The Winter Gardens has become like a second home to Phil Taylor.
He has totally dominated over the decades at the World Matchplay and he has been preparing for his tilt at the 2012 title at his real second home in Tenerife!
“It is very important for me to get away from things in between tournaments and after the UK Open, I was straight to Tenerife to recharge the batteries,” he explained.
“I said at the start of the year that I would be picking and choosing events and missing tournaments and I have kept to that. It is the right thing for me and my ‘down’ time is very important.”
If Taylor can lift the famous trophy on Sunday week, it will be Matchplay No.13 – an amazing achievement.
“Make no mistake, I am ready for Blackpool,” he said. “I love it there and I have been practicing hard!”
“Losing to Robert Thornton in the final of the UK Open has given me extra incentive, that’s for sure! He was terrific on the night and thoroughly deserved his title, but I want the Matchplay title again.”
Taylor has won an incredible 12 times at the Winter Gardens….his first title was way back in 1995 and he has won at Blackpool for the last four years, beating fellow Team Unicorn stars James Wade (twice), Raymond van Barneveld and Terry Jenkins in the finals.
But he has been handed the toughest possible start – against Mervyn King on Monday night at the Winter Gardens.
“I knew I would get a difficult match, simply because it is the best field ever assembled for the Matchplay! Mervyn is coming back into form, so I will have to be at my best. But I will be well prepared.”
Taylor celebrates his 52nd birthday next month and he is still just as hungry to win those big titles.
In many ways, losing that dramatic 2nd Round match to Dave Chisnall at the World Championship back in December has done Taylor a big favour.
Of course he wants his World Championship title back, but it has helped him to refocus and the way he brushed the field aside to win the Premier League at the O2 proves that.
Taylor has played 78 matches at the Winter Gardens since the first year of the Matchplay back in 1994 and incredibly, he has lost only six…..and in winning the last four Blackpool titles, his tournament average hasn’t fallen below 104.
If he can maintain those numbers this year, he will again take some stopping!
Three Team Unicorn stars are in action on Saturday’s opening night.
Paul Nicholson kicks-off the whole show against Andy Smith, Terry Jenkins faces a real test against Kim Huybrechts and Raymond van Barneveld will have to be at his best against talented youngster Michael Smith.
And as always, there will be top coverage of the tournament right here on the Unicorn website, with daily updates direct from the Winter Gardens.
By STUART PYKE
Photo courtesy Lawrence Lustig / PDC