Raymond van Barnaveld faces another tough test at the Grand Slam of Darts with Michael Smith to overcome in the semi-finals.
Barney’s last-four clash with Bully Boy, who saw off Joe Cullen in a final leg decider, is one half of a fantastic finals day that also features a mouthwatering contest between Nathan Aspinall and Luke Humphries.
Cool Hand Luke booked his place in the Wolverhampton semi-finals with an impressive and comfortable 16-10 victory over Michael van Gerwen and that set up a fantastic tussle against Aspinall.
The Asp was defeated Alan Soutar in the last-eight and one of Aspinall, Smith, Van Barneveld or Humphries will be crowned Grand Slam champion in Wolverhampton this evening.
What: Grand Slam of Darts
Where: Aldersley Leisure Village, Wolverhampton
When: 13:00pm, Sunday 20th November 2022
How to watch: Sky Sports Arena
Odds: Michael Smith 6/4, Luke Humphries 15/8, Nathan Aspinall 4/1, Raymond Van Barneveld
Roll the clock back 12 months and very few observers would have expected Van Barneveld to be in the last-four of a major televised event.
Barney only came out of retirement in February and it’s pretty incredible that the man from the Hague finds himself in the last-four of the Grand Slam of Darts.
It’s maybe a surprise that the Dutchman is back in the big time, but it’s certainly not a shock when you look at Van Barneveld’s performances.
Barney topped his group to qualify for the knockout stages of the competition and that was a section that contained top performers Price and Dave Chisnall, as well as the capable Ted Evatts.
The Dutchman won all three of his round-robin games and that set up a last-16 contest against Simon Whitlock.
Like Barney, the Australian thrower has been on the scene for many years, and the Wizard produced a brilliant performance with an 101 three-dart average, but Van Barneveld still found a way past the Aussie.
The 55-year-old moved on to tackle Price for the second-time in the quarter-finals and a brilliant Barney froze out the Iceman to record a 16-13 victory.
Smith has shaken off the disappointment of losing in the final of last month’s European Championship to put himself in contention to land a first major title.
Bully Boy showed composure and battling qualities to secure a dramatic 16-15 victory over Joe Cullen at the last-eight stage and the St Helens arrowsmith a 100 three-dart average over the course of those 31 legs.
Smith also performed well when beating Rob Cross at the last-16 stage of this competition and Bully Boy should pose a major threat to the players remaining in Wolverhampton.
Van Gerwen was brilliant in his last-16 clash against the fantastic Josh Rock, but MVG was unable to replicate the same level of performance at the last-eight stage and Humphries didn’t need a second invitation to take advantage.
Cool Hand Luke was a comfortable 16-10 winner over Mighty Mike in their quarter-final clash and that was despite missing a series of combinations checkouts and hitting only 33.3 per cent of his finishing doubles.
Aspinall recorded a 45.7 per cent checkout success in his 16-12 quarter-final victory over Alan Soutar and that strength at the end of legs will be key to the Asp’s chances of victory.
Smith is a two-time World Championship runner-up, a beaten finalist in the World Matchplay, Premier League, European Championship, Masters and UK Open, but this could be the time that the St Helens arrowsmith gets his hands on a major trophy.
Apart from failing to convert those finals spots into tournament victories, that’s an extremely impressive set of results for Smith, and while Van Barneveld has played well to reach the semi-finals, Bully Boy should prove too strong for the Dutchman.