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PDC kingpin Taylor wary of darts' young pretenders

It’s almost arrows time.

Taylor makes his entrance at the Ally Pally last year.
Taylor makes his entrance at the Ally Pally last year.

PHIL TAYLOR IS favourite to retain his PDC World Darts Championship title but the 16-time champion believes the tournament is wide open.

The 53-year-old from Stoke starts the defence of his crown with a first-round match against either Rob Szabo or Ian Moss at Alexandra Palace on Friday. Taylor, nicknamed ‘The Power’, beat Michael van Gerwen of the Netherlands in the 2013 final on New Year’s Day.

New Zealand national champion Szabo and Englishman Moss do battle in the preliminary round earlier on Friday with the incentive of facing the legendary Taylor. The top seed has been around long enough to know he can ill afford to be complacent.

Taylor said: “I often walk out on the oche now, knowing these kids are as good as I am – I know they can outscore me.

“Everybody always thinks I walk up there and am dead confident – far from it. Trust me, I just don’t show them any weaknesses.

“Is the first round the most nervous? Of course, it is. That’s the one you have to get through. Then it goes to the best of seven – which is a better format for seeded players.”

Last year’s beaten finalist Van Gerwen will have to wait until next Tuesday to taste the famous Alexandra Palace atmosphere once again when he takes on either Zoran Lerchbacher or Ben Ward in the first round.

Van Gerwen told Sky Sports: “The first guy (Lerchbacher), I have never heard of him. He is an overseas qualifier.

“Ben Ward, he is a youth player, and has come through the rankings I think,” he said. “You don’t do that for nothing so I have to be aware of that and be sharp.

“You need to play the board not the opponent. You just need to win the game. I have a lot more experience but you still have to show it on the day.”

Adrian Lewis missed out on a third consecutive PDC world title when Taylor regained his crown and the former faces Dennis Smith next Wednesday.

Three-time champion John Part is another player in action on the opening night on Friday. He faces Dutchman Mareno Michels in the first round of a tournament that has £1million in prize money up for grabs, with the winner picking up £250,000.

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