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Darts will break new ground this weekend when the iconic Winter Gardens in Blackpool provides the stage for the top players in the women’s game.
Lisa Ashton and Fallon Sherrock will be part of the eight-play field for the inaugural Women’s World Matchplay, which will take place on Sunday afternoon ahead of the main final in the evening. While trailblazers Ashton and Sherrock will be the most familiar names in the field, it will also give other lesser-known players the chance on one of the sport’s most famous stages.
That, in essence, is why the event has been created, to showcase female players and provide experience of playing in front of a big audience, both in the venue and on TV as the tournament will be screened live by Sky Sports. It has already been confirmed a Women’s World Matchplay will take place again in 2023. But as PDC chief executive Matt Porter pointed out earlier this year, the event will be an exception rather than a prelude to further women-only tournaments.
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The goal remains to grow women’s darts and pave the way for more female players to take on the men in big tournaments, as they do at the Grand Slam and World Championship. Ashton, 51, who will be the veteran of the field, is delighted to have the chance to grace the Winter Gardens stage, but insists regular matches against male players remains the priority.
“It’s great the opportunity they’ve given us to play the Matchplay,” she told Daily Star Sport. “But it’s the ladies and the men, we all want to play together, as we do in the Grand Slam and the Worlds.
“We’re not separating. The only way we can improve our game is to play against the men. I don’t mind playing against the men. If we play all the tournaments against them, that’s fine. It’s nice to have a separate one, for the players who don’t feel so comfortable about it. But I think most of the ladies are happy playing against the men.”
Arguably Ashton’s main rival for Sunday’s crown, Sherrock, has played against men more than any other female player in recent years. Dubbed the Queen of the Palace for her history-making performance at the World Championship in 2019, Sherrock has been given a place in the invitational World Series of Darts.
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Her presence hasn’t gone down well with some fans though, with many social media critics arguing that the 28-year-old is not worthy of a place alongside the game’s elite as she does not possess a PDC Tour card. However, Ashton believes criticism of her rival is unfair.
“Fallon gets a lot [of criticism] on her,” said Ashton. “Any person who got that opportunity would take it. It’s an opportunity she’s got to take and she’s doing well in it.
“There’s a lot of pressure that gets put on her. She’s taking the opportunity she’s been given and she’s trying her best in it. That’s all she can do.
“It’s just where other people put things on [social media]. At the end of the day, she’s just got to try and ignore it and just play, and try to enjoy the sport.”
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