Waites seals Grand Slam progression as Hankey hits top form

Scott Waites became the first player to win through to the William Hill Grand Slam of Darts second round with a fine victory over Michael Smith, as Ted Hankey kick-started his challenge at the Wolves Civic.

Yorkshireman Waites, the 2010 Grand Slam of Darts champion, followed up Saturday’s opening win over Hankey with another brilliant performance as he ensured passage from Group H in the event.

Waites, the reigning Lakeside Champion, overcame emerging star Michael Smith 5-2 in their second round-robin contest yesterday afternoon, leaving the PDC Unicorn World Youth Champion now facing an all-or-nothing clash with Hankey today to decide who joins him in the last 16.

“I always knew it would be a tough game and it feels brilliant to be through,” said Waites, who also reached the 2009 final at the Wolves Civic.

“I’m very happy to get up there and play as I did – when I played Ted it was difficult to get into a rhythm, but Michael is a fast, fluent player and it suited me more.

“Wolverhampton’s always been good to me and I love getting up and playing well in front of that crowd. It’s a fantastic venue and it seems to bring the best out of me.

“The hard work’s done now, and I can relax and enjoy the game against Dave Chisnall on Monday and then look ahead to the second round.”

Chisnall, though, was eliminated as Hankey produced a fine display to come from 3-1 down to claim a fine 5-3 triumph from their contest.

Chisnall took the first two legs and also hit an 11-darter, but Hankey hit back to level before taking out a 170 checkout, and then landed a 177 in the eighth leg as the two-time Lakeside Champion went on to complete the win with a fourth successive leg.

“It was so different to yesterday, and I’m very happy to get the win,” said Hankey. “Scott played well yesterday but today I got things right, I went up on stage and played well.

“I felt pretty decent and it went well for me. I fed off the crowd and it helped me, I played my natural darts and the 170 was as sweet as a nut.

“I’ve had my health problems and I’ve been on the mend, and I know that when I can play I’m as good as anybody and I can do anything.

“I’ve just got to go out to win against Michael and hopefully I will do because I’ve got a lot more to offer, not just for myself but for this crown and this tournament.”

Reigning champion Raymond van Barneveld picked up his second successive Group E victory, edging out Tony O’Shea 5-4 in a nine-leg thriller.

After trailing 2-0 early on, Stockport’s O’Shea hit back to lead 3-2, but saw van Barneveld level as the pair headed to a deciding leg, which the Dutchman won with a 72 finish.

“I like the group format of this competition and the two wins have helped build my confidence,” said van Barneveld. “I hope it will set me up well for the rest of the week.

“I don’t ever make it easy for myself, but I managed to produce good finishes towards the end and get the win.”

Mervyn King’s high-quality 5-2 win over Ricky Evans in the day’s other Group E game means that there is still all to play for going into today’s final matches.

Van Barneveld would qualify with a win over King, with O’Shea and Evans also still able to win through to the knockout stage of the event in the final set of games.

Australian star Simon Whitlock won his second match in Group G in impressive style, averaging 108.78 in a 5-1 victory against Mark Webster, hitting four 180s and missing only one dart at a double.

He is now in pole position ahead oftoday’s final game with Wes Newton, who was a 5-2 winner against Ross Smith as he joined Webster on two points.

Robert Thornton maintained his 100 percent record as he followed up Saturday’s whitewash of Mark Walsh with a 5-2 win over Justin Pipe, taking out a key 152 checkout in the victory.

Walsh’s 5-1 defeat to Andy Hamilton saw the Stoke star kick-start his challenge in Group F ahead of his key clash with Thornton on Monday night.

“I had to win but I didn’t want to put too much pressure on myself and I went out there to relax and enjoy it,” said Hamilton. “I tried a bit too hard against Justin Pipe on Saturday but the doubles went in for me today.

“I can move forward now and look forward to my next game against Robert now. He’s a solid player, but hopefully I can play like I did tomorrow and it will be a great game.”

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