Day 1 of this year's PDC World Championship and the first woman who was invited to play in a PDC World Championship
As 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" I thought that was a good opportunity to have a view how female players figured and figure into the PDC. And so all my articles will begin with a female player who for a short or for a longer time was out and about in the PDC. But of course the darts which are thrown during the tournament on stage will not go short!
The women's qualifiers for this years's World Championship were the reigning BDO ladies world champion Lisa Ashton and Anastasia Dobromyslova. To be sure both belong to the top players of the world and both 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 than 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 - already in 2000 the recently passed away Tommy Cox announced the PDC wanted to include a woman in the Skol World Championship which among others was much appreciated by Trina Gulliver. One planned to organise a qualifier - another not really new idea this year - but it never took place as most top players (among those again Trina Gulliver) feared consequences by the BDO/WDF. Now what could the PDC do? One of the players contacted by the PDC in the end 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 more attention and respect.
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. As King told after the match she really had enjoyed it. The press and Stoddart were impressed by the performance but Stoddart said he didn't think it was a good idea that a woman should take away a man's place in the world championship and added the women would deserve their own world championship. It looked the BDO heard Stoddart as she annpunced from 2001 beside the men's BDO World Championship a women's world championship would take part at the same time. Would 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 till 2004 or 2005 but than had to quit darts due to a shoulder injury. Today she only plays from time to time for fun.
Already on the first evening of the PDC World Champion 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 this year improved a lot and got himself a name as giant killer after he had eliminated Michael van Gerwen both in the UK Open and the World Matchplay. Nobody awaited the Indian debutant would be a challenge for him. Kumar didn't play really bad but de Zwaan was the better player by far and won the match without problems with 3:0.
Even before the next match started it was clear there were lot of 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 to find into the match. Harris was just better and scored better. But finally Schindler seemed to settled and the match got rather close especially as Schindler found a way to use Harris mistakes. And Harris was not as clinical after he had busted a 134 finish. But it was just not the night or might be not the right stage for the young German who lost 1:3.
Than finally it was time for Lisa Ashton and it almost seemed it was the match the fans had looked forward 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. Ashtons average at that time was around 107. In the second set Dekker was finally in the match while 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 it was a quite evenly 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 it would not be easy for Cross. And he really lost the first set against de Zwaan and didn't cut a fine figur either. But Cross found somehow back his fighting spirit and used even the smallest of de Zwaans mistakes, who didn't do much wrong. Cross won in the end with 3:1 despite a 106.09 average from de Zwaan - a really bitter loss for the young Dutchman. And the reigning champion had taken his first hurdle sucessfully.
Till I started the rather icy way back to my accomodation the crowd had long broken up and only a lonely fox crossed my path...