Darts: Leeds underdog Martin handed tough draw

Leeds darts ace Martin Atkins has the world at his feet.

Atkins – nicknamed Assassin – has been drawn against third seed Dean Winstanley in the opening round of the BDO Lakeside World Professional Championship, which begins today at Frimley Green in Surrey.

The Horsforth-based thrower will be first up on Monday afternoon and, after not being seeded in the tournament, goes into the tie as an underdog – which suits him fine.

"It's a very tough start, probably the toughest opening match I have had," admitted Atkins, who has never got past the second round stage at

the world championship.

"We've played each other before – he has won two and I've won one. I won the last one, but they have all been close games.

"He has burst on to the scene, he came on to the circuit the year before last and did all right, but he has had a fantastic year this year and he's seeded three.

"It is the first time I haven't been seeded since the first time I played there, so it is the first time I'm going into a game not as the favourite, so maybe it will go my way for a change."

Results in the Lakeside championship – rival to the PDC event currently being staged at London's Alexandra Palace – are notoriously difficult to predict.

"I am looking forward to it," said Atkins, who celebrated his 45th birthday on Christmas Eve.

"I think it will be a good game and a close game. His form over the year is better than mine, but I have been there before and he hasn't, so that might balance it up a bit.

"I watched him in the World Masters, which was his first time on TV and he was a bit like a rabbit in the headlights.

"But he has just beaten Scott Waites 5-0 on TV in Holland and that was quite good for me because he played quite well, so I am ready for a hard game."

Though he hasn't had a good year, Atkins reckons his own form has "picked up" over the last couple of months and he added: "I'm not feeling under too much pressure this time, it is a bit different going into my first game as the underdog, rather than favourite.

"I will just go and play my game and hopefully he will get the first round blues, but I can't bank on that, because he is playing well."

A good run at the Lakeside is something Atkins – who works as a master technician at a Leeds car dealership – craves.

"It is one that has eluded me," said the former World Masters semi-finalist. "I have been beaten in the first round three times and the second round three times, so maybe it will be my year this time.

"I am quite confident going in, which you have to be whoever you play. If you are going to do well, you've got to beat them all."

Defending champion Martin Adams starts as favourite to collect the 100,000 winner's cheque, though Atkins feels he could come a cropper against Tony West in the first round.

Of the other leading contenders, he reckons fellow Yorkshireman Waites – from Halifax – has the potential to go all the way, if he can overcome former winner Ted Hankey in his first match.

Atkins sees Tony O'Shea as the other big threat in another wide-open tournament.

"I think Adams is the one to beat, then Waites and O'Shea," he said.

"Scott is playing some great darts and he has come off a win in the Grand Slam. If he gets past Ted, the longer games will suit him.

"Tony O'Shea will be there or thereabouts, but I have got Martin Adams down for a shock exit.

"I fancy Tony West to cause an upset in the first round, he is confident and playing quite well."

Bailey Peacock-Farrell.

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