Raymond van Barneveld faces a battle to make final year as a professional a memorable oneDecember 18, 2018
Titles, epic contests, the occasional surprise defeat, Raymond van Barneveld and the World Championships have been synonymous with darting drama, but in the aftermath of his loss to Darius Labanauskas, one thing was apparent, it might have been Barney’s last stand at the Worlds.
It was supposed to be the grand departure. Barney’s announcement last month that next year’s World Championship was to be his last should have been the start of a 12-month farewell tour.
Taylor’s 2017 was exactly that after he made the same decision to have one final year. The Power went on to win the Matchplay, reach the Premier League semi-final and fall agonisingly close of the ultimate ending, losing to Rob Cross in last year’s Ally Pally Final.
However, on Monday night the five-time champion of the world was beaten by the winner of the Nordic and Baltic standings – Lithuania’s former BDO quarter-finalist Labanauskas.
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As Wayne Mardle noted on TV he won the deciding set with an average below 80 as Barney seemed to melt away with missed darts and a scarcely believable average that had descended into the 70s at times.
The reality facing Barney is that he may now not even make next year’s majors let alone the World Championships that were supposed to be the great darting doyen’s celebratory end.
Van Barneveld won the World Cup alongside Michael van Gerwen but on the individual circuit, after reaching the World Championship last eight in January and the final of The Masters he nosedived.
Second round exits at the World Matchplay and the Grand Prix, third round defeat at the UK Open and a sixth-place finish in the Premier League.
Just when he wanted to get going a group stage departure came at the Grand Slam and his lack of appearances on the tour away from the TV stage meant he failed to qualify for the European Championship and Players Championship Finals.
It all means that Barney has dropped to a provisional 26th on the Order of Merit, and outside the qualification spots for most of the year’s senior events.
He will need to play, and thrive on both the Pro and European tours if he is to get into those events and rebuild his ranking for a final stand – he has already admitted that the difficulty in getting up for those events and their early starts is draining on a man who is battling diabetes.
The UK Open may be an avenue – the two-time champion qualifies as a Tour Card Holder – and the World Cup, where he has enjoyed terrific success alongside Van Gerwen, could also keep him in the headlines.
Barney has also damaged his chances of a PDC or Sky Sports wild card into the Premier League – with players stating their case on an almost weekly basis to join the top four from the Order of Merit who qualify by right.
Barney would have hoped for a grand tour on the weekly roadshow that would have reached a crescendo with a doubleheader in Rotterdam – but now he is hoping for an invite which is not guaranteed.
But it’s the Worlds that has always lit his fire, with Barney telling Dave Clark on the eve of this year’s Ally Pally extravaganza that he still felt he had a title in him.
His earliest exit since 2012 at the World Championship, when he also went out in the last 64, was not part of the plan.
The decision to retire was supposed to free those shackles and allow the 51-year-old to play with the same freedom that took him to a PDC world title, world number one and great battles with The Power – and that was just his first 18 months after the switch from the BDO.
With four Lakeside titles under his belt, Barney left the BDO for the PDC in 2006, amid great fanfare too as he emerged at the Premier League announcement – it was quite the coup.
He has gone on to win two UK Opens, one Premier League, one Grand Slam and memorably one world title on a sensational New Year’s Day at the Circus Tavern in 2007.
Barney has not had a particularly good year or two but the big TV occasions still stir the Dutch great – as we’ve seen with memorable victories over Michael van Gerwen.
Speaking to the media afterwards, Barney insisted he will be doing everything to be back in north London next year and there is no doubt that he certainly deserves a proper send off.
But sport rewards the winners and for Barney, a serial winner, Monday night’s defeat may have been the most damaging of losses.
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