Wellington builder pushes Taylor all the way

DAVID LONG
Last updated 15:55 14/12/2013
Rob Szabo
Getty Images

Rob Szabo (right) congratulates Phil Taylor after their match at the World Darts Championships.

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Darts legend Phil Taylor said he had to try harder than he's ever done before in his life to beat New Zealand's Rob Szabo at the World Championships today.

Szabo looked like shocking the darts world after taking the first set off Phil Taylor in the Darts World Championships at Alexandra Palace in London.

The 48-year-old Wellington builder eventually lost three sets to one against the 16-time world champion, but for a while it looked like a massive upset was on the cards.

Before the match got underway British bookies had Szabo as the $250 outsider to win, the longest odds ever for a head-to-head contest in darts history.

Szabo, who had to come through qualifying for this first round match, took the opening set 3-1 with incredible checkouts of 128 (on bullseye) and 105 (on double 20).

When Szabo won the first leg of the next set, the unthinkable looked like it might just happen. However, Taylor, who has dominated world darts for nearly 20 years, was able to raise his game enough to just get past Szabo, although he certainly didn't do it with ease.

After the match, Taylor presented Szabo with a signed dart board, which Szabo said is something he'll always cherish when he takes it home to Wellington.

''I'm going to take this and really enjoy it,'' Szabo said. 

''What could have been,'' he pondered. ''But hey, I hope there are more opportunities down the line.''

Taylor was full of respect for Szabo and said it was one of the toughest matches of his life.

''My head was gone, he played darts I've never seen before in my career,'' Taylor said.

''He was unorthodox, he wasn't the normal standard dart player that we're used to.

''I have never tried so hard in all of my life. I'll be honest, he was very difficult and there are a lot of players this week who wouldn't be able to handle him, me included.

''He was very steady, methodical, dead slow. He was like Jocky Wilson, he'd go 45, then 180, then something silly like 128 out. You couldn't fathom him out. 

''Most people you can click in and get in their minds, you couldn't with him, you just didn't know where they were.''

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