Comment & Analysis
Steve Beaton marks his 31st consecutive World Championship appearance with victory over trailblazer Fallon Sherrock; Jonny Clayton also comes through a classic to make a winning start in his bid for a fifth televised crown of 2021
Last Updated: 19/12/21 11:36pm
Fallon Sherrock’s Alexandra Palace return ended in defeat, after she was edged out by the record-breaking Steve Beaton in a compelling first-round tussle at the World Darts Championship.
Sherrock created history on her last appearance back in 2019, becoming the first woman to beat a male opponent, courtesy of famous wins over Ted Evetts and Mensur Suljovic, before reaffirming her credentials with a run to last month’s Grand Slam quarter-finals.
‘The Queen of the Palace’ received a rapturous reception from the partisan Ally Pally crowd, and she gave them plenty to cheer in the early exchanges, firing in three 180s in as many legs to seize the initiative.
Beaton v Sherrock – The Stats
However, Beaton – featuring in his 31st consecutive World Championship – opened his account with a 13-dart hold, before producing majestic 99 and 126 finishes in consecutive legs to draw first blood with a ton-plus average.
Sherrock was undeterred, following up her fourth 180 with an 11-darter to kick off set two, and despite a rampant Beaton elevating his average to 104, ‘The Bronzed Adonis’ was unable to convert a solitary set dart at the bull, and Sherrock duly levelled with a 13-darter.
The opening two sets were of the highest quality, although both endured a significant dip in the third, with Beaton wrapping it up without reply to regain control.
Sherrock responded comprehensively to reverse the roles in set four, stopping the rot with a 13-dart hold and landing a fifth 180 en route to clinching it in three straight legs.
Beaton had the advantage of throw in the fifth and final set, however, and following three successive holds, the 57-year-old produced a nerveless 68 kill to close out a thriller.
“I think that was one of the hardest games I’ve ever had to deal with. Fair play to Fallon, she didn’t let me go at all,” admitted the 1996 Lakeside champion, who plays Kim Huybrechts in round two.
Elsewhere, eighth seed Jonny Clayton survived a major scare, fighting back from 2-1 adrift to topple Irish teenager Keane Barry in a World Championship classic that featured 10 ton-plus checkouts.
‘The Ferret’ is among the favourites to lift this year’s Sid Waddell Trophy, and he produced a blistering barrage in the latter stages to stave off a valiant display from the 19-year-old.
Barry appeared on the cusp of a seismic shock after producing back-to-back 114 and 122 finishes to move a set away from victory – two of five 100+ checkouts registered by ‘Dynamite’.
Nevertheless, Clayton responded by reeling off six consecutive legs with a remarkable 114 average, to continue his bid for a fifth major title of 2021.
Ross Smith produced a stunning late surge to dump out last year’s semi-finalist Stephen Bunting in the first tie-break of this year’s tournament.
‘The Bullet’ recovered from a woeful start to seize the initiative, but a 10-darter from ‘Smudger’ forced a final set, where he converted 167 and 102 finishes in successive legs to seal the win with back-to-back 12-darters.
|Maik Kuivenhoven 3-1 Ky Smith|
|Jason Heaver 3-1 Gordon Mathers|
|Alan Soutar 3-2 Diogo Portela|
|Stephen Bunting 2-3 Ross Smith|
|Martijn Kleermaker 3-1 John Michael|
|Florian Hempel 3-0 Martin Schindler|
|Steve Beaton 3-2 Fallon Sherrock|
|Jonny Clayton 3-2 Keane Barry|
|Luke Woodhouse||vs||James Wilson||(R1)|
|Rusty-Jake Rodriguez||vs||Ben Robb||(R1)|
|Raymond van Barneveld||vs||Lourence Ilagan||(R1)|
|James Wade||vs||Maik Kuivenhoven||(R2|
In the evening’s all-German affair, Florian Hempel cruised past Martin Schindler in straight sets to set up a fascinating meeting with fifth seed Dimitri Van den Bergh in the second round, converting 114, 156 and 158 outshots to cap off a dream debut.
Twelve months ago, Martijn Kleermaker’s World Championship dreams were curtailed when he tested positive for Covid-19, but he marked his Ally Pally bow with a 3-1 success over the enigmatic Greek star John Michael, boasting a fourth set average of 115.62.
Debutant Alan Soutar defied a spirited display from Diogo Portela to prevail in a five-set thriller, despite an impressive 64 per cent conversion rate from the Brazilian.
Soutar recovered from a sluggish start to lead 2-1, only for Portela to restore parity courtesy of 12 and 11-darters against the throw. ‘The Braziliant’ displayed further brinkmanship with a wonderful 124 on the bullseye, but the Scot kept his composure to progress.
Maik Kuivenhoven will take on world No 4 James Wade on Monday, after claiming a landmark first World Championship win in Sunday’s curtain-raiser, averaging 88.80 and firing in seven 180s to overcome Australian qualifier Ky Smith.
The second match of the afternoon followed a similar pattern, as debutant Jason Heaver dumped out another Australian qualifier in the shape of Gordon Mathers, to set up a tie with World Grand Prix semi-finalist Danny Noppert.
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