Van Barneveld seals his Grand Slam spot!

Van Barneveld GSOD.jpg

Raymond van Barneveld is set to make his twelfth consecutive Grand Slam of Darts appearance later this year after reaching the final of the 2018 Unibet Masters in Milton Keynes on Sunday evening.

Van Barneveld, featuring in his first individual major final since 2015, was edged out 11-9 by Michael van Gerwen in a thrilling finale to the opening tournament of the new season, as ‘The Green Machine’ claimed a fourth successive Masters crown.

Nevertheless, whilst the five-time champion missed out on a first individual TV title since 2014, his tremendous run to the final secured his spot in this year’s Grand Slam of Darts – a tournament he won back in 2012 where he memorably defeated MvG in the final.

The Grand Slam qualification criteria has changed over recent years, with only TV event winners and TV finalists guaranteed automatic qualification. A maximum of 16 players can qualify from TV tournaments, with a reserve list based on the winners of European Tour events, Players Championship tournaments and UK Open Qualifiers.

In the previous two years, Barney has qualified for the cross-code event by virtue of his World Cup success alongside Van Gerwen. The Dutch duo triumphed over Wales in last year’s tournament, whilst they finished as runners-up to England’s Phil Taylor and Adrian Lewis in 2016.

However, the 50-year-old Den Haag ace claimed that it gives him greater pride to qualify courtesy of his individual performances. He revealed: “I’m happy with that of course. It saves a lot of pressure for the rest of the season.

“I’ve always had the luck to play with Michael in the World Cup and maybe qualify for that, but it feels better that you qualify yourself for that tournament and the Grand Slam of Darts is a major tournament; it’s a fantastic tournament and you want to take part.”

The five-time world champion rolled back the years in Milton Keynes to reach his second Masters Final, defeating three of the world’s top seven along the way. He kicked off the tournament by defying a 106.48 average from Dave Chisnall to prevail in a dramatic last-leg decider.

Van Barneveld produced a mesmerising display to dismantle world number two Peter Wright 10-2 in the last eight, averaging 103.51 and converting three ton-plus checkouts. The Dutchman then avenged his Champions League semi-final defeat against Mensur Suljovic by defeating the Austrian 11-7, before succumbing to an imperious MvG.

However, Van Barneveld insists he will take great confidence from his performances over the weekend, as he prepares to begin his Premier League campaign against Daryl Gurney in Dublin this Thursday.

“For the last six or seven matches I’m playing, apart from the game against Mensur, the rest is always above 100 {average} or more and that’s good, that gives me good satisfaction to build on the Premier League and after that.

“Thursday is just another day. It says nothing. It’s a different focus, more adrenaline than you have, with all due respect to the Masters. The Masters is still a good tournament but everyone is still more focusing on the Premier League this year,” he added.

Van Barneveld now joins Van Gerwen, world champion Rob Cross, Grand Slam finalist Peter Wright and Players Championship Finalist Jonny Clayton – all of whom have already confirmed their qualification for the 2018 tournament.

World Youth champion Dimitri van den Bergh and World Youth runner-up Josh Payne will also feature in the unique cross-code event, alongside the BDO’s Glen Durrant and Mark McGeeney, who contested the recent Lakeside World Championship final.

Photo Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC

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