Jonny Clayton sensationally ended Michael van Gerwen’s five-year reign as champion on the opening night of the 2020 Masters in Milton Keynes on Friday.

Van Gerwen was previously undefeated in 20 games on the Marshall Arena stage, but Welsh number two Clayton’s superior doubling accuracy ensured the world number one’s campaign got off to the worst possible start. I did mention that MVG looked like he had lost his edge and last night the 94 average proved that to me.

Clayton flew out of the traps, landing a 116 finish to open up a 3-0 lead, only for Van Gerwen – using a new set of darts – to wrestle his way back into the contest at 5-5.

Not at his clinical best, Van Gerwen was unable to take a stranglehold on the game as Clayton won the next four legs, including a stunning 92 checkout using double 16 and double top, to go one away from victory at 9-5.

After former Players Championship Finals runner-up Clayton missed a dart at bullseye for a 121 finish to win the match, Van Gerwen found the same target to save his skin with a roof-raising 164 checkout.

However, the reprieve was short-lived for the Dutchman as the following leg saw Clayton find a third-dart double ten to pile the misery on Van Gerwen, who lost his World Darts Championship crown to Peter Wright on New Year’s Day.

Clayton is now set to meet Nathan Aspinall in Sunday afternoon’s quarter-finals, after the UK Open and US Masters champion enjoyed a winning Masters debut by brushing aside James Wade 10-4.

A scrappy start to the game saw both players struggle to produce their best form, before world number eight Aspinall won the last six legs without reply to seal a comfortable passage through.

Number five seed Michael Smith got his year off to a high-quality start with a 101.85 average in an impressive 10-6 win over Mensur Suljovic in the opening game of the tournament.

After Suljovic took the opening two legs, Smith won the next five to take charge of the contest, only for the Austrian number one to fight back and go within two legs at 8-6.

However, Smith maintained his composure, taking out 113 to move to the brink of victory before firing in an 11-dart leg to advance to the quarter-finals for a third time.

Smith will meet 2013 Masters runner-up Adrian Lewis in the last eight after he defeated Rob Cross 10-5 in the battle of the former world champions.

Both players struggled to find their range for the majority of the contest, but it was Lewis who managed to find more trebles over the course of the match to reach the quarter-finals for the first time in three years.

Saturday will see the four remaining last 16 ties take place, as Peter Wright faces Joe Cullen in his first outing as world champion.

Two-time world champion Gary Anderson takes on Ian White, world number three Gerwyn Price meets Simon Whitlock and Daryl Gurney faces Dave Chisnall.

2020 Masters first round, January 31

Michael Smith 10-6 Mensur Suljovic
Nathan Aspinall 10-4 James Wade
Jonny Clayton 10-6 Michael van Gerwen
Adrian Lewis 10-5 Rob Cross.

I know my tip for MVG to win this event has gone down, however, tipping Wright from the other half now at 7/2 looks very good. The treble I put up is still going strong with two of the three already in the bank. Anderson now needs to win to get the 7/2 tip to come up.

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