ST HELENS thrower Michael Smith became the first player to reach the quarter-finals of the 2020 Betfred World Matchplay when he came through a dramatic tie-break with Mensur Suljovic to win 14-12 on Tuesday night.

The 2019 runner-up Smith, who piled in ten 180s and goes on to face Polish number one Krzysztof Ratajski on Thursday, recovered from deficits of 8-5 and 9-6 to take Suljovic to a second tie-break in as many matches.

The opening four legs of the tie-break were shared, with neither player crafting out a match dart, before Smith struck a vital break of throw to go 13-12 up.

After Suljovic spurned three double attempts to break straight back, Smith landed a timely 110 checkout.

"I wasn't ready to go home, I had to fight really hard for my place in the tournament," said Smith.

"I've showed over the last year or so that I have got the fight to stick in games and come out on top.

"People associate me getting annoyed with myself as a sign that I'm 'giving up' but it's not at all, it's me trying to get myself going.

"I often boss games with my scoring but I wasn't scoring well so I had to make up for it with good finishing, which isn't what I'm known for, but I made the most of my chances."

Fellow St Helens thrower Dave Chisnall bowed of the event in the first round in Milton Keynes on Monday 10-6 to Vincent van der Voort.

Holder Rob Cross, world number one Michael van Gerwen and number three Gerwyn Price are also out.

Van Gerwen crashed out on Tuesday, going down 11-4 to Simon Whitlock at the second round stage.

Two-time World Matchplay champion Van Gerwen failed to make it past round two for a third successive year, as Whitlock claimed his first win over the world number one since 2016.

Van Gerwen had won the previous 15 meetings between the pair, but Whitlock took full advantage of the Dutchman's below-par performance to cause the biggest upset of the tournament so far.

"I'm over the moon with that, but I always believe I can beat the best," said Whitlock.

"Michael is the best player on the planet but he had an off-day and I took advantage of it.

"I just put Michael out of the picture and pretended I was playing local darts.

"I believed in myself and that's the only way to do it. If you play the player you will put yourself in trouble.

"Experience counts for that, and along with a love for the game, that's what keeps us older players going."