Raymond van Barneveld produced an absolutely astonishing performance to stun World Number One Michael van Gerwen in the last 16 of the World Championships, in one of the greatest games of darts ever staged at the Alexandra Palace.
Michael has enjoyed an incredibly dominant 2015, winning a staggering eighteen titles and enjoying a 23-match unbeaten run since October. However, his veteran compatriot produced one of the best performances of his career to overcome MvG, who averaged an incredible 106.
Considering Raymond is a Five-Time World Champion and one of the most decorated individuals in the history of the game, the fact that this performance ranks so highly on his all-time list, illustrates just how superbly he performed.
‘Mighty Mike’ began in blistering fashion, posting a maximum in his third visit to the board, and sealing an instant break of throw with a superb 127 checkout.
MvG extended his lead with his average exceeding 120, and although Barney opened his account in leg three, van Gerwen sealed the set in emphatic style, with an average of over 110.
The first two legs of the second set were shared, before van Barneveld produced a moment of sheer quality; taking out 121 on D14 to break throw and secure the initiative. Raymond didn’t relinquish his control, and despite missing 3 darts at double, he posted D5 to level up proceedings.
Barney was throwing superbly well, but he was demonstrating real self-belief. Some players certainly fear van Gerwen and are almost beaten before they take to the stage, but van Barneveld always performs tremendously well against his young compatriot.
The Five-Time World Champion maintained his high-level throughout a nail-biting third set, which went to a last-leg decider. Barney had the advantage of throw and capitalised, producing a fine scoring leg to move 2-1 ahead with a 103 average.
Nevertheless, van Gerwen is the World’s best player for a number of reasons. He is notoriously incredible under pressure and he produced a remarkable response to clinch the fourth set without reply. In the second leg, ‘The Green Machine’ posted the maximum 170 finish, before restoring parity moments later.
The crowd were captivated by the extraordinary spectacle they were witnessing. Both men were performing at the peak of their powers, which was incredible given the enormous pressure they were under.
In the fifth set, Raymond missed five darts at double for a 2-1 lead, after previously missing one dart at D16 to break in the preceding leg. Michael van Gerwen posted D20 and appeared poised to reclaim the advantage, but van Barneveld responded magnificently in the fourth leg.
He posted a very timely maximum, his sixth of the encounter, before taking out a majestic 124 to level up proceedings in the set. Given the disappointment of those missed darts just minutes earlier, it was an admirable show of character and tenacity from RvB.
The World Number One was visibly shell-shocked by van Barneveld’s inspired revival, and Barney dominated the fifth and decisive leg of the set, pinning D6 for a 14-darter, to move within a set of a ground-breaking victory.
Early in the sixth set, van Barneveld posted his seventh maximum, only for van Gerwen to convert D20 to hold throw. Then, Raymond squandered three darts at D3, enabling MvG to break, and a seventh and final set appeared inevitable.
Despite this, the man from Den Haag was desperate to make van Gerwen fight for every leg. He broke the 26-year-old instantly, this time pinning D3, before cleaning up 82 in just two-darts, to move just one leg away from a quarter-final berth.
Michael van Gerwen had the advantage of throw, but Barney hit successive 140’s to leave 121 after just 9 darts. Nevertheless, MvG demonstrated his class, with a magnificent 135 finish to deny Barney a shot for the match; subsequently forcing a deciding set.
Raymond van Barneveld came through a nerve-jangling decisive set against Stephen Bunting just 48 hours previously, and he made a fine start on this occasion also, taking out 101 to hold throw and maintain the pressure on the World Number One.
The 26-year-old Boxtel star is one of the most prolific scorers in the game, but his proficiency on the big trebles momentarily evaded him, and he was ruthlessly punished. Barney converted D9 for a 72 checkout to move just one leg away from dumping out the tournament favourite.
Just as it appeared that the World Number 16 would complete a remarkable triumph, van Gerwen responded in the only way he knows; by hitting back-to-back maximums to kick off the leg. He hit seven perfect darts, before eventually posting a 10-darter to ensure the set was back on throw.
However, MvG was still under considerable pressure, as he was forced to throw to save the match. He began flawlessly, with a stunning 174, but van Barneveld rallied, leaving 96 after 12 darts, with ‘The Green Machine’ sat on 80.
Michael’s solitary dart at D20 was pulled, handing Barney a chance to seal his progression. He made absolutely no mistake, hitting T20 with his first dart, before following it up with his favourite D18, to spark wild celebrations from an elated Five-Time World Champion.
It was an absolutely astonishing contest. It’s without doubt the greatest match ever witnessed on the Alexandra Palace stage, and I personally think it rivals Barney’s iconic Circus Tavern final against Phil Taylor in 2007.
MvG was incredible; he hit 11 maximums, produced three huge ton-plus finishes and averaged 105.78. Van Barneveld averaged 100.44, but his timing was exemplary. In the critical junctures of the match, he delivered, to seal one of the biggest victories of his career.
This wasn’t just a victory for van Barneveld, it was a victory for darts. It was an amazing spectacle between two fantastic ambassadors of the sport. Van Gerwen deserves immense credit, not only for his phenomenal display, but for his grace and dignity in what was a very painful defeat.
After the gruelling epic, Barney admitted:”After the second set, I started believing in myself. The World Championship means everything to me. This is amazing.
“The birth of my grandson this week gave me so much joy and so much spirit to do well. It’s really emotional. To me, it feels like winning the tournament already. To beat the world number one is something special,” van Barneveld added.
Barney will face Michael Smith in the quarter-finals, who sealed his last eight spot with a 4-0 demolition against Benito van de Pas. Smith hit 12 180’s and averaged 101.58 to emphatically confirm his progression.
Elsewhere, Adrian Lewis and Gary Anderson both secured their quarter-final berths with impressive whitewash victories over Mensur Suljovic and Vincent van der Voort respectively.
Additionally, a below-par James Wade defeated Jamie Caven 4-1 to reach the quarter-finals of the World Championships for the seventh time. Wade will face reigning World Champion Gary Anderson on New Year’s Day.
Finally, Jelle Klaasen defeated Mervyn King 4-2 in Tuesday’s afternoon final second-round match, to set up a last 16 clash with 16-Time World Champion Phil Taylor on Wednesday evening.
William Hill World Darts Championship
Tuesday December 29
Afternoon Session (1pm-5pm)
Mervyn King 2-4 Jelle Klaasen
Michael Smith 4-0 Benito van de Pas
James Wade 4-1 Jamie Caven
Evening Session (7pm-11pm)
Adrian Lewis 4-0 Mensur Suljovic
Gary Anderson 4-0 Vincent van der Voort
Michael van Gerwen 3-4 Raymond van Barneveld