Raymond Van Barneveld banished the memory of last year's defeat to Andy Fordham by securing a place in last night's British Darts Organisation World Championship final at Frimley Green against Martin Adams.
The Dutchman, nicknamed "Barney", may have sensed déjà vu as his semi-final opponent, Darryl Fitton, began to fight back when defeat looked inevitable, just as "The Viking" had when he and Van Barneveld met at the same stage 12 months ago. But instead of slipping out of the tournament, this time, the three-times former champion and top seed regained his poise and warded off the fifth seed to finish as the 5-3 victor.
"I just tried to keep winning the sets when I threw first and then the 146 was vital because Darryl was coming back at me strongly," said Van Barneveld, who progressed to his fifth Lakeside Country Club final.
"Tomorrow it will be two friends up there on stage," the Dutchman said on Saturday night. "I've known Martin for so many years and we are such good friends, but tomorrow when we have our darts in our hands we will be enemies. Martin is one of the greatest players in the world and constantly hits 100s and 140s. He is a fighter and throws fantastic darts."
Fitton, who performed his trademark "Madness walk" on stage to "One Step Beyond", complete with sunglasses, admitted his lack of experience at the highest level had counted against him when it mattered.
"I shouldn't have been 3-1 down but I missed a few doubles," said the former British Open champion. "At one stage I thought I wouldn't win a set but I came back and got one, then another and then another.
"Inexperience let me down in the end and throughout the tournament I've either scored well or finished well but never both at the same time. I got to the quarter-finals last year and now the semis, so maybe the final next year and champion in 2006."
Adams admitted it had been "a dream" of his to play Van Barneveld in the final after he had sealed a place in the showdown for the first time in 12 appearances with a 5-0 whitewash of Australia's Simon Whitlock.
The England captain, for so long the nearly man of darts having been a semi-finalist in 1995 and 2002, produced a near-flawless display to obliterate the challenge of the man nicknamed "The Wizard".
In each of his three previous matches at this year's tournament, the 48-year-old from Peterborough needed to stage a recovery, including a superb fightback against former champion Ted Hankey last night. But on Saturday he was on top from the start, recording a three-dart average of 104 in the opening two sets and hitting eight doubles in as many attempts to take control. Whitlock, who has become as well known in the Frimley Green tournament for his ponytail and long Billy Connolly-style beard as for his darts, could never gain a foothold.
"I've worked long and hard for this and I've never won 5-0 in any nine-set match before," said "Wolfie" Adams.
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