Lisa Ashton produced a valiant performance on her PDC World Championship debut, despite losing 3-1 to Jan Dekker on a groundbreaking opening night at the Alexandra Palace.
The four-time women’s world champion was looking to make history and become the first woman to win a PDC World Championship match, as she followed in the footsteps of Gayl King and Anastasia Dobromyslova by becoming the third woman to compete in a PDC World Championship.
‘The Lancashire Rose’ has won four of the last five BDO Women’s World Championship titles and she breezed through the UK & Ireland qualifier last month; dropping just five legs in her seven matches in Milton Keynes.
The 48-year-old received a rapturous reception from the Alexandra Palace crowd and she made a blistering start; clinching the opening set to nil with a 107.36 average. She kicked off proceedings with a classy 110 finish, before doubling her lead with a second straight 15-dart leg via D5.
Ashton fired in five 140’s in the opening three legs and Dekker was visibly shell-shocked, as she wrapped up the first set with a stunning 121 finish on the bullseye to complete a 12-dart break of throw. Ashton used just 42 darts to draw first blood, but the Dutchman fought back impressively.
Dekker, twice a BDO World Championship semi-finalist at the Lakeside, antagonised the partisan crowd with a series of defiant celebrations, as he reeled off five consecutive legs to seal control of the contest.
Ashton stopped the rot via D16, after the Dutchman missed the same target for a 104 kill. ‘The Lancashire Rose’ then levelled the set on double 10, before Dekker won an edgy fifth leg on tops, after the BDO women’s champion was unable to take 108.
The Bolton-based star was undeterred and struck first in set four, but Dekker followed up a clinical 101 checkout with a 13-dart break of throw to move to the brink of victory. He missed double eight for a 136 outshot, but returned to pin the same target and set up a second-round showdown against 19th seed Mervyn King.
The reigning women’s world champion was the first female player to win a set at the PDC World Championship since 2001 and admitted it was a case of mixed emotions for her. “I feel good but also a little bit gutted. I’m pleased with how I played but felt I could have taken a few more chances. I think I’ve done the Ladies proud,” Ashton said.
The expansion of this year’s tournament led to two guaranteed places for female players and three-time women’s world champion Anastasia Dobromyslova is the other woman to feature at this year’s event. Dobromyslova lost in the preliminary round back in 2009, but she’ll kick off her campaign against Pro Tour qualifier Ryan Joyce on Monday night.
The match of the night saw world champion Rob Cross kick off his title defence with a brilliant 3-1 win over Jeffrey de Zwaan- who posted the second highest losing average in World Championship history.
‘The Black Cobra’ had whitewashed Indian qualifier Nitin Kumar in the tournament’s curtain-raiser to set up a clash against the second seed; averaging 91.18 and firing in five maximums en route to victory. The World Matchplay semi-finalist had been averaging over 102 for much of the contest, but that figure slipped after a sloppy final set.
However, he made an electric start to win the opening set against ‘Voltage’ without reply. Cross spurned one dart at tops to break throw in the opening leg, and De Zwaan punished this error by hitting the same target; before firing in legs of 13 and 11 darts to draw first blood with a 106 average.
However, Cross fought back superbly to level up proceedings, showing his class in a dramatic deciding-leg in set two. The world champion posted poultry scores of 85 and 40 to give De Zwaan an opening, but he recovered magnificently; following up successive 140’s with a clinical two-dart 96 combination to push his average over the 100 mark.
Cross was producing the sort of clinical finishing that saw him triumph in fairytale fashion twelve months ago and that was evidenced in the third set. De Zwaan was poised on 36 after just 9 darts to break throw and regain control of the contest, but he wasn’t afforded a shot as ‘Voltage’ converted a nerveless 121 finish on the bull to move 2-1 up.
De Zwaan powered on and took out 116 for a 12-dart opener in set four, but Cross levelled on D5, before closing out an assured 13-dart hold to move to within a leg of victory.
The Dutchman had barely put a foot wrong, but he squandered two darts at double to force another another set decider and was ruthlessly punished, with Cross pinning double eight to become the first man through to round-three. De Zwaan averaged a staggering 106.09, but it wasn’t enough to dethrone the imperious defending champion.
Speaking to the PDC, Cross reflected: “I thought that my finishing got me through. I think I had been written off on social media but that goes with the territory and Jeffrey was fantastic so I’m really pleased.
“He is one of the best players in the world in my opinion but you can’t buy the grit I showed in that match. If someone is going to beat me here they are going to have to play really well because I can play better and I believe I can win it again,” he added.
Elsewhere, Cody Harris set up a second-round showdown with last year’s semi-finalist Jamie Lewis on Friday afternoon, after edging out World Youth finalist Martin Schindler in a scrappy five-set affair.
The New Zealander dominated the early stages to lead 2-1, but he imploded in a bizarre fourth set. Harris opted to go for the bullseye with two darts in hand from 50, before inexplicably busting a 134 finish moments later, which enabled ‘The Wall’ to force a fifth and final set.
Nevertheless, Harris regained his composure impressively in the decider; converting finishes of 85 and 104 in consecutive legs to seal his progression and claim his first ever PDC World Championship victory.
Photo Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC