PDC Darts: Mikuru Suzuki and Fallon Sherrock bid to create history at World Championship
Wayne Mardle: "The ladies have got to start winning. We can't keep carrying on saying they are so good - which they are."
By Josh Gorton
Last Updated: 15/12/19 8:59pm
Mikuru Suzuki and Fallon Sherrock will fly the flag for the women's game at this year's World Darts Championship, but the next step is for a woman to beat a man on the biggest stage. Will this be the year?
It's been a groundbreaking 12 months for the women's game. Last year, the PDC announced there would be two separate women's qualifiers held for places in the expanded 96-player field, with Anastasia Dobromyslova and Lisa Ashton the two to qualify.
Ashton was particularly impressive although she was beaten 3-1 by Jan Dekker, whilst Dobromyslova slipped to a straight-sets defeat against eventual quarter-finalist Ryan Joyce.
Ashton made her PDC return at last month's Grand Slam of Darts, where she competed alongside reigning women's world champion Suzuki. The pair suffered three group stage defeats but acquitted themselves well against the world's best, with Suzuki running eventual winner Gerwyn Price close.
PDC World Championship: Sunday's order of play
|First Round||Arron Monk vs Jose Justicia|
|Andy Boulton vs Danny Baggish|
|James Richardson vs Mikuru Suzuki|
|Second Round||Michael Smith vs Luke Woodhouse/Paul Lim|
|Sky Sports Darts, 7pm|
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There's a conveyor belt of talent continuing to progress through the system, evidenced by the emergence of 15-year-old Beau Greaves, who will make her BDO World Championship debut in January.
As a consequence, there are greater opportunities being provided for the leading stars of the women's game. Nevertheless, Sky Sports analyst Wayne Mardle insists the next step in the progression of the women's game is to translate these positive performances into tangible results.
"I think the inclusion of women is much-needed now," Mardle told Sky Sports.
"I think there is room for two, maybe four women but I'm getting to the point now where I'm thinking this is great, this is needed to grow the game everywhere. It's open to kids, it's open to women, it's open to anyone who is good enough, that's the key.
"However, the ladies have got to start winning. We can't keep carrying on saying they are so good - which they are. I think 2020 will be the year there has to be a breakthrough win and rightfully so, because it gets more and more difficult to justify spots to people that are not winning."
Gayl King, Dobromyslova and Ashton are the three women to have featured in a PDC World Championship and Dobromyslova was the last woman to register a televised victory against a male counterpart - coming just over a decade ago at the 2009 Grand Slam against Vincent van der Voort.
Ashton threatened a victory at Ally Pally last year, sweeping to the opening set against Dekker with a 107 average, However, 'The Lancashire Rose' was unable to sustain this brilliance and Mardle believes that whilst improving consistency is key, it's not just an issue restricted to the women's game.
"More recently Lisa and Mikuru in the Grand Slam faded away a little. They don't need to improve, they just need to be more consistent. Like the men who are not challenging by the way. It's not just an issue in women's darts.
"You name me players that don't need to be more consistent. I name you one - that is Michael van Gerwen."
Mardle's assertion is supported by the performances of Fallon Sherrock in the UK & Ireland Women's qualifier just over a fortnight ago.
"I think with Fallon and Mikuru, they don’t seem to show any nerves. They don’t seem to care where they are, who they are, what they’re playing, they don’t show nerves."
Laura Turner on 'fearless' Sherrock & Suzuki
The former Lakeside finalist averaged 99 in one of her qualification ties and in her victory over Ashton in the semi-finals, Sherrock was averaging 109 after four legs.
The 25-year-old has forged a reputation for being one of the biggest scorers in the women's game and she is relishing her taste of Ally Pally stardom when she takes on Development Tour winner Ted Evetts.
"During that walk on I'm just going to be so excited to get up on the stage and just play. I don't think that I'm going to be nervous at all because I don't really do nerves," Sherrock told Sportswomen.
"On my day, I can beat anyone and I just want to prove to everyone that I'm not there just to make the numbers up. I want to make a name for women's darts. I want to win against Ted and I want to put women's darts on the map.
"I know for a fact that my best games are against men, I play them in exhibitions all the time."
The growing representation of women's darts will also be showcased in the commentary box, as Sherrock's BDO colleague Laura Turner returns to the Sky Sports team for this year's festivities.
Turner is well aware of the threat Sherrock and Suzuki pose and she believes that the emergence of two new qualifiers illustrates the strength in depth within the women's game.
"It just alludes to the fact that there's a really good depth of talent in the women's game. Fallon [Sherrock] when she played Lisa [Ashton] was averaging 109 after four legs and that will beat anyone on any day.
"The fact that Fallon has done well and Mikuru Suzuki has done well, it's brilliant and it's great for the game. They don't seem to care where they are, who they are, what they're playing, they don't show nerves.
Whilst Sherrock faces Evetts in her opener, Suzuki meets James Richardson - a man that is no stranger to World Championship upsets following his shock win over Raymond van Barneveld in 2012.
"They haven’t been gifted an opportunity. They still had to qualify with the other ladies which is tough enough in itself. Just the same as the men's qualifiers."
Lloyd: They've not been gifted spots
Sherrock and Suzuki are both bidding to create history by becoming the first women to register a PDC World Championship win and Turner admits it would silence critics who suggest their inclusions are somewhat of a token gesture.
"I'm fed up of hearing that we get token spots for this and for that…They're there because they've got the ability to do it and what they're doing is they are actually just making the most of the opportunity," she added.
"The fact that they will go up there, and if they can win their game, it's going to be like saying to everyone; there you go, that's what we're here to do and we're not just here to make up the numbers and messing around, we want to win."
There can be no argument that the women's game has developed beyond all comprehension over recent years and the growing opportunities are testament to the performances being delivered by the game's trailblazers.
The next step for the likes of Sherrock and Suzuki is to start registering wins over their male counterparts. They've demonstrated tremendous progress and what better stage to thrive on than the biggest event in world darts?
The action returns with the World Championship at Alexandra Palace. It all gets underway on Friday, December 13 on Sky Sports Darts.