Darts: Barneveld achieves treble ambitions at first time of asking

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At 39 he has probably made too many visits to the oche ever to supersede Phil Taylor as the greatest player to have thrown a dart, but Raymond van Barneveld's performance in beating the 13-times world champion on Monday night underlined the status of the Dutchman and the Englishman as the best current exponents of the game.

Van Barneveld won an epic three-hour final at the Circus Tavern in Purfleet, Essex, to take the Professional Darts Corporation's version of the world championship for the first time. Recovering from 3-0 down, the former postman from The Hague won a sudden-death final leg after the scores had finished at 6-6 in sets and 5-5 in legs in the decider.

The quality of the darts was outstanding, with seasoned observers describing it as the best match ever. Van Barneveld hit 21 maximum 180s, a record for the final, and finished with a three-dart average of more than 101, which was only fractionally better than Taylor's.

Van Barneveld defected to the PDC last year from the rival British Darts Organisation, having won the latter's world title on four occasions. "After I joined the PDC I said my ambitions were to beat Phil Taylor in a televised event, to hit a nine-darter and win the world championship at some stage in the future," Van Barneveld said. "I've now achieved all of that in only 10 months, which is unreal. Winning a world championship is one thing, but beating Phil Taylor in a world final, with the score at 6-6 and 5-5 is something else. It makes me really proud and I think I'll get a lot of respect back in Holland because of it."

Nevertheless, Van Barneveld knows he still has a long way to go to match the achievements of Taylor, who won two BDO world titles before collecting 11 PDC crowns. The 46-year-old from the Potteries has played in all 14 PDC finals, his only defeats coming at the hands of Dennis Priestley in 1994, John Part in 2003 and Van Barneveld on Monday. "I don't think I'm good enough to have 12 or 13 world titles in me," the Dutchman said.

Taylor was a gracious loser. "Raymond has loads of bottle and came back well," he said. "I was cruising at 3-0 up, but fair play to him. There was nothing I could do. I tried my hardest, but I couldn't get over the last hurdle. Of all the finals I've played in, I would probably rate this the best."