Peter Wright was left to rue missed opportunities after his reign as world champion was ended by Gabriel Clemens on a thrilling night at Alexandra Palace.
The world No 2 was punished for profligacy in the early stages of the contest – squandering 20 of his first 24 attempts at a double as Clemens established a 2-1 advantage.
Wright rectified matters to square up proceedings, but Clemens kept his nerve to prevail in a dramatic sudden-death leg, to complete the biggest win of his career.
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Wright’s misery was compounded by Michael van Gerwen’s emphatic 4-0 victory over Ricky Evans less than an hour later, which rules out any possibility of the Scot becoming the new world No 1.
The 50-year-old is also the first reigning champion to be eliminated at the last-32 stage since Phil Taylor crashed out to Michael Smith in 2014, and he offered a candid assessment of his performance.
“I felt really good going up there. I had my chances in the first couple of sets, missing lots of doubles,” Wright told Sky Sports’ Michael Bridge.
“Fair play to Gabriel – he would not go away and when he did go away, I didn’t punish him. I had my chances there and I didn’t take them. All the best to him in the next round.
“I was looking forward to playing Krzysztof [Ratajski]. That’s why I switched to those diamond darts.”
Wright headlined the tournament’s opening night on December 15 – the solitary evening where fans were permitted to attend before London entered Tier 3 of the Covid-19 restrictions.
The world’s elite have had plenty of experience in playing behind closed doors throughout 2020, yet Wright suggested that a lack of adrenaline was a factor in his insipid display.
“The stage feels amazing up there. It is a totally different feeling – I played on there playing with crowds,” he said.
“No player has got any excuse, it’s so easy playing up there. I took it too easy and I got punished, so you guys out there, don’t take it too easy just because the crowd is not there.
“I felt so comfortable. It felt like I was just playing back home. It was easy, too easy, and when I came to switch on for a double I missed. I cannot explain why, I just did.
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“That’s the way darts goes sometimes, and I’ll see you here next year.”
By contrast, Clemens was lost for words as he became the first German player to progress to the last 16 in World Championship history.
Despite Wright boasting a 101.5 average and nine maximums, ‘The German Giant’ was clinical on the outer ring – converting 45 per cent of his attempts at double to set up a meeting with Krzysztof Ratajski for a place in the last eight.
“This is the greatest night of my life in darts, I have no words,” Clemens admitted.
“Peter is a world champion, he’s a fantastic player and a great guy. I’m so happy to beat him. This is an incredible night for me.
“I’m the lucky guy, he missed lots of doubles that he doesn’t normally miss, but I am proud of myself.
“I felt good in the last weeks, I practised hard. I’m not looking too far ahead now, I will let this result sink in first.”
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