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RAYMOND VAN BARNEVELD 5-2 Ricky Evans

Reigning Grand Slam of Darts champion Raymond van Barneveld began his title defence with a convincing victory against World Youth finalist Ricky Evans.

The Dutch ace, who ended his five-year wait for an individual major title at last year’s tournament, got straight back to winning ways in Wolverhampton with a 5-2 success on Saturday.

“I felt great and I’m pleased to have come through my first game with a win and to get two points,” said van Barneveld, who faces Tony O’Shea and Mervyn King in his final two Group E games.

“It’s fantastic to be back here again and the crowd were awesome today – the atmosphere was unreal. Ricky is a young player coming through the ranks and I wasn’t underestimating him, and he played good darts, so I’m happy to win that.”

‘Barney’ won the first two legs before Evans pulled one back. The Dutchman then took out 56 to restore his two-leg lead.

A 13-darter moved him within a leg of the win but Evans took the sixth leg on double nine.

van Barneveld finished the job though, landing double eighteen for a comfortable triumph.

By Chris Murphy