Suzuki agonisingly close to creating Ally Pally history!

Mikuru Suzuki was just one leg away from becoming the first woman to register a victory at the PDC World Championship after she staged a quite remarkable fightback against James Richardson at Alexandra Palace on Sunday night.

The women’s world champion trailed 2-0 in sets and was also 2-0 adrift in the third, but ‘Miracle’ almost lived up to her nickname as she came off the canvas to send the match into a dramatic sudden-death decider.

Suzuki started magnificently, firing in a majestic 151 checkout in leg three to break throw, but she squandered a glorious opportunity to claim the opening set – frittering away four darts at double 11 having earlier missed the same target for a 124 combination.

Richardson capitalised to steal the opener and then embarked on a run of six consecutive legs to establish total control of the contest, but Suzuki fought back magnificently, reeling off three straight legs in 15, 16 and 14 darts respectively to reduce the arrears to 2-1.

The Japanese sensation was guilty of profligacy in the opening exchanges but her combination finishing was integral to her success in set four – she converted checkouts of 80, 106 and 76 to win the fourth and send the partisan Ally Pally crowd into pandemonium.

Richardson was visibly rattled after losing six of the last seven legs and he lost his composure early in the fifth – missing a multitude of darts at double as Suzuki sank double 16 to lead for the first time since the third leg.

‘Ruthless’ claimed an instant break back and then held throw to move to the cusp of victory, but Suzuki fired in a classy 101 finish – her third ton-plus of proceedings – to force a decider. She piled on the pressure to leave 36, but Richardson defied the heckles from the crowd to prevail in an epic.

Richardson displayed impressive resolve to close out the victory and he gains great credit for the way he conducted himself throughout, although Suzuki claimed many of the plaudits for her wonderful fightback.

Gayl King, Anastasia Dobromyslova and Lisa Ashton are the previous three women to have featured in a World Championship and whilst King and Ashton both claimed solitary sets, nobody has come as close as Suzuki to registering a historic triumph.

Dobromyslova was the last woman to defeat a man in a televised tournament – stunning Vincent van der Voort at the 2009 Grand Slam of Darts just over a decade ago. Nevertheless, Suzuki’s performance was a brilliant advert for the tremendous progress throughout the women’s game.

“It was tough to lose but I really enjoyed it,” said Suzuki. “I was really unlucky but next time I think I will win. Everybody was cheering me on and that made me really happy. I’ll keep trying and I will be back.”

Elsewhere on Sunday, fourth seed and last year’s finalist Michael Smith suffered a shock 3-1 defeat to debutant Luke Woodhouse. Woodhouse impressed in his comprehensive first round win over the veteran Paul Lim, before producing the performance of his career to dump out ‘Bully Boy’.

Woodhouse averaged 97.81, crashed in five maximums and converted 31% of his attempts at double to prevail, although his progress should have been more emphatic. The 31-year-old squandered SIX match darts for a straight sets win, before recovering to seal the deal with a clinical 80 kill.

Ninth seed Ian White was another high-profile casualty, as he succumbed to Ally Pally giant-killer Darius Labanauskas. ‘Lucky D’ defeated Raymond van Barneveld at the same stage of last year’s event and he added ‘The Diamond’ to his growing list of scalps.

White averaged 100.33, hammered in eight maximums and converted 57% of his attempts at double in a complete display, although incredibly it wasn’t enough. Labanauskas’ timing was impeccable and for the second straight year, White departs at the first hurdle despite averaging over a ton.

Brendan Dolan will take on fifth seed Gary Anderson on Monday night – posting the highest average of the first round thus far (97.35) to defeat Indian qualifier Nitin Kumar in straight sets, after Kumar had missed one dart at double to secure the opener.

Irish youngster Ciaran Teehan starred on his PDC World Championship debut to defeat Ross Smith in straight sets, with Smith still yet to record a televised win since defeating Michael van Gerwen at the European Championship in October.

Kyle Anderson rallied from two sets down to defeat Chinese qualifier Xiaochen Zong in Sunday’s curtain-raiser. Zong averaged 97 to claim the opening set and extended his advantage, only for ‘The Original’ to win nine of the last 12 legs to set up a second round clash with Steve Beaton.

Jose Justicia enjoyed a dream World Championship debut with a resounding 3-0 success against former World Youth champion Arron Monk, whilst Danny Baggish joined his compatriot Darin Young in securing a second round spot after battling past Andy Boulton in a gruelling affair.

Photo Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC

Sunday December 15
Afternoon Session (1230 GMT)
3x First Round, 1x Second Round

Kyle Anderson 3-2 Xiaochen Zong (First Round)
Ciaran Teehan 3-0 Ross Smith (First Round)
Brendan Dolan 3-0 Nitin Kumar (First Round)
Darius Labanauskas 3-1 Ian White (Second Round)

Evening Session (1900 GMT)
3x First Round, 1x Second Round

Jose Justicia 3-0 Arron Monk  (First Round)
Danny Baggish 3-2 Andy Boulton (First Round)
James Richardson 3-2 Mikuru Suzuki (First Round) 
Luke Woodhouse 3-1 Michael Smith (Second Round)

Monday December 16
Evening Session (1900GMT)
3x First Round, 1x Second Round

Steve Lennon v Callan Rydz (First Round)
William O’Connor v Marko Kantele (First Round)
Vincent van der Voort v Keane Barry (First Round)
Gary Anderson v Brendan Dolan (Second Round)

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