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Is Taylor the greatest sportsman ever?

By Phil Cartwright
BBC Radio Stoke

Phil Taylor
Taylor has dominated the sport of darts for almost 20 years

Who is the greatest sportsman ever? The person who has dominated their sport and taken it to a new level?

Roger Federer and Tiger Woods are the names that spring immediately to mind from the current generation of sporting stars.

It seems an unlikely selection, but my choice would be a 48-year-old from Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent, who started his working life making ceramic toilet roll handles.

I was lucky enough to be in Blackpool on Sunday to see Phil Taylor at his majestic best, in the 18-4 destruction of Terry Jenkins that secured him a 10th World Matchplay title.

It was not the margin of the defeat, the biggest ever in a major PDC final, that was so bewildering.

It was the way Taylor seized upon his opponent's weakness, and took advantage of it in a relentless and almost sickening manner.

And perhaps the most remarkable thing of all is that 'The Power' has been doing it to opponents from all over the world for the past 20 years.

Jenkins is not the first, and will not be the last.

"If I could have held my own early on then I'd have stood a chance, but Phil is just incredible," said the world number five after his crushing final defeat at the Winter Gardens.

"Phil is not a normal person, he's an absolute phenomenon and what he does on a dartboard is amazing."

Back in 1990, Taylor surprised the darting world by defeating his mentor Eric Bristow 6-1 in the final of the World Championship at the Lakeside, and then was involved in one of the greatest finals ever two years later, winning his second world title in a sudden-death leg against Mike Gregory.

Phil Taylor
Taylor clinched his 14th world title in January 2009

In 1993, Taylor was one of 16 players that helped to form what is now the PDC, and from then on, he became almost invincible.

He won 11 more world titles between 1995 and 2006, with a 7-6 defeat by Canadian John Part in 2003 the only blot on his World Championship copy book.

Soon afterwards though, Taylor began to suffer some unexpected defeats, and many pundits wondered if this was the end of Taylor at the top of the game.

But if anything, he came back even better.

Last year was his best ever, with the UK Open in Bolton being the only major title to elude him, and in the 2009 World Championship final, he destroyed his long-time rival Raymond van Barneveld 7-1 to claim the trophy for a 14th time.

With the exception of the Premier League, in which he lost in the semi-final, Taylor has continued his dominance this year, winning the UK Open, the Las Vegas Desert Classic and the World Matchplay.

And the scary thing is, he thinks he can get better.

Phil Taylor
Taylor made it 10 World Matchplay victories in Blackpool on Sunday

Taylor told BBC Radio Stoke: "I think I can raise my average by another 10 points. I'll be back on the practice board trying to improve because I think that I can.

"I love winning. You can't beat the feeling. That's what I do, and I love it.

"I remember working for £74 a week, and I've just won an amount that I would have had to work a lifetime for, but it's not all about the money.

"It's my job and I love what I do, so I'll be back on the practice board tomorrow."

You may agree with me, you may not. You may not even think that darts is a proper sport.

But I think it is, and if someone not only dominates their sport for such a long time, but changes the way it is run and brings it to a much wider audience, as Taylor undoubtedly has, then they deserve our respect.



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