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Defending Grand Slam of Darts champion Raymond van Barneveld is aiming to carry his good form from last week’s Masters through to the Wolverhampton tournament, which gets underway on Saturday.

Dutch legend van Barneveld, who defeated compatriot Michael van Gerwen to win last year’s Grand Slam, repeated that feat in the quarter-finals in Edinburgh last weekend before narrowly missing out on a place in the final.

The five-time World Champion, who had also defeated Dave Chisnall in the opening round of The Masters, lost in a last leg-decider in a thrilling semi-final clash against Adrian Lewis.

But ‘Barney’, whose Grand Slam win in 2012 was his first major individual title in five years, wasn’t too down after the defeat.

He said: “Of course I was upset to lose. No sportsman likes losing and at the end of the night I was on my way back to the hotel while my opponent was in the final. That always hurts but I played really well in Scotland and it has given me a real confidence boost.

“Confidence is very important in this game. You only have to look at last year when I won the Grand Slam. That gave me belief in myself again and I haven’t done too badly since then.”

The world number nine has reached the semi-finals of the World Championship, Premier League and UK Open between last November’s triumph and last week’s inaugural Masters.

And he is hoping another strong showing in Wolverhampton can provide the platform to propel him up the rankings.

“I’m going to approach this tournament the same as I did last year, play without pressure and see how far I go,” said van Barneveld, who will then turn his attentions to the ranked Players Championship Finals and World Championship.

“The Grand Slam isn’t ranked so I can’t move up the Order of Merit. Last year it would have put me in the top four but that doesn’t matter as it was a great moment in my career and helped me to do well in other tournaments that are ranked.

“This is also when we all start focusing on the World Championship and we see who is in form and who the contenders are.

“I think it is important for me to play the board and not the player because if you look at the top 16 or even the top 32 now, it is almost equal. The gap between the higher and lower ranked players in closing all the time.

“The PDC are putting on so many tournaments now that it gives players the chance to develop much quicker than before, which is great for the game.”

The Professional Darts Corporation are discussing new criteria for the Grand Slam of Darts, which could see the tournament ranked as soon as next year.

In this year’s event, van Barneveld has been pitted against Mervyn King, Tony O’Shea and Ricky Evans in Group E and the reigning champion is looking forward to the challenge of defending his title.

He added: “I haven’t played Tony for many years. He is a top player in the BDO so I am excited to play him. Ricky got through to the youth World Final and a Pro Tour final last weekend so I know he is dangerous and Mervyn is Mervyn – he never plays a bad game – but if I play like I can I would expect to go through.

“Of course I want to win it again but it is very important to keep improving in the build up to the World Championships and I feel like I am in good shape.”

By Chris Murphy