Raymond van Barneveld hopeful of a successful Grand Slam of Darts defence
Raymond van Barneveld is feeling in confident mood ahead of the defence of his William Hill Grand Slam of Darts title.
Last Updated: 09/11/13 11:24am
Barneveld starts his defence against rising star Ricky Evans in Wolverhampton in the event that sees the 32-player field split into four groups of eight.
The Dutchman also faces Mervyn King and Tony O'Shea in Group E and he admits the tournament brings back plenty of good memories.
He won his first individual tournament for five years when he stormed through the field last year, eventually beating compatriot Michael van Gerwen in the final.
His form has continued into 2013 with regular semi-final efforts and he was beaten 10-9 by Adrian Lewis in the inaugural Masters final in Edinburgh last week, an event that has added to his positive demeanour.
"I played really well in Scotland and it has given me a real confidence boost," said van Barneveld.
"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.
"My self-belief has increased again from The Masters. Not only from beating Michael but also Dave Chisnall, who has been playing very well, and I gave Adrian Lewis a very tough game in the semi-final.
"I'm definitely on the right track and that gives me confidence at a crucial time of year, with the World Championship around the corner.
"Winning a sixth World Championship is always in the back of my mind. I'm playing good darts and you never know, that could happen - but I've got a title to defend first.
"I haven't played Tony (O'Shea) for many years. He is a top player in the BDO so I am excited to play him. Ricky got through to the World Youth Championship final and a ProTour 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.
"I'm going to approach this tournament the same as I did last year, play without pressure and see how far I go."
But Evans is keen to make his debut at the tournament a memorable one and upset van Barneveld after winning his spot by reaching the World Youth Championship final.
The 23-year-old from Kettering said: "It is a tough group but I would like to think that I am no mug now and I hope the other players feel that I help make it a tough group.
"I played really well in Wigan last weekend and I beat some very good players. I am feeling good and if I can get on a run then I believe I can have an impact.
"To be drawn alongside someone like Raymond is fantastic and I am sure his fans will be there in full voice, but I am not going to let that bother me."