When Fallon Sherrock walked into the Alexandra Palace on the evening of the 17th of December 2019, she surely could not have known that by the time she walked back down those famous steps, her life would have changed forever.
As PDC Chairman Barry Hearn has always said, the World Championship is not a male-exclusive event. It is open to anyone that is good enough, male or female. Prior to that now historic December evening a number of female dartists had tried and failed on the biggest stage in the world of darts.
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Firstly at the 2001 event, Canadian Gayl King fell to a 3-1 defeat to “The Shark” Graeme Stoddart. At the 2009 edition, Anastasia Dobromyslova took to the Ally Pally stage but was defeated by Remco van Eijden in a preliminary matchup. The Russian would become the first woman to make two appearances at the event when she lost to Ryan Joyce in the 2019 World Championship. Lisa Ashton also tasted defeat at that tournament, losing 3-1 to Jan Dekker and just two nights before Sherrock took to the stage, Mikuru Suzuki came as close as any woman had to a win before ultimately coming up short in a 3-2 loss to James Richardson.
With no woman having ever defeated a man on the World Championship stage, most would have expected a fairly routine victory for 22-year-old “Super Ted” Ted Evetts. Thought of as one of the sports hot prospects, Evetts was competing in his 3rd World Championship despite his tender age.
The raucous, packed-out crowd inside the Alexandra Palace were clearly behind Sherrock and when she nailed a 106 checkout in the opening set it seemed the roof of the famous building was about to come off. Evetts recovered well however and after cooly taking out D8 against the throw, he took the 1st set much to the disappointment of the partisan crowd.
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Whilst those in attendance may have been disappointed, Sherrock was determined. In the biggest match of her life, she had brought her A-game. Firing in 6 T20’s darts she threatened perfection and while that didn’t happen she did check out 80 on D20 to level up the match at a set apiece.
More quality finishing, including checkouts of 100 and 64 from Sherrock looked set to give the 25-year-old a 2-1 set lead. However, when four set darts came and went, Evetts was on hand to punish, nervelessly nailing D8 amidst a chorus boos to regain his one-set advantage.
With the 4th set level at two legs apiece, the pressure was on Sherrock. She knew she had to hold her throw to keep the match alive. Kicking off with only 60, Evetts sensed his chance and fired in a 140 to steal the darts in the decisive leg. Sherrock was at the point of no return and as she fought for her place at the World Championships she threw some of her best darts. Following scores of 140,100 and 165 Sherrock returned to take out D18 first dart and send the match to a decider.
With the momentum on her side, she raced into a 2 leg lead in the deciding set. Super Ted did pull one back but when Evetts missed the Bull for a 129 leveller Sherrock made her way to the oche and pinned D18 at the 2nd attempt, smashing the glass ceiling.
Not content with being the first woman to beat a man at World Championship and sending shockwaves around the sporting world, Sherrock was hell-bent on making yet more history. Her opponent in the 2nd round was a former major winner and 11th seed Mensur Suljovic.
The Austrian who was usually a crowd favourite, saw his karaoke favourite walk on “Simply the Best” by Tina Turner drowned out by boos. Doing his best to quieten the hostile crowd Suljovic immediately broke throw and then held to race into an early 2-leg lead.
After missing 3 darts for a first-set whitewash, Sherrock capitalised and cleaned up 81 to get her first leg on the board. A spectacular 131 finish levelled the set and was followed by a cooly taken 70 as Sherrock sent the crowd into a frenzy, taking a 1-0 lead.
Sherrock continued to press home her advantage, taking out 104 to start the 2nd set then D20 for her 5th consecutive leg. Suljovic used all his experience to take his game to the next level just when he needed it most. Upping his average to 100, the Austrian reeled off 3 on the bounce himself to level the match.
Two more unopposed legs saw Suljovic match Sherrock’s feat of 5 successive legs earlier in the match. In this rollercoaster encounter, the momentum switched around yet again thanks to some more Sherrock heroics. A 14-dart hold was followed by 6 perfect darts as the 25-year-old threatened perfection yet again. With Suljovic unable to take out 40 amidst a chorus of boos and jeers Sherrock punished, nailing D16 to snatch the 3rd set and a 2-1 lead.
With the crowd barely able to contain themselves and Suljovic visibly struggling in this cauldron of chaotic cacophony, Sherrock threw the arrow of a lifetime, nailing the bullseye for a match-winning 86 finish.
Sadly for the fairytale lovers among us, despite a brave showing from Sherrock, Chris Dobey would prove a step too far in the next round signalling an end to the Queen of the Palace’s historic run. Despite the defeat to Dobey, Sherrock's life had changed forever. Now a global icon of women’s sports she showed young girls all around the world that getting up on that stage and beating their male counterparts was a realistic goal.
For the first time ever, the 2023 PDC World Darts Championship will feature three female competitors. As Lisa Ashton, Beau Greaves and Fallon Sherrock herself all hope to emulate or even go one step further than her heroics in the 2020 World Championship, much of the growth in the women’s game, including the inaugural Women’s World Matchplay won by Sherrock, can be traced back to those 2 famous nights in December 2019.