Fallon Sherrock produced a sensational display on a groundbreaking night at Alexandra Palace, as she became the first female to win a match at the PDC World Championship.
Mikuru Suzuki came agonisingly close to creating history against James Richardson on Sunday before losing out in a deciding leg, but Sherrock went one step better to defeat Development Tour winner Ted Evetts in a pulsating battle that captivated the crowd in the capital.
The 25-year-old produced a string of superb displays in qualification last month, averaging 99 in one particular contest – whilst her semi-final clash against four-time women’s world champion Lisa Ashton saw her averaging 109 in the opening four legs.
Nevertheless, this was a completely different proposition for the 2015 Lakeside finalist – her first taste of a PDC televised event, in the biggest match of her life. Many would have wilted under the intense scrutiny, Sherrock thrived on it.
Evetts claimed a high-quality opening set, despite Sherrock having darts to win each of the opening three legs. The Milton Keynes ace fired in a brilliant 106 checkout in leg two, but a missed dart at bull in leg one and one at tops in the third saw ‘Super Ted’ draw first blood.
Sherrock’s riposte was emphatic. She restored parity at one set apiece with a second set average of over 100, winning three of the next four legs in 13, 14 and 15 darts respectively. She struck six perfect darts in leg three as the capacity crowd went into a frenzy, but the perfect leg wasn’t forthcoming.
The two-time BDO major winner maintained this fine form early in set three, securing an instant break of throw with a 12-darter and a second ton-plus checkout. The next two legs also went against the darts as the topsy-turvy nature continued, with Sherrock averaging over 98.
However, the first signs of potential vulnerability surfaced in the closing stages of set three, as Sherrock squandered four set darts for a 2-1 advantage. 22-year-old Evetts, who was cast in the unfamiliar role of pantomime villain, defied the boo boys to regain the initiative.
The fourth set also went the distance but Sherrock showed immeasurable composure to eradicate those missed darts at double from her memory; following up a 165 set-up shot with a clinical 13-dart hold on double 18 to send the match into the fifth set that it deserved.
Sherrock had the momentum and she continued her prolific scoring in the fifth – firing in three consecutive 140’s and pegging double seven to close out a 15-dart break and secure the lead.
The 25-year-old then sank double eight to move to the cusp of history, but Evetts prolonged the drama by nailing double 16, a target that plagued him throughout. Then came the moment of destiny. Sherrock had the advantage of throw but toiled away early in the leg, leaving 302 after 9 darts.
Yet just as it seemed her opportunity may be slipping away, she posted visits of 128 and 140 to leave 36 after 15 darts and with the crowd sensing the significance of what they were about to witness, Sherrock held her nerve to sink double 18 and create darting history.
The consistency of the elite female players has arguably been their biggest flaw, but Sherrock bucked that trend with an incredible performance. She averaged 91.12 but her scoring was particularly eye-catching – she registered 19 scores of 140+ and crashed in six maximums.
“It feels really really special, I can’t believe what I’ve just done. It definitely sends out a good statement for the women’s game. We can all play like that, it’s just giving us the opportunity to prove ourselves,” Sherrock told Josh’s Dartistry.
“I think we need more opportunities to prove ourselves and we can compete against the men. I blocked it out [thinking about history]. I just focused on the game. I didn’t think about it because I didn’t want to put pressure on myself. I’m over the moon.”
Day Five Summary
There was an international flavour to Tuesday’s action, with ten different nations represented. The big story in the afternoon session saw 21st seed Krzysztof Ratajski survive a scare to become the first Polish player to register a victory at the PDC World Championship.
‘The Polish Eagle’ lost the opening set of his clash against Zoran Lerchbacher, averaging a miserly 79 in the process. However, the former World Master exploded into life in the latter stages of set two, averaging over 101 for the rest of the contest to complete a hard-fought 3-1 triumph.
Jeffrey de Zwaan survived a match dart as he fought back from 2-1 down to defeat Darin Young. Young defeated De Zwaan’s mentor Raymond van Barneveld in round one to condemn the five-time world champion to a premature retirement, but the American was left to rue a missed opportunity against ‘The Black Cobra’.
De Zwaan missed a host of darts at double in the early exchanges and Young punished the 23rd seed. However, ‘Big Daddy’ was unable to complete a double Dutch scalp, missing one match dart at double eight as De Zwaan won six of the final seven legs to progress.
Brisbane Darts Masters winner Damon Heta defeated Jose De Sousa in straight sets to set up a highly-anticipated meeting with three-time BDO world champion Glen Durrant for a place in the third round.
De Sousa has scooped two titles on the Players Championship circuit in 2019 but struggled to produce his best against the Australian qualifier, with Heta winning three successive set deciders to prevail with a 93.89 average.
Ritchie Edhouse saw off Russian World Cup captain Boris Koltsov to set up a clash with nine-time major winner James Wade on Wednesday evening. ‘Madhouse’ doesn’t currently hold a Tour Card, although his strong performances on the floor saw him qualify via the Pro Tour Order of Merit.
Edhouse clinched the first set with a 106 checkout for a 12-darter and soon doubled his lead. Koltsov rallied to reduce the arrears to 2-1; clinching set three with a 12-darter which sparked a sequence of three straight legs, but his inconsistency resurfaced and Edhouse pounced to prevail.
Cristo Reyes fought back from two sets down to defeat Lourence Ilagan in a lively encounter. The Filipino punished a profligate start from Reyes to establish an early cushion, but the Spaniard raised his game – landing seven maximums to set up a showdown with Adrian Lewis in round two.
There was better news for Ilagan’s World Cup partner Noel Malicdem, who cruised through to round two with a straight sets success against an under-par Rowby-John Rodriguez. Malicdem averaged 85.07 and converted 53% of his attempts at double to set up a tussle with seventh seed Peter Wright.
Elsewhere, Ryan Searle edged out Australian qualifier Robbie King in a dramatic last-leg shootout. Searle posted nine maximums but squandered 37 darts at double and had to survive a missed match dart from King in the decider, before sealing his progression with a 66 kill on tops.
Photo Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC
Tuesday December 17
Afternoon Session (1230 GMT)
3x First Round, 1x Second Round
Ryan Searle 3-2 Robbie King (First Round)
Cristo Reyes 3-2 Lourence Ilagan (First Round)
Noel Malicdem 3-0 Rowby-John Rodriguez (First Round)
Krzysztof Ratajski 3-1 Zoran Lerchbacher (Second Round)
Evening Session (1900 GMT)
3x First Round, 1x Second Round
Ritchie Edhouse 3-1 Boris Koltsov (First Round)
Damon Heta 3-0 Jose De Sousa (First Round)
Fallon Sherrock 3-2 Ted Evetts (First Round)
Jeffrey de Zwaan 3-2 Darin Young (Second Round)