Tuner’s Take: Lakeside Return

After more than two-years, of cancellations and a global pandemic, the World Championships returned to Lakeside.

The event was shrouded with doubt and controversy in the run-up, with mentions of the low ticket sales and the banning of three-time World Champion Anastasia Dobromyslova and the other Russian (& Belarus) representatives.

I’ve been lucky to play at Lakeside on several occasions over the years, if nothing else it is synonymous with darts and there is a comforting yet terrifying feeling when you walk into the room and see that stage! 

This year the event seemed to come into its own as the days progressed, crowds increased and the players performed on that infamous Lakeside stage. 

As a player, my Lakeside experience was short-lived, losing in straight sets to the amazing Mikuru Suzuki, but it was the most comfortable I’ve felt on the stage since my debut at the Worlds. There are so many people that help you get to the point of qualifying, you want to do it for them, yourself and I have so much admiration for the players that find their best games under that kind of pressure! 

Being the first husband and wife (with Aaron) to qualify for the World Championships at the same time was special although I’ve also realised playing is far less stressful than watching!  

The youth shone through and Lakeside records tumbled; a record number of players, the highest prize fund for the women’s tournament, record averages, checkouts and new Champions. 

Jarred Cole defeated the three-times World Champion Martin Adams while 15-year-old Luke Littler was only denied a place in the last eight by a record-breaking 104.91 average from ‘Flyers’ Richard Veenstra. We saw Eleanor Cairns beat Germany’s Wibke Riemann in the first-ever Girls World Youth Championships and lift the title in what has been a very difficult year for the Lancashire player and Bradley Roes beat Charlie Large in the boys final.

 France’s first-ever player to make the World Championships back in 2020, Thibault Tricole, progressed all the way to the final to face Neil Duff, who himself went on to become the first player from Northern Ireland to lift the Men’s title. 

The Women’s title was won in emphatic style by 18-year-old Beau Greaves, who dropped just one leg (one set in the tournament) and hit the highest ever Women’s average in a final against Kirsty Hutchinson. Hungary’s first-ever representative Veronika Ihasz also set her own record with the highest checkout in the women’s tournament, pinning a 164 against Greaves in the last 16. 

The event had its critics, as most do; I both watched from home and went along to both play and support – the atmosphere really was brilliant and I thoroughly enjoyed the production when I watched from home. Kudos to the team behind the WDF and I’m looking forward to 2023! 

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Image: Cris Sargeant /WDF

Laura is ranked in the WDF top 16  and  is a pundit for SKY Sports. She is supported by Opus Sports management and Cosmo Darts

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