Raymond van Barneveld is relishing a return to the PDC ProTour, after sealing his card at Q-School on Wednesday.
When it emerged in September that the five-time world champ was coming out of retirement, there was widespread excitement. But such giddiness amongst fans was caveated by the minefield that is Q-School.
Now that the 53-year-old has negotiated the task at hand, it is official: Barney is back.
“For the next two years, I can play the Tour which I love,” he beamed, speaking on a Zoom call fresh from his exploits on Wednesday.
“I can’t wait to see the likes of Michael van Gerwen, Gerwyn Price and Peter Wright, all these great players. I can’t wait to play them and beat them again!
“The last year was the most important year of my life, because I started to think about my career. I saw the things I missed in my life.
“I have an amazing girlfriend, she’s there with me every single time. And I missed her for the last 10 days, because she wasn’t here and that was not easy. Every single minute, she was talking to me, and my management as well: ‘believe, believe, believe’.
“If you want to give up, then the best time to do it was last year, because it was an unbelievable year with Covid. Hopefully the next couple of months, it will be better; playing, competing in front of crowds.”
The last year was the most important year of my life.
Time away from the sport has given him perspective
Focus switches to 2021
Having come through Q-School unscathed, Barney knows he will need to find another level, if he is to work his way up the rankings and get back competing for titles.
“I want to work harder,” he vowed. “I want to go out every single day, getting fitter, feel better, and inspire future players and myself that I can do this. But I know, I have to work hard, because the last couple of days, I never won a single tournament.
“I want to do this. I believe in myself. I’m going to work hard for myself, for my team, for my girlfriend and family, and for the rest of Holland.”
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So what can he achieve this year?
“The goal is step-by-step,” he noted.
“A couple of years ago, I was following Glen Durrant. And on the last day [of Q-School], the same as me, he had his Tour Card. And look how he went. In a couple of months, he played the World Matchplay, went to the semi-finals, and we all know what he did.
“I’m not going to put myself under pressure that much. I did what I did in my whole career. The only target I have is playing the World Championship at the end of the year. That’s my target. Everything that comes in my path is an extra bonus.
“This is just a start. But for now, for the next two years, I’ve got a Tour Card.”
‘The hardest tournament of my life’
As a player who has done it all in the sport of darts, Barney was ready for a battle. And that is exactly what faced him in Q-School.
“I played so many tournaments in my life, this was really the hardest part of my life ever,” he explained.
“A couple of months ago, the BDO went bust. All the players from the BDO… they all tried to get in the PDC. So those players were here as well. So you’re looking at 40, 50 extra people.
“So many good names, from Eastern Europe, from Spain, from Germany, from Belgium, from Holland. Amazing players.
“It wasn’t easy to get in the top eight of this Q-School.”
All was going swimmingly for the Dutchman after two days of the Final Stage, in which he garnered six points on the Order of Merit, thanks to runs to the last 16 and semi-finals in the first and second tournaments respectively.
However, a shock first-round exit on Tuesday piled on the pressure ahead of Wednesday, but he came up trumps against Benito van de Pas in the second round to pull through.
“It wasn’t an easy ride,” he noted.
“Yesterday, I went out in the first round and I was thinking, ‘wow, last 16 and then semi-finalist, I’m not even sure on the last day’.
“I was really nervous. I woke up at 5am this morning.
“I was sleeping really bad. I was thinking ‘I’m not going to do this’. I was practicing at 5:30 in the morning!
“It was a really tense game against Benito van de Pas, because I knew if I beat Benito, that’s one extra point on the rankings and I would be through.
“When I won that second game against Benito van de Pas, I was so relieved, that one single point, and I was telling myself, ‘Ray, in all my life, I accomplished so many wins, so many tournaments, and I would give it all back for that single point!’ And I accomplished that.”
And so, Raymond van Barneveld is back on the Tour, with a chance to write another chapter in a remarkable career.
“I’ve got a chance to put myself back on the map,” he grinned.
“I feel relieved, I feel really good now to be back on the Tour, and hopefully next week I can show the world what Raymond van Barneveld can do.”
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