Raymond van Barneveld is bidding to roll back the years at this year’s Cazoo World Darts Championship, as he celebrates his 30-year anniversary at the sport’s top level.
The Dutch legend will become only the second player in darting history – alongside Steve Beaton - to bring up the milestone of 30 World Championship appearances at this year’s tournament.
Van Barneveld will take on Suffolk star Ryan Meikle in his opening round assignment on Tuesday December 20, as he aims to cap off his landmark appearance in style.
“30 World Championships, wow! This sport has changed my life,” reflected Van Barneveld.
“When I won the 1998 World Championship, I thought this would maybe last for three to five years, but it opened doors for me everywhere.
“In January, it will be 25 years since I won my first world title. I think we’re going to open a bottle of champagne and celebrate!”
The five-time World Champion will enter this year’s World Championship at the second round stage, courtesy of his run to last month’s Grand Slam of Darts semi-finals.
Van Barneveld claimed a stunning brace of victories over world number one Gerwyn Price in Wolverhampton, which catapulted him into the world’s top 32 for the first time since March 2019.
The Den Haag veteran is the 32nd seed at Alexandra Palace - matching the position from which he won the 2006/07 World Championship in sensational style at the Circus Tavern.
“It’s always great to be back at the most important tournament in the world,” added Van Barneveld, who landed the first two nine-darters in PDC World Championship history.
“The World Championship is the big one. This is the one you want to win. You want to perform well.
“You need to have that belief and that’s why I often cannot handle defeat very well, because I know what my dreams and my goals are, and when you don’t achieve them, it’s hard to deal with.
“Darts will always be the love of my life and I think I did the right thing in taking a year out and regrouping.
“I’m in the top 32 now, and I’m proud of myself. I am really happy, and if you feel happy, then anything is possible.”
Van Barneveld heads to Alexandra Palace in confident mood, fresh from his resurgence at the Grand Slam, where he progressed to his first televised ranking semi-final for almost six years.
The 55-year-old could renew his rivalry with top seed Price in round three at the World Championship, a prospect Van Barneveld would relish.
The Dutchman has featured in a host of titanic tussles on the Alexandra Palace stage, defeating the likes of Michael van Gerwen, Phil Taylor and Gary Anderson in the capital over recent years.
Van Barneveld is yet to lift the Sid Waddell Trophy at this iconic venue, succumbing to Taylor in the 2009 final while featuring in a further five semi-finals.
However, he revealed he's been buoyed by the support he’s received from a certain 16-time World Champion in the lead-up to the sport's showpiece event.
“I have played some brilliant matches here against Michael and Phil, and Phil is supporting me big time,” continued Van Barneveld.
“He was texting me every day at the Grand Slam, and he doesn’t need to do that, because he’s retired. It was very kind of him and I really appreciated that.
“After retiring I had to start from scratch and keep building. Winning this title again would be such a huge victory for myself, and I cannot describe how happy it would make me.”