set 4-3 – Taylor gets his challenge back on track and moves back in front, with a 13-darter breaking the throw in the first leg, and a second double top makes it 2-0. An 11-darter on a 81 checkout after a 180 pulls one back for van der Voort but Taylor hits double 18 to take the set.
Eighth Set 3-2 -Taylor, with the throw, takes his first two legs, van der Voort hits double eight with his last dart to force a decider. Van der Voort just can’t get a challenge together and Taylor can miss two match darts before returning to hit double ten to go through.

STEPHEN BUNTING 4-5 RAYMOND VAN BARNEVELD
(0-3, 3-0, 1-3, 3-0, 3-2, 1-3, 2-3, 3-2, 0-3)

RAYMOND VAN BARNEVELD secured a semi-final clash with old rival Phil Taylor after coming through a titanic struggle with Stephen Bunting to win 5-4 in their classic quarter-final at the William Hill World Darts Championship.

The pair played out another Alexandra Palace epic, with neither able to open up more than a one-set lead before the Dutcham prevailed in a thriller.

Both players had almost identical averages of 98.36 for Bunting and 98.37 for van Barneveld after 35 spellbinding legs of darts, with the Premier League champion landing 13 180s to his rival’s six.

Three of the first four sets were won 3-0, with two coming from Bunting as the Lakeside Champion levelled at two-all before he edged a tight fifth set in a decider to move 3-2 up in the game.

Van Barneveld had emerged for set four by returning to wearing glasses on stage – having successfully trialled the glasses during October and November only to play without them in his first three rounds at Alexandra Palace – and he wrested back the lead by taking the sixth and seventh sets.

St Helens man Bunting showed tremendous spirit to pull out a 12-darter to clinch a nerve-jangling fifth leg and send the clash into a decider, but van Barneveld stepped up again with a 124 finish the highlight as he took the final 3-0 to set up another clash with Taylor, this time for a place in Sunday’s final.

“I’m so proud to be back in the semi-finals again,” said van Barneveld, who lost out to Taylor at the same stage two years ago. “It was so good out there – Stephen played so well and the crowd were amazing.

“Stephen kept on coming at me all the time, and he showed what a great player he is. He’s going to be around for a long time and he can only get better.

“Like today, I’ll be fighting for my life in the semi-finals. I’m not afraid and I like to play Phil; he’s amazing and you know what you have to do to beat him.”

Van Barneveld, a diabetic who had been prescribed glasses earlier this year and has worn them in four previous TV events added: “I had to switch to the glasses again.

“At the end of the fourth set the board was looking a bit blurry, and they seemed to work well.”

Van Barneveld landed two 180s as he claimed the first set without reply, with Bunting adding two maximums and a 174 score, as well as a brace of 14-darters, as he levelled in the same style.

A break of throw put the St Helens man ahead in the third, only for van Barneveld to take the next three legs – including finishes of 13 and 12 darts – as he claimed the set 3-1 and moved back ahead.

Bunting levelled the tie once more as he hit a pair of 13-darters in taking set four without reply, and though van Barneveld returned for the fifth wearing his glasses it was the reigning Lakeside Champion who came from 2-1 down to finish 110 and 68 for the set and a 3-2 lead.
Van Barneveld responded with an 11-dart leg to break throw at the start set six, before taking two of the next three legs to level the game at three sets apiece.

Bunting then broke with a 52 before van Barneveld hit a 113 finish for a break back and then a 180 and double top for a 13-darter to lead 2-1. Bunting took leg four in 14 darts to force a decider, but the Dutchman finished 107 to claim the set and wrestle back the lead at 4-3.

Bunting showed his fighting spirit in the next as he moved 2-0 up in set eight, but he then missed three set darts as van Barneveld hit back to level, only for the Englishman hit a 180 as part of a 12-darter sealed with an 81 finish to force a deciding set.

A 180 got van Barneveld off the mark and a 66 finish gave him the first leg, but the crucial moment came in the second as Bunting saw a dart at the bull bounce out when needing 92 before he missed double 16, allowing the Dutchman to take out 124 in brilliant fashion on the bull, – and a 180 in the next gave him breathing space to hit tops for a 13-darter and the match.

Match Information
First Set 0-3 – Van Barneveld kicks off with a 180 in the first leg and a double four. Double ten grabs a break of throw for him in the next and after starting 180 he claims the third as well as Bunting misses six doubles.
Second Set 3-0 – Total role reversal as Bunting lands a 180 and hits his first double at the 11th attempt. Double 16 makes it 2-0 and another 180 helps Bunting to a clean sweep.
Third Set 1-3 – Van Barneveld moves back in front. A Bunting 180 helps give him the first, but three in a row from the Dutchman, with two 180s and finishes of 64 in the third and 82 in the fourth for the set.
Fourth Set 3-0 – Another clean sweep for Bunting as this game continues to be a see-saw encounter. A break on a 65 checkout does the damage.
Fifth Set 3-2 – Van Barneveld comes out for the fifth set wearing glasses! He takes the first leg as well and hits a 180 in the third to go 2-1 up. Bunting takes out 110 on double 16 to level and then the five-time World Champion misses four darts for the set and Bunting returns to take out 68 for the set.
Sixth Set 1-3 – An instant break from van Barneveld with an 11-darter including a 180 and 51 finish. A 25 finish doubles his lead, Bunting gets one back but misses two darts at double 18 and van Barneveld cleans up double four for the set.
Seventh Set 2-3 – A break from Bunting on a 52 finish, but van Barneveld hits 113 to break right back, and a 180 helped him to hit tops for 2-1. Bunting levels but van Barneveld pulls out a brilliant 107 finish on double 16 to go back in front.
Eighth Set 3-2 – Superb stuff from Bunting, who goes 2-0 with a pair of double 16 finishes, but sees van Barneveld drag it back to 2-2 after Bunting missed three set darts. The St Helens man then pulls out a 12-darter under all kinds of pressure to finish with an 81 checkout and stay in the match.
Ninth Set 0-3 – Van Barneveld takes it in style. A 66 in the first is eclipsed by a sparkling 124 finish after Bunting just missed double 16, and a 180 in the last helps him to seal the victory on double top.