Phil Taylor battles for victory
Reigning champion Phil Taylor was given a fright from qualifier Rob Szabo before securing his place in the second round of the PDC World Darts Championship at Alexandra Palace on Friday.
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Szabo, who only just squeezed past Ian Ross 4-3 in the final preliminary round earlier in the evening, took the opening set against 'The Power' when few gave him a chance of even winning a leg.
The New Zealand builder even broke Taylor to begin the second set, but that was as good as it got as superb 115 and 114 checkouts from the champion proved the turning point.
Taylor reeled off the next eight legs to take command of the match and while Szabo did halt the slide with a break of his own it was unable to stop him going down bravely 3-1.
"I really enjoyed the match. My hat off to Phil. He hung in there. I knew he wasn't quite right and he picked his scores when he needed to and he got the finishes," said Szabo. "Hopefully there are more opportunities down the line."
"He was playing darts I've never seen in my career before," Taylor said of Szabo. "I didn't think I was going to get beaten, but he was very difficult to beat. It was very mentally straining."
John Part kicked off proceedings with a 3-2 victory against Mareno Michels, although the Canadian made heavy weather of the win after racing into a two-set lead.
The three-time world champion moved to within one leg of progression to the second round only to lose the last three legs of the third set.
Dutch debutant Michels forced a fifth and deciding set, but Part managed to regain his composure to finally see off his plucky 29-year-old opponent.
"I did a lot to make that harder, but I think Moreno did a lot too," said Part, who could play Wes Newton in the second round. "I'm happy to be in. I want to play. Wes is a great friend of mine. If I've got to play him, I'll play him."
Peter Wright followed Part into the second round with a comprehensive 3-0 triumph over Joe Cullen.
'Snakebite' needed five legs to win the opening sets, including a fine 121 checkout to win the second. He went one better in the third set with a 151 checkout to finish off Cullen.
"I was a bit nervy, first round," said Wright, who averaged just under 99. "Obviously playing Joe he's a fantastic player, but he didn't play like he can so I got away with it."
The last match of the evening saw Richie Burnett march on with a 3-1 victory over Dean Winstanley.