VINTAGE VAN BARNEVELD STUNS SMITH TO REACH LAST EIGHT IN AMSTERDAM
Raymond van Barneveld rolled back the years to defeat World Champion Michael Smith at the Jack's World Series of Darts Finals on Saturday, as Keegan Brown dumped out Gerwyn Price on a thrilling night in Amsterdam.
Day Two of the 350,000 pound event saw the eight seeds enter the fray at AFAS Live, and world number one Smith and reigning champion Price were among the high-profile casualties in the Dutch capital.
However, it was Van Barneveld who stole the headlines on home soil, producing a vintage display to move through to the quarter-finals on his first televised appearance in the Netherlands since 2019.
Van Barneveld outscored Smith in the early stages - including an 11-dart break in leg three - although 130 and 100 checkouts from the St Helens star kept him in contention at 2-2.
The world number one began to find his range as he moved into a 4-3 lead, only for Van Barneveld to raise the roof with a trademark 156 finish to level the contest at four apiece.
The 56-year-old then punished two missed darts from Smith to move to the cusp of victory with a nerveless 105 outshot, before pinning double ten to seal a memorable win in front of a packed AFAS Live crowd.
"To beat the World Champion in front of the Orange Army, this is really special," reflected the five-time World Champion, who now plays Peter Wright in an intriguing last eight tussle.
"I knew I would have to play my A-game. We all know what Michael is capable of. He's a fantastic player, one of the best in the world.
"It was a quality game. There were fantastic finishes from both of us, and Michael was a real gentleman tonight. This means a lot to me."
Van Barneveld was joined in the last eight by compatriot Michael van Gerwen, who survived a scare in his comeback win over William O'Connor, winning six of the last seven legs to triumph.
O'Connor capitalised on an edgy start from the Dutch superstar to race into a 3-0 lead, although a magical 161 checkout from Van Gerwen in leg nine turned the tide, as he ran out a 6-4 winner.
"I had to work really hard for that," admitted Van Gerwen, who averaged 93 and crashed in three 180s to kick off his bid for a record-extending fifth World Series Finals crown.
"I made too many mistakes early on, and I think William played really well in the beginning of the game. Fair play to him, but I had a lovely 161 finish at the right moment.
"I made it difficult for myself, but the most important thing is that I won, and now I need to focus on tomorrow, because I still have a lot of work to do."
Danny Noppert was unable to make it three wins from three for the Dutch contingent, succumbing 6-3 to World Matchplay champion Nathan Aspinall in an entertaining affair.
Noppert averaged almost 106 to topple his compatriot Dirk van Duijvenbode on Friday, but was sent packing by an impressive Aspinall, who fired in a magnificent 170 finish en route to victory.
Elsewhere, Brown produced the upset of the night to stun two-time champion Price, landing three ton-plus finishes to move through to his first televised quarter-final since 2014.
Trailing 2-0, former World Youth Champion Brown opened his account with a clinical 111 combination, before taking out 101 and 85 on the bullseye to establish an unlikely 5-3 lead.
The Welshman hit back in leg nine, but after missing double 16 to force a decider, he was left shell-shocked as Brown conjured up a sublime 164 finish to celebrate one of the biggest wins of his career.
"To beat Gezzy in front of this fantastic crowd, I'm absolutely buzzing," claimed Brown, who now faces Aspinall for a place in the semi-finals.
"I thought I'd blown it, and then the 164 checkout went in as sweet as a nut. It's one of the best checkouts I've ever hit.
"I am doing something that I love doing, and long may it continue. I'm just going to keep grinding away."
Earlier in the night, top seed Rob Cross was the first player to win through to the quarter-finals in Amsterdam, wrapping up a convincing 6-3 success against 2021 champion Jonny Clayton.
Cross - a winner of back-to-back World Series titles in Hamilton and Wollongong last month - raced into a 3-0 lead with a 110 average, and he maintained that three-leg buffer to seal his place in the last eight.
Cross' reward is a last eight showdown against Luke Humphries, who marked his World Series of Darts Finals debut with a sensational display to deny an in-form Krzysztof Ratajski.
Humphries averaged 106.74, landed four 180s and converted 50 percent of his attempts at double to cap off an imperious performance, defying a 129 skin-saver from Ratajski in leg eight to prevail.
In the evening's finale, Dimitri Van den Bergh crashed in five 180s in his 6-1 demolition of Ricky Evans, averaging 97 to create a tie against home favourite Van Gerwen on Sunday afternoon.
Meanwhile, two-time finalist Wright battled his way through to the quarter-finals, recovering from a sluggish start to overcome New Zealand's Haupai Puha and set up a clash against Van Barneveld.
The remaining eight players will return for Finals Day on Sunday, which will feature the quarter-finals in the afternoon, followed by the semi-finals and final in a bumper evening session.