Darts: Hankey thrives on early start

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Ted Hankey, the winner of the Embassy World Championship in 2000 and runner-up last year, reached the second round of this year's tournament in controversial circumstances at Frimley Green last night.

The seventh seed resisted a stern challenge from Finland's Jarkko Komula, prevailing 3-2 in a match brought forward by nearly two hours from its original slot on the schedule.

That decision was taken by the organisers to fit in with live television coverage. But Komula was fuming because he claimed he had not, unlike Hankey, been given any notice and wanted longer to practice before the match.

The 25-year-old Lakeside debutant certainly started off looking rusty. But once he had found his feet, the World Masters runner-up, who makes a weekly 1,000-mile round trip from his home near the Arctic Circle just to practise, gave "The Count" a run for his money.

Ultimately, the 33-year-old Rhyl-based Hankey came through the deciding set comfortably, but the experience left a bitter taste with Komula, who had been tipped as a lively outsider for the title. "I was very surprised when I was told I had to go on much earlier than I thought," Komula, the world No 9, said. "I could hardly throw a dart at first and I gave the first set away to Ted."

Hankey found it strange that Komula did not know about the change in the order of play and felt the Finn had put up a spirited display. "I was very surprised by the way he played," he admitted. "I saw him play in the Masters but this is a different tournament with a different atmosphere."

In the second round tomorrow, Hankey will meet Wayne Jones, who just got the better of Tony Eccles 3-2.

The two other seeds in action also won, although world No 4, Mervyn King, had to overcome a mid-match knee injury to book his place in the last 16. The 35-year-old from Ipswich beat Australia's Russell Stewart 3-1 scoreline but was in agony for much of the contest after twisting his left knee while retrieving his darts from the board. Fortunately the injured leg was not the one on which he balances when throwing.