Michael van Gerwen suffers shock opening night exit at European Championship
Last Updated: 25/10/19 10:13am
Michael van Gerwen suffered a shock defeat to Ross Smith on a dramatic opening night of the European Championship which also saw reigning champion James Wade knocked out by Jonny Clayton.
Having lifted the World Grand Prix and Champions League titles in back-to-back weekends, top seed Van Gerwen came into the tournament as a red-hot favourite to land a fifth European Championship title in six years in Gottingen.
However his plans were derailed by Smith, who produced one of the finest performances of his career, holding his nerve to come through a last-leg decider and claim a famous 6-5 victory.
You've just got to play the dartboard and that's what I did tonight. I showed everyone how well I know I can play.
Ross Smith on beating MVG
"Never in a million years did I think I'd be experiencing a night like this from where I was a couple of years ago," said Smith, who took a break from the sport in 2017.
"I made the decision to just keep on going with my career in darts and tonight it all came together.
"I've been preparing for this game for two weeks in my outdoor cabin, just focusing on playing the board rather than Michael.
"If you play Michael you lose, it's as simple as that. He's the best player in the world by a mile so if you start thinking about beating him then you won't.
"You've just got to play the dartboard and that's what I did tonight. I showed everyone how well I know I can play."
An unpredictable night also saw Wade's reign as European champion ended by Welshman Clayton, who produced a scintillating display to whitewash Wade 6-0.
A dominant display from Clayton saw him end the contest with a 111.33 average, hitting six doubles from eight attempts to become the first player in the tournament's history to knock out the reigning champion in round one.
"I know I've got the game, it's just about being consistent and confidence is key in darts," Clayton explained.
"I'm so happy with how I played tonight, it's a massive step in the right direction for me.
"I knew what I had to do and it went well. I know James didn't play to his best at all but that's when you've got to take your chances and that's what I did."
Simon Whitlock proved too strong for Adrian Lewis in the battle of the former European Champions, averaging just under 100 in a convincing 6-1 win.
Dave Chisnall and Joe Cullen also impressed in their victories against Dimitri Van den Bergh and Mervyn King respectively, while Rob Cross sealed his passage to round two in style with a 154 checkout to end Darren Webster's fightback.
Daryl Gurney claimed a hard-fought 6-4 win over William O'Connor in the final game of the evening and Ricky Evans survived two match darts to make it a European Championship debut to forget for Glen Durrant with a 6-5 triumph over the World Matchplay semi-finalist.
Friday will see the remaining eight first round games take place in the afternoon session, before Thursday's winners return to the stage in the evening session for the start of round two.
Check out daily Darts news on skysports.com/darts, our app for mobile devices and our Twitter account @skysportsdarts - the action is back on your Sky Sports screens next month with the Grand Slam of Darts, nine days of coverage from the Aldersley Leisure Village gets underway on Saturday, November 9.