Abu Dhabi: Three-and-a-half years ago, the 16-time world darts champion, Phil Taylor, told Gulf News of his plans to retire at the age of 55 in 2016.
But fast forward to the present day and Taylor, who is taking part in the ongoing Dubai Duty Free Darts Masters, remains a considerable force in the sport he has dominated for nearly 30 years.
However, the relentless march of time and unremitting schedule of darts, which has burgeoned from a pub sport to one which packs out arenas worldwide, have now caught up with the world number three.
Retirement, therefore, is very much on Taylor’s mind.
“Barry Hearn [the chairman of the Professional Darts Corporation] talked me into doing a few more years,” Taylor told Gulf News ahead of the two-day annual Dubai event, which started at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium on Thursday.
“I’m 56 this year [in August] and I’m slowing down now, I’m semi-retiring. We’re going to sit down in January, Bob [Glenn, his aide] looks after me and my diary and everything. This year’s taped out now, so we’ll look at the calendar and have a holiday or something.”
For most top sportsmen, the prospect of calling it a day is a nightmarish thought, but Taylor insisted: “I’m looking forward to it.”
The Englishman no longer enjoys the constant travel involved in modern-day darts as he approaches his 60s.
“I’ve had 30 years of running around now,” he said. “I have to tell him [Glenn] to shut up sometimes when he mentions the schedule. I’ve probably got something like 26 hours of flights [ahead] and then you’ve got seven days before you play in the World Matchplay [in July] and then fly back to Australia.
“It does take its toll.”
Of his retirement plans, Taylor quipped. “I’ll probably sleep for six months. There’s loads I could do. I’ll always work for the rest of my life.”
Taylor says he has not retired yet because of sheer enjoyment for his craft, but does not believe he can be world number one again because he does not travel enough to accrue sufficient ranking points.
However, he feels winning a 17th world title is a realistic proposition if “I prepare right”.
Taylor is full of admiration for the man who has superseded him as darts’ greatest player, Michael van Gerwen.
“He’s doing things on the dartboard that are fantastic, particularly his finishing,” he said of the man who thrashed him 11-3 in the final of the Premier League last week. “You can compare him to anyone you want [in sport], but whether he has the longevity to stay there, God only knows.”
Van Gerwen also beat him in last year’s final in Dubai, a place which Taylor describes as “fantastic”.
“This really is like a Busman’s holiday for us. I love Dubai, but I’d really like to come for a holiday and relax.”
Taylor was due to launch his attempt to win the Dubai crown for the first time — Van Gerwen has prevailed in all three previous editions — against James Wade in the quarter-finals on Thursday evening.
Does he do anything special to prepare for a tournament which is unique in that it is the only professional darts event held outdoors?
“No, there’s nothing you can do,” Taylor, who would play either the world champion Gary Anderson or Raymond van Barneveld in the semi-finals on Friday evening if he sees off the world number six Wade. “At least we know it won’t be raining.”
DUBAI DUTY FREE DARTS MASTERS’ SCHEDULE
Friday, May 27 (8pm)
Van Gerwen/Wright v Lewis/Chisnall
Anderson/Van Barneveld v Taylor/Wade
Best of 21 legs