Michael van Gerwen suffered a shock defeat to Ross Smith on a dramatic opening night of the 2019 Unibet 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 Göttingen.
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.
“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 focussing 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.”