Raymond van Barneveld rolled back the years with a sensational first round display in the Ladbrokes World Championship on Sunday evening.
The five-time World Champion hit eight 180s in a 3-0 defeat of Michael Smith, in which he posted an incredible 108.31 average, his highest ever at the Alexandra Palace.
The popular Dutchman dropped just one leg en route to the second round as he ensured there would be no repeat of last year’s early exit from the £1 million tournament.
“Last year I was in shock when I lost to James Richardson,” admitted ‘Barney’, who won his first major title for five years at the Grand Slam of Darts last month.
“I was so devastated and I knew I had to work hard, dig in and play in every tournament in order to get back to form.
“I came here feeling so happy because the Grand Slam made me feel like I can win again.
“Playing like this I can beat anyone and I’m going to try and play at this level in every round.”
Smith took the opening leg but ‘Barney’ hit back with a brilliant eleven darter, which included his first 180.
His second maximum came in the third leg as he grabbed a break of throw before pinning double 16 to wrap up the first set.
The Dutch star produced a fabulous 121 finish in the first leg of set two and followed it with two maximums as he doubled his lead.
van Barneveld almost produced a nine-darter as he sealed the second set, throwing seven perfect darts before missing the treble 19, as he raised his match average to 112.
‘Barney’ kicked off the third leg with a break of throw before taking out 78 in clinical fashion.
He finished the job in style, having time for an eighth maximum before sealing the win with a terrific 111 checkout.
van Barneveld will take on Brendan Dolan in the second round on Saturday 22 December.
By Chris Murphy