What I have done tonight, I hope it just proves that women, we can beat the men. We can play well against the men,” said Fallon Sherrock moments after ousting Ted Evetts on Tuesday when she became the first woman to defeat a male darts player at the PDC world championship.
As she spoke, tears welled in her eyes because it was a moment Sherrock had been chasing for a long time. She grew up surrounded by darts. Her parents both played darts and so did her twin sister, Felicia, but it was not until she was 17 that she took it up after starting her adult life as a professional hairdresser.
Over the past few years, Sherrock has risen from a well-regarded contender to a player of high calibre. In the women’s qualifiers, Sherrock averaged 99.1 points in her opening match and then 109 in the first four legs of her semi-final against Lisa Ashton. In Sherrock’s view it is simple: if women are allowed to compete with men more frequently, they will be able to win more frequently.
“I don’t see myself at a physical disadvantage,” she said on Radio 5 Live on Wednesday. “We just do not get the recognition or the opportunity to play against these men, so obviously you don’t see it that often. Us women, we can beat these men. We just need more opportunities to prove ourselves. There’s more women that can play like me, if not better. We just need more recognition.”
Although Sherrock became the first woman to record a win, she is quick to point out the success of the other women’s qualifier Mikuru Suzuki, who came desperately close to defeating James Richardson in her first-round match on Sunday.
“I was watching at home, I was screaming at the TV, I was egging her on and I was so gutted when she didn’t get over that final line. But she inspired me so much, she got me so determined to win. The women’s game has come on leaps and bounds. It’s about time that it happened.”
Sherrock gave birth to her son, Rory, in 2014 and in the wake of her pregnancy suffered a kidney condition. She can no longer drink and has to ensure she is always sufficiently hydrated. A side-effect of the condition is that her face used to swell up significantly. When she competed with a swollen face, she would receive merciless attacks on social media. She has used it as fuel to blast her on.
“I got a lot of criticism online and a lot of harsh comments. They were basically calling me ‘big-faced person’, “ she said. “I can’t really use the words they used. But it inspired me to be better, get better. It gave me more determination to prove them wrong. In the sport itself, it’s fine. But trolls online, they’re constantly giving you sexist comments, ‘women aren’t as good as men’ and all of that. Well, I just proved you wrong.”
Sherrock is a woman of few words. Her interviews can be short and awkward, peppered with staccato responses. It is partly because she seems naturally shy, but she also just has little to say about her previous matches. Her eyes are always focused on the next game and the next dart. She rarely thinks about the past.
On the Weekly Dartscast podcast, she said: “I take each game as it comes. I don’t really remember the games because I focus so much on the games that I’m [going to be] playing.”
At Alexandra Palace and on the biggest stage, Sherrock let her game speak for her. Her ambition is reflected in the fact that she didn’t just come to Ally Pally to nab one win and go. She wanted a shot at one of the top men because she believes that she has the ability to beat them. She will get her chance when she faces the No 11 seed Mensur Suljovic on Saturday.
“If I can just keep up with them and hit the doubles, who’s to say I can’t beat anyone? I made history, I just beat one man. What’s to say I can’t beat many more?”