Darts: Barneveld says power of Zen can foil Taylor

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The Independent Online

There was a time when the world's best darts players might limber up before a match with a couple of pints of lager and a quick warm-up on one of the practice boards. Raymond van Barneveld, however, will prepare for the biggest contest of his career here in Purfleet tonight with lengthy practice sessions broken only by periods of meditation.

The Dutchman completes a remarkable first year on the Professional Darts Corporation circuit by taking on Phil "The Power" Taylor in the final of the Ladbrokes.com World Championship. The thought of facing the 13-times champion can intimidate opponents, but "Barney" will enter the Circus Tavern in a relaxed frame of mind.

One of the secrets behind his success following his defection from the rival British Darts Organisation has been his discovery of Zen meditation. Van Barneveld meditates three times a day.

"I've found it very calming," the four-times BDO world champion said. "Playing darts can be very stressful, but no matter how hard my heart's been pounding or how much pressure I've been under, meditation calms me down completely. I do it before every match."

The 39-year-old from The Hague also puts his recent form down to new flights. "The darts take a different trajectory," he explained. "When they hit the board the flights are facing down, rather than up, which means that even if other darts are in the bed you're trying to hit, the flights aren't blocking the path of your next dart."

Taylor and Van Barneveld both won their semi-finals 6-0 against Andy Hamilton and Andy Jenkins respectively on Saturday night to set up a showdown between the world's two best players for tonight's £100,000 first prize.

Van Barneveld has won two and drawn one of his five matches against Taylor in the last year, but this is the meeting he wanted above all others. "I gave up everything I had with the BDO to get to this final and to beat this man," he said.

"It was my biggest dream. A lot of people in Holland were telling me I had won Lakeside [the BDO title] four times and that I was the best player in the world, but there was a voice in my head saying: 'No you're not. There's one better than you.' I decided I had to give up everything to come here." Taylor, who has dropped only two sets in five matches, remains a man inspired. "Every year that I can come here, get on that stage and perform is a bonus for me," the 46-year-old said. "Just to get to the world final is unbelievable. I sometimes draw back the curtains in the morning and I have to think to myself: 'You know something, son, you've done well.' Especially for someone who was rubbish at school and was told by a teacher he was as thick as two short planks."

Final words What 'The Power' and 'Barney' say about each other

* TAYLOR ON VAN BARNEVELD: "Ray is very professional and good at what he does. We've both worked very hard to get through and the final should be a cracker. He's no quitter and I like him. In many ways he's like Andy Hamilton was against me in the semi-finals: he never gave in and when I was a few sets up he was still fighting. I think it will be a cracking final."

* VAN BARNEVELD ON TAYLOR: "Phil is so complete. He's so dedicated. I love the man. He's a very good friend of mine. Since February, when I joined the PDC, we have had very good contact. I think we are quite similar. We both go to bed early, practise a lot and live for our sport. You have to play world-class darts to beat this man. I hope we have a great final."