PHIL TAYLOR is bidding to prevent Raymond van Barneveld picking up a third successive major title at the Stan James World Matchplay next week.

Van Barneveld has won the last two major tournaments staged by the PDC, the Blue Square UK Open in June and this month’s Las Vegas Desert Classic.

He also took Taylor’s World Championship crown on New Year’s Day, but the Dutchman will make his World Matchplay debut on Tuesday in a tournament his great rival has dominated.

Taylor has won eight World Matchplay titles since the tournament began back in 1994, and is determined to take the record £50,000 winner’s cheque next Saturday.

“Raymond’s in superb form at the moment and deserves his success,” said Taylor.

“But I love the World Matchplay and it would be a great honour to win a ninth title. I’ve prepared well since Las Vegas and I’m looking forward to the challenge.”

Taylor was defeated 11-4 by van Barneveld in the UK Open and then suffered a shock first round exit to Mark Dudbridge in the Desert Classic.

“I was beaten fair and square in both tournaments and I’ve got no complaints,” he added.

“I’ve been changing a few things in my game this year and I’m not quite there yet, but getting there slowly.

“Over the past couple of months I’ve been setting up a business too and maybe I’ve not had my full focus on the darts, but that has changed ahead of the World Matchplay!”

Van Barneveld, who joined the PDC circuit in early 2006, lost in the qualifiers for the World Matchplay last year before soaring to second in the PDC Order of Merit.

“I watched one night last year before going back to Holland and I like the atmosphere in the venue,” he said.

“It’s going to be a lot different to Las Vegas, which is quieter, and I’m looking forward to it.

“At the end of May, I looked in the mirror and said I had to stop giving myself a hard time and trying to compete every time against Phil Taylor.

“He beat me three times in May and I gave myself a hard time over each game. So I went back to the practice board and relaxed, said to myself that I’m a fantastic darts player and gave myself great belief.

“I feel comfortable and am playing great, but if I put myself under pressure I’ll miss doubles.”

Taylor begins the defence of his title on Monday evening against local favourite Wes Newton, who lives just ten minutes from the Winter Gardens venue.

Monday also sees 2005 champion Colin Lloyd face Mervyn King and teenage Dutch wonderkid Michael van Gerwen meet world number four Peter Manley.

Van Barneveld is in action on Tuesday evening against Denis Ovens in the final first round game, with the tournament opening on Sunday night with three exciting matches.

Blackpool debutant Adrian Gray, one of the four qualifiers for the event, faces former World Championship runner-up Kevin Painter, before two former Blackpool finalists face off as Wayne Mardle and Dudbridge clash.

Sunday night’s final game sees high-scoring Dutchman Roland Scholten meet Chris Mason.

Tickets are still available for the Stan James World Matchplay from Sunday 22-Wednesday 25 July. For further information, visit the Winter Gardens Box Office or contact Ticketmaster on 0870 380 1111.

2007 Stan James World Matchplay
Schedule of Play
Sunday 22 July
First Round
7.00pm Kevin Painter v Adrian Gray
8.15pm Wayne Mardle v Mark Dudbridge
9.30pm Roland Scholten v Chris Mason

Monday 23 July
1.00pm Terry Jenkins v Alan Tabern
2.00pm Ronnie Baxter v Bob Anderson
3.00pm John Part v Alan Warriner-Little
4.00pm Barrie Bates v Andy Smith

7.00pm Dennis Priestley v Colin Osborne
8.00pm Peter Manley v Michael van Gerwen
9.00pm Phil Taylor v Wes Newton
10.00pm Colin Lloyd v Mervyn King

Tuesday 24 July
1.00pm Andy Hamilton v Mick McGowan
2.00pm Adrian Lewis v Steve Beaton
3.00pm James Wade v Wayne Jones
4.00pm Andy Jenkins v Mark Walsh

7.00pm Raymond van Barneveld v Denis Ovens
Second Round
8.15pm Mardle/Dudbridge v Scholten/Mason
9.30pm T Jenkins/Tabern v Part/Warriner/Little

Wednesday 25 July
1.00pm Priestley/Osborne v Wade/Jones
2.30pm Lloyd/King v A Jenkins/Walsh
4.00pm Manley/van Gerwen v Baxter/Anderson

7.00pm Lewis/Beaton v Hamilton/McGowan
8.30pm Taylor/Newton v Painter/Gray
10.00pm van Barneveld/Ovens v Bates/Smith

Thursday 26 July
1.00pm T Jenkins/Tabern/Part/Warriner-Little v Manley/van Gerwen/Baxter/Anderson
3.00pm Priestley/Osborne/Wade/Jones v Lloyd/King/A Jenkins/Walsh

7.00pm van Barneveld/Ovens/Bates/Smith v Lewis/Beaton/Hamilton/McGowan
9.00pm Taylor/Newton/Painter/Gray v Mardle/Dudbridge/Scholten/Mason

Friday 27 July

Saturday 28 July

First Round – Best of 19 legs
Second Round – Best of 25 legs
Quarter-Finals – Best of 31 legs
Semi-Finals – Best of 33 legs
Final – Best of 35 legs
NB: Each match must be won by two clear legs. There will be no tie break and the match will continue until one player achieves a two leg lead.

Prize Fund
Winner: £50,000
Runner-Up: £20,000
3-4th: £10,000
5-8th: £7,500
9-16th: £5,000
17-32nd: £2,500
Total: £200,000
In addition, should a nine-dart finish be achieved then a prize of £10,000 will be awarded. Should more than one nine-dart finish be achieved then the prize will be shared equally.

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