Column #CM52 The PDC and Ladies Darts

Monday, December 16, 2018
Column CM52
The PDC and Ladies Darts

This year, the PDC expanded the World Championship field of participants to 96 and two of the First Round places were on offer in two ladies qualifiers – one for ladies from the UK and one for ladies from the rest of the world. Qualifying were the reigning BDO ladies world champion Lisa Ashton and Anastasia Dobromyslova.

To be sure both rank among the top players of the world and both have already won several world titles. For Dobromyslova it is not the first PDC World Championship – ten years ago she got a wildcard for the World Championship 2009 from the PDC. But even then she was not the first woman to take part in a PDC World Championship.

The idea to include women in the PDC World Championship was not new. In 2000, the recently passed away Tommy Cox announced that the PDC wanted to include a woman in the Skol World Championship which, among others, was much appreciated by Trina Gulliver.

There was initially discussion of organising a qualifier (another not really new idea this year) and some players were contacted but it never took place as most top players (among those, again, Trina Gulliver) feared consequences by the BDO/WDF.

What could the PDC do?

In the end, one of the players contacted by the PDC came forward and decided to risk it – the at this time number seven of the world Gayl King from Canada. She was not well known outside her home country but she hoped by taking part she would help ladies‘ darts to garner more attention and respect.

At the end of December it finally happened and King played her first round match against the then number 29 of the world Graeme Stoddart.

Gayl won the first set and shocked Stoddart and the darts world, but Stoddart improved and won in the end 3-1. King explained after the match how much she enjoyed the experience. The press and Stoddart were impressed by her performance but Stoddart said he didn’t think it was a good idea for a woman should take away a man’s place in the world championship – and added that the women deserved their own world championship.

It looked as if the the BDO heard Stoddart as they announced that from 2001 besides the men’s BDO World Championship a women’s World Championship would take place at the same time. Had King not have accepted the invitation to the PDC World Championship who knows whether there would exist a women’s World Championship today at all. King was quite successfull until 2004 or 2005 but then had to quit darts due to a shoulder injury. Today she only plays from time to time for fun.

This year, on the first evening of the PDC World Championship Lisa Ashton would stand at the oche… but first on stage to open the tournament were Indian Nitin Kumar and Dutchman Jeffrey de Zwaan. de Zwaan has improved a lot this year and earned a reputation as a giant killer after he had eliminated Michael van Gerwen both in the UK Open and the World Matchplay. Nobody expected the Indian debutant would be a challenge for him. Kumar didn’t play bad but de Zwaan was the better player by far and won the match 3-0 without any problem.

Even before the next match started it was clear there were many German fans in the crowd – they cheered on Martin Schindler long before he appeared. At the start of the match Schindler – who had to play against Cody Harris – had some problems getting into the match. Harris was just better and scored better. But finally Schindler seemed to settle and the match got rather close, especially as Schindler found a way to take advantage of Harris‘ mistakes. And Harris was not as clinical after he had busted a 134-finish. But it was just not the right night or maybe not the right stage, yet, for the young German who lost 1-3.

Then finally it was time for Lisa Ashton and it almost seemed it was the match the fans had looked forward to the most. The crowd stood behind Ashton from the start and the world champion played a very impressive and fast first set. Jan Dekker looked intimitated and was not really in the match. Ashton‘s average at that time was around 107. In the second set Dekker was abke to get in in the match as Ashton didn’t score as high as before and was not as clinical on her doubles. So Dekker won set two without losing a leg. From then on it was a quite evenly played match but Ashton missed too many doubles and lost it 1-3.

The last match of the evening was the first Second Round match and reigning champion Rob Cross came on stage to meet Jeffrey de Zwaan. It was clear even before the match that it would not be easy for Cross. He readily lost the first set against de Zwaan and didn’t cut a fine figure either.

But Cross somehow found his fighting spirit and capitalized on even the smallest of de Zwaan‘s mistakes, who didn’t do much wrong. Cross won 3-1 in the end despite a 106.09 average from de Zwaan – a really bitter loss for the young Dutchman.

The reigning champion had taken his first hurdle successfully.

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Charis Mutschler
The founder of Global Darts, darts journalist Charis Mutschler hails from Marbach, near Stuttgart, Germany. A regular at most major PDC tournaments, a lover of literature, dance and music and cats, Charis' popular writings about darts and its players often transcend the usual. She brings something unique to the chroniclers of the sport we all love.