Raymond van Barneveld insisted ‘form is temporary, class is permanent’, as he rolled back the years to produce a majestic 164 checkout and secure a dramatic comeback victory over Ricky Evans in the first-round of the World Grand Prix on Sunday evening.
Two-time Grand Prix finalist Van Barneveld stormed to the opening set without reply, averaging 99 in the process. Nevertheless, the five-time world champion was punished for a number of missed doubles in the second, as Evans levelled up the contest.
‘Rapid Ricky’ then drew first blood in the decider, before wiring D16 for a 143 checkout which would have moved him to within a leg of victory. Barney was on the brink, but he conjured up a moment of brilliance to level the set; taking out a mesmerising 164 finish to send the Citywest crowd wild.
Evans could only applaud but this changed the entire landscape of the affair, as Van Barneveld won the final two legs in 14 and 16 darts to seal his progression to round-two, where he’ll take on 2013 finalist Dave Chisnall.
Speaking to Sky Sports after his inspired comeback, Van Barneveld insisted: “Form is temporary, but class is permanent. After that first set I went backstage and was thinking happy days. He was trying to search for doubles. He’s always fast; I’ve known Ricky Evans for many years and that second set; he came back amazing.
“I was practicing back there for three hours; eight or nine times out of ten I was hitting that D16 opener. I couldn’t find it tonight and my cover shot was D14 and every time I hit it.
“That 164 was fantastic; it was life-saving. I couldn’t believe it myself; just when you needed it, it went in. That saved me the game and he was applauding as well, but he was still in the match.
“I felt like wow, this is the old Raymond van Barneveld and what you can do in crucial moments. I know what I can do. I try and try every single week, but everyone is playing their A-game against me always.”
The Dutchman will now take on eighth seed Dave Chisnall for a place in the quarter-finals, after the St Helen’s star produced an impressive display to defeat former World Youth champion Max Hopp in straight sets.
Elsewhere, Michael van Gerwen kicked off his bid for a fourth World Grand Prix crown with a whitewash win over home-favourite Steve Lennon. Van Gerwen missed just the solitary dart at double to erase memories of his opening-round defeat against John Henderson twelve months ago.
‘The Green Machine’ will meet Darren Webster in the last 16, after ‘The Demolition Man’ lived up to his nickname to secure a whitewash win of his own against 2014 Lakeside world champion Stephen Bunting. Webster averaged 98.02 and converted 50% of his double attempts to secure his first Grand Prix victory at the third attempt.
Gary Anderson defied his back injury to breeze past Austrian Darts Open winner Jonny Clayton in straight sets. ‘The Flying Scotsman’ has already won the UK Open, World Matchplay and Champions League of Darts this year, and he kicked off his bid for a maiden Dublin title by dropping just the solitary leg against debutant Clayton.
Daryl Gurney began his World Grand Prix defence with a straight sets triumph over John Henderson. The pair met in the semi-finals at the Citywest twelve months ago and Gurney prevailed once more; averaging 88.36 and boasting an impressive 67% checkout success rate.
It was a successful night for Dutch debutants Jeffrey de Zwaan and Ron Meulenkamp, who dumped out Kim Huybrechts and Joe Cullen in the opening two matches of the night. De Zwaan was in sensational form; averaging 97.87 and crashing in four maximums to set up an enthralling second-round clash against Gary Anderson.
Meanwhile, Meulenkamp caused the first real upset of the tournament to dump out world number 15 Joe Cullen. ‘The Rockstar’ endured a nightmare evening; averaging a miserly 78.54 and missing 15 of his 19 attempts at double, as Meulenkamp won through to set up a last 16 showdown against reigning champion Gurney.