JOYFUL Raymond van Barneveld is in love and preparing for the sound of wedding bells – and that’s only bad news for his rivals.
Barney is back on the big time, three years on from that disastrous first-round loss to American Darin Young, one of the lowest points of his celebrated career.
The Dutchman – who retired from playing and then did a U-Turn on those plans – sneaked into the seeding pot for these worlds and plays Englishman Ryan Meikle tomorrow in the second round.
In February, he got down on one knee in front of the Eiffel Tower and asked London-based girlfriend Julia Evans – 18 years his junior – for her hand in marriage.
This followed a difficult, traumatic period in which he divorced wife Silvia after more than 25 years together.
The wedding will be next September in Cyprus and everyone in the sport knows that the 55-year-old is a dangerous player when he feels content and the arm motion is relaxed.
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Crowd favourite Van Barneveld gushed: “Julia is the love of my life. She likes the things I like.
“Movies series, watching darts, watching films. Sometimes I don’t even want to watch darts and she will say, ‘no, no we’ll watch it’.
“She loves football. She loves going out with me, restaurants, food. I have really found my soulmate.
“We do everything together. We miss each other big time when I’m in Barnsley or don’t see each other for 3-4 days.
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“Julia doesn’t have kids, she doesn’t want kids, because for me that would have been a serious issue.
“My five grandchildren come over once a week or fortnight. When they go, we say, that was a great day, now we have the time alone again.
“We’ve booked the wedding date but then the PDC announced there would be World Series Finals in Amsterdam at the same time!
“I’m not there. It’s good it’s not a ranking tournament!”
Van Barneveld won his fifth and last world title at Circus Tavern when he beat Phil Taylor in that gripping 2007 Circus Tavern final.
Last Christmas, he was defeated by Rob Cross in the second round and then spent the festive period locked away in a hotel room after testing positive for Covid.
These will be his 30th appearance at the highest level – on both the BDO and PDC circuits – with the first coming in January 1991.
The former Postman said: “I’ve changed my darts. They have shorter points.
“I compared it to the set of darts that I bet Phil Taylor with in that final and those were the same length.
“I still believe I can win every tournament I play. I also believe everybody knows that when Barney is in form.
“I really believe I can win another world title. I think about it.
“But I also have to be realistic. Is it realistic for me to lift this trophy?
“I was a long way off and I am still battling back but still struggling with things.
“I wear contact lenses now. I used to play with glasses. But sometimes when I pulled my hand back, they touched the frames.
“I try to be as professional as I can. I eat more fruit, like a banana or apple, and proteins.
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“On stage I have these glucose tablets ready if I need them – because I’m diabetic. You have to prepare yourself.
“Last year was a disaster with Covid. A lot of players got it – Michael van Gerwen, Vincent van der Voort and Dave Chisnall had to withdraw.”
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