The PDC Darts Masters threw up it’s biggest shock to date since its inception in 2013, with Jonny Clayton winning his first ever live televised darts event. The tournament has been rather exclusive to top 10 players to date, but this year left all of the experts with proverbial eggs on their faces. If you’d like to read an expert preview of the 2021 PDC Darts Masters, just press here. But how did this massive shock come to pass? Here, we’ll run you through how it happened.
The first thing of note is that this year’s renewal of the Masters saw the tournament’s biggest ever change since it was introduced several years ago, with the usual 16 man field being extended to 24. The top 8 players in the order of merit were automatically placed in the second round.
Clayton began his route to glory with a first round win over 2020 Grand Slam winner Jose de Sousa. The major casualties in the first round were Dimitri Van den Bergh and 2020 Masters finalist Michael Smith, so perhaps this was a sign that the new format was going to throw up a surprise later down the line.
Shock of the tournament
Further evidence that this was going to be an historic Masters tournament came in the second round, when Clayton came up against five time champion Michael van Gerwen. On paper, this should have been a breeze for the Dutchman, but the Welshman had other ideas and scraped past 10-9 to set up a quarter final tie against James Wade, who he beat by the very same score to progress to the semi finals.
On the other side of the draw, fellow Welshman Gerwen Price was beginning his march after landing it at the second round and seeing off Joe Cullen before comfortably beating Adrian Lewis to progress to the semis. Unfortunately for Price, this is where his 2021 Master run came to end as he was beaten 11-10 by Mervyn King in one of the other major upsets of the competition. Clayton, meanwhile, masterminded another big performance as he just got past Scotsman Peter Wright to set up a final that nobody saw coming.
History making final
By this point, Clayton’s confidence was through the roof and the Welshman was cool, calm, and collected as he beat King 11-8 to land his very first televised title. One of the most interesting aspects of this year’s final is that the two finalists wouldn’t have qualified for the competition at all if the amount of participants hadn’t been extended from the usual 16 to 24, making it a truly historic final.
Where Clayton goes from here is anyone’s guess, but one thing is for sure, the top seeds who didn’t get to the latter stages of this tournament will be kicking themselves at an opportunity missed. They’ll all be looking forward to the UK Open next month for a chance to put that right, where van Gerwen will be seeking to land his fourth title, taking him just one behind all-time great Phil Taylor. The Dutchman’s form has been inconsistent this season however, and the world number one Gerwen Price will certainly see himself as a contender this year.
Whatever happens, we’re in for an exciting 2021 season of professional darts.