Raymond van Barneveld rolled back the years to storm to Players Championship 5 glory on Monday, a triumph which he sealed with a comprehensive 8-1 success over Stephen Bunting.

Van Barneveld produced a series of clinical displays to return to the winner’s circle in Hildesheim, pinning eight of his ten attempts at doubles in the final to demolish Bunting and clinch his first PDC ranking title since February 2021.

The 56-year-old had progressed to the quarter-finals in two of the year’s opening four Players Championship events, and he continued his resurgence to secure the £15,000 top prize at Halle 39.

Van Barneveld converted 86, 71, 61 and 86 finishes to race into a 4-0 lead in Monday’s showpiece, before Bunting opened his account with a 15-dart hold in leg five.

However, the Dutch icon replied with back-to-back 14-darters to extend his cushion to 6-1, and after nailing double 16 in leg eight, he rounded off a stunning victory with another 14-dart leg via his trademark double 18.

“I’m over the moon,” reflected Van Barneveld, after claiming his second Players Championship crown since returning to the sport in 2021.

“I have been working really hard over the last few months, so I’m really, really happy to see this pay off.

“I’ve dropped two grams in my set-up from 25g to 23g, and over the last week I’ve been playing awesome, just like the old days.

“I’m so focused, so confident with this set-up, and this gives me such a confidence boost. 

“I thought it may be too soon to win a title like this, but I really believe I can achieve even more.

“I want to be back in the top 16 of the world. I want to play in all of the major tournaments this year, so this win is a big help for me.”

The five-time World Champion began his campaign with convincing wins against Oskar Lukasiak, Jermaine Wattimena and Graham Hall, conceding just six legs in the process.

Van Barneveld then defied a nine-darter from 2023 World Champion Michael Smith to triumph in a high-quality last 16 encounter, landing six of his seven attempts at a double to complete a 6-3 success.

The Den Haag veteran continued his progress with a hard-fought win over James Hurrell in the last eight, before edging out his old adversary Gary Anderson in an epic semi-final showdown.

The pair traded blows in a contest littered with quality, although it was Van Barneveld who emerged victorious despite a 101 average from Anderson, who missed two match darts in a dramatic deciding leg.

Bunting was also unable to halt the Dutchman’s charge, but following an inauspicious start to his ProTour season, the Masters champion backed up his recent big stage exploits with some impressive performances.

The former Lakeside Champion swept aside Ritchie Edhouse and Connor Scutt in the early stages of the afternoon, before whitewashing Kevin Doets with a ton-plus average to book his place in the last 16.

The 38-year-old then recorded successive 6-2 wins against Ian White and Danny Noppert, while he was forced to fend off a spirited fightback from former European Champion Ross Smith in the semi-finals.

Smith produced a series of consistent displays in his run to the last four, where he succumbed alongside Anderson, who landed five ton-plus averages in six matches.

The two-time World Champion averaged 113.97 to dispatch Daryl Gurney in the last 16, while also seeing off Niels Zonneveld, Callan Rydz and Peter Wright in captivating contests.

Wright maintained his consistency on the ProTour to advance to a fourth consecutive Players Championship quarter-final, where he was joined by Hurrell, Noppert and his compatriot Cameron Menzies.

Elsewhere, Krzysztof Ratajski produced the performance of the day in Hildesheim, winning his second round clash against Nick Kenny with a 115.35 average – the highest of his PDC career – while Michael Smith enjoyed a moment of magic with his perfect leg in the fourth round

SOURCE-PDC

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