Raymond van Barneveld looked at the roof of the arena in Wolverhampton for a long time. Then he turned his teary eyes towards the spectators, who yelled just two words in a continuous loop: “Barney Army!” The Dutchman had the fans captivated from the moment he entered the stage to make it in the quarter-finals of the Grand Slam record with number one in the world. But now that he had actually created the sensation with a 16:13 over Gerwyn Price, there was no stopping them.
“I never wanted to give up. I promised my grandson that today,” he said afterwards on the stage to Sky Sports – and had to blow hard again and again. It has been a long time since the 55-year-old was so moved.
Van Barneveld was already out of his sport. He lasted around nine months in 2020 without darts, then he announced his comeback. He fought his way back to the Tour through the rough road of Q-School, but admitted that he had to pay a little tribute to the developments in his sport. The averages kept getting higher. The double odds better. The youngsters, like 21-year-old Josh Rock, who threw a nine-darter against Michael van Gerwen in the round of 16 the day before and had the tall Dutchman on the brink of defeat, more fearless. Legend Van Barneveld was no longer making the big results, even though he won a tournament on the Pro Tour in 2021.
It’s been ten years since his last and only triumph at the Grand Slam. Five years that the five-time world champion was in a major semi-final. So now he’s celebrating his biggest success since his comeback. And delivered a performance that was reminiscent of his heyday. The typical eye roll when legs didn’t go his way, like early in the match when Price pulled away 8-3. The slight smile in his throw when the arrows went exactly where he wanted. The pointer in the direction of his fiancée Julia Evans after big moments, such as the 157 checkout to 10:8.
Van Barneveld, you could tell, loosened up with every leg won. And he had the stamina to hold off the enraged defending champion Price, who never played badly, down the long first-to-16 legs distance. Because – unlike in the early stages of the game – he hardly missed any chances of doubles. 46 percent of his arrows found their way. In addition, an average of almost 100 points. They are world class values.
“I can win the tournament,” said van Barneveld confidently on stage after his second win against Price in the tournament (5:4 in the group stage). He’s already making a big jump in the world rankings from 50th to 34th place. If he even makes it into the final, he meets Michael Smith on Sunday afternoon, he’ll even jump into the top 32. Van Barneveld would then be in the World Cup Alexandra Palace (December 15 to January 3) and would only have to enter the second round. Like in the old days.
round of 16
Raymond van Barneveld (NED) – Simon Whitlock (AUS) 10:8
Michael Smith (ENG) – Rob Cross (ENG) 10:8
Gerwy Price (WAL) – Danny Noppert (NED) 10:8
Joe Cullen (ENG) – Dirk van Duijvenbode (NL)
Nathan Aspinall (ENG) – Jermaine Wattimena (NED) 10:6
Alan Soutar (SCO) – Jonny Clayton (WAL) 10:8
Michael van Gerwen (NED) – Josh Rock (NIR) 10:8
Luke Humphries (ENG) – Ross Smith (ENG) 10:8
Michael Smith (ENG) – Joe Cullen (ENG) 16:15
Raymond van Barneveld (NED) – Gerwy Price (WAL) 16:13
Nathan Aspinall (ENG) – Alan Soutar (SCO)
Michael van Gerwen (ENG) – Luke Humphries (ENG)
Michael Smith (ENG) – Raymond van Barneveld (ENG)
Nathan Aspinall/Alan Soutar – Michael van Gerwen/Luke Humphries