A flying start proved decisive as the title holder Raymond van Barneveld moved into the semi-finals of the Lakeside World Championship with a 5-3 win over Tony O'Shea last night.
The Dutchman, seeking a record-equalling fifth victory in this tournament, opened a 2-0 lead when the match began and, as every other set went to the player throwing first, O'Shea never got back on terms.
O'Shea had trouble on the doubles throughout, which cost him the vital break in the first set. There were times when the sixth seed, who got off the mark in set three with a superb Shanghai check-out on the 20s, looked like he was scoring well enough to pose "Barney" some problems, but he failed to break serve.
Ultimately it was fairly comfortable for the 38-year-old from The Hague, who looked stronger as the contest went on and confirmed he remains hot favourite to retain the trophy tomorrow.
But Van Barneveld, who has been suffering from an irritation in his eye, was less than happy with his performance. "I got very lucky in the second set in which I was 2-0 down, but won it 3-2 and it was the same in the fourth set," said the third seed. "Tony missed a lot of doubles, which was lucky for me. My average of 31 per dart is not me. I'm in good form so I should be getting 33.5. I couldn't believe how many times I was scoring 57, 59, 60 and I started thinking, 'What am I doing?' I almost thought I should shake Tony's hand and let him go through."
On his eye irritation, the former postman added: "I've had it for three or four weeks. Every time I throw at a double it starts up. It's no excuse but it does affect the way I play."
O'Shea was not overly upset. "I'm not disappointed because I've lost to a legend of the game. Neither of us was at our best but it was still a good game. I'll be back playing better."