Luke Littler enjoyed a dream start to life on the PDC ProTour by claiming the title on his Players Championship…
Luke Littler enjoyed a dream start to life on the PDC ProTour by claiming the title on his Players Championship debut with a nine-darter along the way.
Teenage sensation Littler created more history as he triumphed in the opening Players Championship event of the season, defying a staggering 111.7 average from Ryan Searle in a thrilling final.
The 17-year-old produced four ton-plus averages on his way to victory in Wigan, as he became only the third player to win a title on his Players Championship debut.
Littler began the day with a crushing 6-1 win over Jim Williams, averaging 105.5 and posting seven maximums to send out a statement to the 128-player field.
The World Youth champion then followed up victory over Luke Woodhouse in Round Two with a 6-1 rout of Italy’s Michele Turetta, wrapping up proceedings with a magical nine-darter.
It was the second nine-darter in as many months for Littler – who also achieved perfection in his title winning campaign at the Bahrain Masters.
He came agonisingly close to another nine-darter in his Last 16 clash against Cameron Menzies, wiring double 12 for perfection in leg five, before closing out victory with a blistering 109 average.
Littler registered another ton-plus average to defeat fellow newcomer James Hurrell in the Quarter-Finals, though he survived a scare in his Semi-Final win over Alan Soutar, eventually prevailing 7-6 thanks to a 78 finish in the decider.
This set up a tantalising showdown against Searle, and the pair combined to produce one of the greatest finals in Players Championship history.
Littler stole an early march with back-to-back 13-darters, only for Searle to reduce the deficit with an unconventional 103 finish in leg three.
Both players continued to trade holds of throw in a contest littered with quality, as a spectacular 136 checkout in leg eight powered Littler into a 5-3 lead.
Searle responded with consecutive 11 and 12-dart holds to peg back, but Littler was undeterred, conjuring up an effortless 85 finish on the bull to move a leg away from victory at 7-5.
The drama continued as Searle rattled in his second 11-darter of the contest to force a decider, but Littler was not to be denied, replying with a 13-dart break on tops to scoop the £15,000 top prize.
“I know my game is there, I know I can beat anyone, and I’m really happy to have won,” reflected Littler, who already has his sights set on World Matchplay qualification.
“Me and my manager know what I have to do to qualify for the World Matchplay and the World Grand Prix.
“I’ve got about 13 or 14 ProTours before the World Matchplay, but it’s always good to get off to a good start.
“I want to try and qualify for everything and I’ve just got to play my game. I’m taking it in my stride.
“It takes huge pressure off me, and now hopefully I can settle and enjoy it.”
Searle was bidding to win the year’s opening Players Championship event for a second successive season, and the Somerset star performed magnificently in Wigan, dropping just seven legs across his first six matches.
The 36-year-old swept aside Simon Whitlock in his opener, before registering back-to-back 104 averages to dispatch Jeffrey Sparidaans and Dom Taylor.
Searle then whitewashed Mike De Decker to book his place in the Last Eight, and he continued the procession with convincing wins over Jose de Sousa and Gian van Veen.
World Youth Championship runner-up Van Veen won four deciding-leg ties in his run to the semis, overcoming Benjamin Reus, Ross Smith, Kim Huybrechts and Brendan Dolan.
Scottish star Soutar also enjoyed a strong start to the new season, dumping out the likes of Damon Heta and Chris Dobey, while also landing eight 180s and surviving a match dart in a dramatic win over Nick Kenny in the Quarter-Finals.
Littler was one of three players to achieve perfection on an astonishing afternoon in Wigan, with 18-year-old Leighton Bennett crashing in a nine-darter in his first event as a Tour Card Holder.
Bennett produced the perfect leg in his Second Round win over Germany’s Lukas Wenig, before Mickey Mansell repeated the feat moments later to see off Krzysztof Ratajski.
Meanwhile, Gerwyn Price dramatically withdrew from the event midway through his Last 16 clash with Brendan Dolan.
The Premier League star trailed Dolan 4-2 before forfeiting the match due to what he described as “amateur conditions”.
Italy’s Turetta enjoyed a remarkable 6-1 rout of Dave Chisnall in Round One, while the likes of Peter Wright, Jonny Clayton, Joe Cullen, Josh Rock and Masters champion Stephen Bunting also suffered First Round exits.
18+ | Geo Restrictions may apply | Be Gamble Aware
Players Championship One Results
Monday February 12
Michele Turetta 6-1 Dave Chisnall
Paul Krohne 6-3 William O’Connor
Luke Woodhouse 6-3 Steve Lennon
Luke Littler 6-1 Jim Williams
Lukas Wenig 6-3 Joe Cullen
Leighton Bennett 6-4 Brett Claydon
Maik Kuivenhoven 6-5 Peter Wright
Cameron Menzies 6-3 Jermaine Wattimena
Thibault Tricole 6-5 Jonny Clayton
Mensur Suljovic 6-4 Danny Jansen
James Wade 6-1 Oskar Lukasiak
Jamie Hughes 6-2 Chris Landman
Michael Smith 6-3 Darryl Pilgrim
James Hurrell 6-5 Danny van Trijp
Ryan Joyce 6-2 Jacques Labre
Mervyn King 6-5 Callum Goffin
Alan Soutar 6-4 Damon Heta
Robbie Knops 6-3 Robert Grundy
Raymond van Barneveld 6-3 Darren Beveridge
Chris Dobey 6-2 Keane Barry
Gary Anderson 6-1 Geert Nentjes
Lee Evans 6-5 Daniel Klose
Andrew Gilding 6-4 Callan Rydz
Stephen Burton 6-1 William Borland
Nick Kenny 6-4 Dirk van Duijvenbode
Niels Zonneveld 6-4 Rowby-John Rodriguez
Graham Usher 6-5 Dimitri Van den Bergh
Kevin Doets 6-2 Keegan Brown
Krzysztof Ratajski 6-2 Ritchie Edhouse
Mickey Mansell 6-2 Josh Payne
Daryl Gurney 6-0 Ryan Meikle
Mario Vandenbogaerde 6-4 Owen Roelofs
Luke Humphries 6-2 Robert Owen
Ian White 6-0 Martin Lukeman
Mike De Decker 6-4 Florian Hempel
Vincent van der Voort 6-5 Jurjen van der Velde
Dom Taylor 6-4 Stephen Bunting
Ricky Evans 6-4 Scott Williams
Ryan Searle 6-1 Simon Whitlock
Jeffrey Sparidaans 6-5 Stefan Bellmont
Rob Cross 6-4 Adam Gawlas
Andy Baetens 6-5 Jelle Klaasen
Jose De Sousa 6-2 Jeffrey De Zwaan
Jules van Dongen 6-5 Arron Monk
Danny Noppert 6-2 Owen Bates
Nathan Rafferty 6-5 George Killington
Nathan Aspinall 6-5 Aden Kirk
Patrick Geeraets 6-1 Haupai Puha
Gerwyn Price 6-5 Karel Sedlacek
Matthew Dennant 6-5 Boris Krcmar
Brendan Dolan 6-3 Martijn Dragt
Wessel Nijman 6-2 Jitse Van der Wal
Ricardo Pietreczko 6-5 Radek Szaganski
Steve Beaton 6-5 Madars Razma
Martin Schindler 6-1 Matt Campbell
Adam Smith-Neale 6-5 Graham Hall
Richard Veenstra 6-2 Josh Rock
Kim Huybrechts 6-2 Danny Lauby
Gabriel Clemens 6-1 Joshua Richardson
Berry van Peer 6-5 Adam Warner
Ross Smith 6-2 Rhys Griffin
Pascal Rupprecht 6-5 Christian Perez
Gian van Veen 6-1 Jeffrey De Graaf
Benjamin Drue Reus 6-3 Adam Hunt
Michele Turetta 6-5 Paul Krohne
Luke Littler 6-3 Luke Woodhouse
Leighton Bennett 6-5 Lukas Wenig – *Bennett hits a nine-darter*
Cameron Menzies 6-2 Maik Kuivenhoven
Mensur Suljovic 6-2 Thibault Tricole
Jamie Hughes 6-2 James Wade
James Hurrell 6-4 Michael Smith
Mervyn King 6-4 Ryan Joyce
Alan Soutar 6-2 Robbie Knops
Chris Dobey 6-3 Raymond van Barneveld
Lee Evans 6-4 Gary Anderson
Andrew Gilding 6-1 Stephen Burton
Nick Kenny 6-5 Niels Zonneveld
Graham Usher 6-4 Kevin Doets
Mickey Mansell 6-2 Krzysztof Ratajski – *Mansell hits a nine-darter*
Daryl Gurney 6-2 Mario Vandenbogaerde
Ian White 6-0 Luke Humphries
Mike De Decker 6-2 Vincent van der Voort
Dom Taylor 6-3 Ricky Evans
Ryan Searle 6-0 Jeffrey Sparidaans
Andy Baetens 6-5 Rob Cross
Jose De Sousa 6-4 Jules van Dongen
Nathan Rafferty 6-5 Danny Noppert
Nathan Aspinall 6-4 Patrick Geeraets
Gerwyn Price 6-2 Matthew Dennant
Brendan Dolan 6-5 Wessel Nijman
Ricardo Pietreczko 6-2 Steve Beaton
Adam Smith-Neale 6-1 Martin Schindler
Kim Huybrechts 6-3 Richard Veenstra
Berry van Peer 6-2 Gabriel Clemens
Ross Smith 6-2 Pascal Rupprecht
Gian van Veen 6-5 Benjamin Drue Reus
Luke Littler 6-1 Michele Turetta – *Littler hits a nine-darter*
Cameron Menzies 6-5 Leighton Bennett
Jamie Hughes 6-5 Mensur Suljovic
James Hurrell 6-2 Mervyn King
Alan Soutar 6-2 Chris Dobey
Lee Evans 6-4 Andrew Gilding
Nick Kenny 6-2 Graham Usher
Mickey Mansell 6-5 Daryl Gurney
Mike De Decker 6-2 Ian White
Ryan Searle 6-1 Dom Taylor
Jose De Sousa 6-5 Andy Baetens
Nathan Aspinall 6-5 Nathan Rafferty
Brendan Dolan w/o Gerwyn Price
Ricardo Pietreczko 6-5 Adam Smith-Neale
Kim Huybrechts 6-3 Berry van Peer
Gian van Veen 6-5 Ross Smith
Luke Littler 6-2 Cameron Menzies
James Hurrell 6-3 Jamie Hughes
Alan Soutar 6-1 Lee Evans
Nick Kenny 6-5 Mickey Mansell
Ryan Searle 6-0 Mike De Decker
Jose De Sousa 6-5 Nathan Aspinall
Brendan Dolan 6-4 Ricardo Pietreczko
Gian van Veen 6-5 Kim Huybrechts
Luke Littler 6-3 James Hurrell
Alan Soutar 6-5 Nick Kenny
Ryan Searle 6-2 Jose De Sousa
Gian van Veen 6-5 Brendan Dolan
Luke Littler 7-6 Alan Soutar
Ryan Searle 7-3 Gian van Veen
Luke Littler 8-7 Ryan Searle