Raymond van Barneveld is in bullish mood ahead of this weekend’s Grand Slam of Darts, claiming that his current world ranking does not make him any less of a threat in this year’s competition.
The 5-Time World Champion is currently ranked 18th on the PDC Order of Merit, after suffering some early exits in recent ranking majors, whilst he also missed a number of European Tour events due to his Premier League commitments.
Despite this, van Barneveld has performed well for the majority of the year; he reached the Unibet Masters final in February, losing 11-6 to Michael van Gerwen in the final, before producing an extraordinary recovery in his Premier League title defence.
After surviving Judgement Night, Barney won 6 of his last 7 matches; beating Phil Taylor, Michael van Gerwen, Dave Chisnall, Gary Anderson and Adrian Lewis in successive weeks, to reach the play-offs, where he was again beaten by MvG, 10-8 in an epic contest.
The 48-year-old Dutch star also performed very well in the World Series of Darts events. He beat van Gerwen in two successive events; reaching the semis in Sydney, before losing 11-10 to Adrian Lewis in a pulsating final in Auckland. He also triumphed in the Hong Kong Masters, thrashing Phil Taylor 11-4 to clinch the title.
Nevertheless, because these tournaments are invitational events only, the prize money gained does not contribute to the PDC World Rankings.
Raymond has been unfortunate in this regard over recent years. He won the 2014 Premier League, another non-ranked event, whilst he famously defeated Michael van Gerwen to win the Grand Slam three years ago.
However, at this time, the Grand Slam wasn’t a ranking major, but van Barneveld’s victory prompted a rethink from the PDC. From this year onwards, the prize money won will go towards the Order of Merit.
If both of van Barneveld’s recent major TV triumphs had been classed as ranking events, he would be sitting comfortably in the world’s top four. Yet, as it is, he’s slipped outside the elite top 16 and he’s desperate to return there as soon as possible.
In an interview with Sky Sports, van Barneveld claimed: “To be number 18 in the world is ridiculous for my status, I still believe I’m a top six player.”
“I was focused on doing well at the Premier League this year so I skipped six out of nine European Tours. That causes problems with the rankings and I dropped places,” he added.
Raymond has been performing particularly well in recent months, without getting his just rewards. He suffered a first-round exit at the European Championships last week, losing 6-4 to Jelle Klaasen, despite averaging over 100 for the vast majority of the contest.
However, when asked if he’s concerned about his current ranking, van Barneveld was in philosophical mood. He stated: “That will come back, I’m playing really well but I haven’t had luck. Recently I averaged 111 and hit eight maximums in eight legs against Joe Cullen but lost 6-2! What’s that all about?”
Van Barneveld has been drawn in Group E of this year’s Grand Slam, where he will face World Champion Gary Anderson.
Andy Boulton, who has performed well on the Pro Tour in 2015, makes up the group, alongside veteran American Larry Butler, who reached the BDO World Masters final just last month.
Barney harbours great memories at Wolverhampton, having ended his five-year wait for a major TV title here in 2012, where he defeated Michael van Gerwen to win the title. It was an extremely emotional occasion; as RvB was cheered on to a landmark tournament victory by his wife, Silvia.
Van Barneveld still reflects fondly on this memorable victory against his compatriot. “I’ve got good memories of winning the tournament three years ago,” he said.
“It was an amazing final against Michael, I beat him 16-14 in the end. It was so exciting to beat the world No 1 in a final.
“It took almost five or six years to lift the trophy so it was emotional. I still feel capable of winning it again.”
Raymond admitted that the tournament’s group-stage format can be unforgiving, comparing it to Darts’ equivalent of the Champions League.
“It’s hard to focus if you win the first two matches because your mind tells you that you’re already there. If you win the first two and lose the third, you can be unprepared,” van Barneveld told Sky Sports.
Nevertheless, Barney remains confident of enjoying another famous run at Wolverhampton in 2015.
“The other players know that against me, especially in a tournament like the Grand Slam of Darts, the real Raymond van Barneveld will show up.”
It’s refreshing to see Barney speaking with such confidence and vigour. He hasn’t enjoyed the success that his recent performances have merited, however if he keeps persevering, he could reap the rewards at the Grand Slam.