Taylor hits top gear
Phil Taylor powered into the UK Open quarter-finals as he averaged over 110 in a 9-4 defeat of Ronnie Baxter in Bolton on Saturday night.
Four-time UK Open champion Taylor followed up his wins over Roland Scholten and Colin Osborne with his best display of the event so far, averaging 110.72 and hitting seven 180s.
Baxter played his part in an entertaining contest, hitting six 180s and a 156 checkout in reply, and joined Taylor in hitting six perfect darts in one leg only for both players to miss out on a possible nine-darter.
Taylor, who opened the game with a 149 checkout, was pegged back from 2-0 up to two-all before winning six successive legs to lead 8-2, and although Baxter rallied the Stoke great pushed into the quarter-finals with an end average of 110.72.
"Ronnie's back to his best and he pushed me hard," said Taylor. "It was a good battle and the only thing missing was a nine-darter.
"It was a better performance from me and I'm improving in each round, and that's good going into Sunday because it's a tough day with the quarter-finals, semi-finals and final, so I'll be ready for it now."
Taylor now meets Terry Jenkins in the last four, after the seven-time major finalist showed his class with a superb 9-7 win over Dutch prospect Michael van Gerwen earlier on Saturday night.
"I'm excited by the draw and Terry's in for a tough match," said Taylor. "He's been playing superbly so I know what I'm up against, but it wouldn't matter who I play because it's probably the best-ever UK Open, it's been a brilliant tournament."
Jenkins could only watch on as van Gerwen took out 130 and 124 in assuming a 3-0 lead in their fifth round clash before the Englishman hit back to lead 7-5.
Van Gerwen added a 133 checkout in levelling, only to see the Ledbury man win the next two legs to seal a quarter-final spot for the third time at the Reebok Stadium.
"I made it hard for myself but I'm delighted to be through," said Jenkins. "I seem to prefer being in a battle but I knew if I stuck in there I'd have a chance.
"I've been feeling a lot better about my game over the last two or three weeks and I think that's reflected in my performance."
Two-time UK Open champion Raymond van Barneveld came from 8-6 down to win a dramatic clash with Peter Wright 9-8 in one of four thrilling games in the fifth round which went all the way to a deciding leg.
Wright finished 114 and 120 early on as he took the early lead before van Barneveld hit back to five-all, only to see the Scottish World Cup ace win three of the next four to move to the brink of victory.
Van Barneveld recovered from a host of earlier missed doubles by winning the 15th leg, and capitalised in the next to level after Wright incredibly burst his score on 138, before the Dutchman won the decider on double 12.
"Peter played really well and had some good finishes, but the 138 was a killer for him," admitted van Barneveld, who had hit seven 180s but missed a total of 31 darts at a double in the game.
"I was so lucky when he burst the 138 and I missed a lot of crucial shots too, but I hit the double that mattered in the end."
The 2006 and 2007 champion now plays Dave Chisnall in the last four, with the St Helens man reaching the quarter-finals for a second successive year in Bolton with a high-quality 9-5 win over Australian Simon Whitlock.
Denis Ovens and Jamie Caven, who matched van Barneveld for drama in going the full distance, will also clash in the last eight - with Ovens looking to reach the semis for a third successive year in Bolton.
The Stevenage veteran hit back from 8-5 down to defeat Paul Nicholson, who missed ten darts to take victory as he crashed out of the event, with Ovens winning his second successive game in a deciding leg after his narrow escape against Brendan Dolan on Saturday afternoon.
"It was down to absolute luck in the end," conceded Ovens. "It was nip and tuck early on but then Paul got ahead of me and it was in his hands for a while, but I played the last leg very well under a lot of pressure."
Caven, meanwhile, hit back from 4-0 and 5-1 down to see off Joe Cullen, taking out a magnificent 160 checkout in the deciding leg of their contest.
2011 runner-up Wes Newton was the night's other 9-8 winner in an incredible contest with Belgium's Kim Huybrechts, who led 7-4 at one stage having hit seven doubles from as many attempts.
However, his finishing would desert him in the latter stages as the world number five hit back to level, then landed an 11-darter to force a deciding leg before posting double five to reach the quarter-finals after Huybrechts missed five darts to win a dramatic game.
"I was hitting everything in the early part of the game but I found myself 6-4 down because Kim's finishing was outstanding," said Newton.
"When I was 7-4 down I knew that it was Kim's finishing which was the difference, but I got back into the game. The last leg was unreal - I don't ever want to go through that again!"
Robert Thornton won through to the quarter-finals for the second successive year, following up his fourth round win over Gary Anderson with a 9-5 defeat of Dennis Priestley, as he came from 5-1 down to win eight successive legs, and he now takes on Newton in the quarter-finals.
The semi-finals on Sunday evening will see Taylor or Jenkins meet Ovens or Caven, with van Barneveld or Chisnall playing Newton or Thornton, before the final of the £200,000 event is played in the Premier Suite at the De Vere Whites Hotel in Bolton.
Earlier in the day world champion Adrian Lewis was knocked out by Newton in the fourth round.