Nine-dart Luke Littler claims glory on Players Championship debut

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.

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Players Championship One Results

Monday February 12

Round One
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

Second Round
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

Last 32
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

Last 16
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

Quarter-Finals
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

Semi-Finals
Luke Littler 7-6 Alan Soutar
Ryan Searle 7-3 Gian van Veen

Final
Luke Littler 8-7 Ryan Searle

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Michael van Gerwen issues warning over Luke Littler hype following Bahrain Masters defeat

Michael van Gerwen has implored darts fans and the media to let Luke Littler “do his thing” after the 16-year-old made more history by winning the Bahrain Masters.

Littler defeated Van Gerwen 8-5 in the final of the season-opening World Series event on Friday to become the youngest winner of a senior PDC title.

Just two days shy of his 17th birthday, Littler enjoyed a remarkable triumph which also saw him land a nine-dart finish in his Quarter-Final win over Nathan Aspinall, before thrashing Gerwyn Price 7-3 in the Semi-Finals.

Littler has enjoyed a meteoric rise to fame following his landmark run to the final of the World Championship – which ended in defeat to Luke Humphries at Alexandra Palace a fortnight ago.

The record-breaking teenager has become the first professional darts player to reach one million followers on Instagram and has been installed as the early favourite to be crowned 2024 Sports Personality of The Year.

Van Gerwen, however, has called for calm over Littler as he prepares for his debut Premier League campaign in the coming weeks, insisting the youngster should not be pushed too hard.

“It is never going to be a good week when Michael is not winning, simple as that,” said Van Gerwen following defeat in the final in Bahrain.

“I think he [Littler] had a fantastic tournament.

“I couldn’t produce what I was doing in the other games and you only can punish yourself for that.

“Of course I’m disappointed but that’s how sport works, you win some, you lose some.

“I’ll get him, don’t worry.

“Everyone says he’s the new kid but everyone knows what he is capable of.

“The crowd, the television, everyone wants to make him bigger but he’s already a good player.

“I know you all want to push him, but let him grow. Let him do his thing.

“The crowd and everyone who is involved in television has to learn – don’t push him too much.

“Of course we know he’s a good player but give him his time and everything will come – no problems.”

Littler will join Van Gerwen in the line-up for next week’s Dutch Darts Masters in Den Bosch before heading to Cardiff on February 1 for the opening night of the Premier League.

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Nine-dart Luke Littler makes more history with Bahrain Masters triumph

Luke Littler landed an historic nine-darter on his way to claiming the 2024 Bahrain Darts Masters title on Friday.

Just two days short of his 17th birthday, Littler became the youngest player ever to achieve a televised nine-dart finish and the youngest winner of a senior PDC title.

Following Thursday’s First Round win over Man Lok Leung, Littler made an incredible start to the Quarter-Finals with a nine-darter in the opening leg against Nathan Aspinall.

Only Phil Taylor had previously achieved a perfect leg in the World Series – with that coming at the 2015 Sydney Masters.

The 16-year-old went on to win that game 6-3 with an average of 104.5, before landing a majestic 170 checkout during a clinical 7-3 defeat of Gerwyn Price in the Semi-Finals.

He then overcame world number two Michael van Gerwen 8-5 in the final with another sensational performance to claim debut glory at the Bahrain International Circuit.

After the opening six legs went with throw, Littler followed an 11-darter with a break of throw to move 5-3 up in the final, only for Van Gerwen to fire back with a 12-darter as he levelled.

Littler, though, pinned double ten in the next two legs as another break of throw moved him to the brink of a win which he sealed on double top.

“I’m just very happy to win,” said Littler. “I played well last night and I’ve played well again tonight – I’ve proven that I’ve got the ability to win.

“I’ve not picked a dart up since the World Championship final so I wasn’t expecting anything, but I’ve won all my games, hit the nine-darter against Nathan and got over the line against a very good Michael van Gerwen.

“He is still one of the best if not the best, but I am just so happy to win on my debut.

“It has been unbelievable this week, the Asian qualifiers were great too but I am just happy to be the winner.”

Van Gerwen had produced some terrific darts himself during his run to the final, before eventually being denied a 21st World Series title.

The Dutchman had been the stand-out performer on Day One as he whitewashed Bahrain’s Hasan Haji, and continued his strong return to action on Friday.

He finished six doubles from seven attempts and averaged 106 in a 6-4 Quarter-Final win over Rob Cross, and then ended Michael Smith’s reign as champion in a thrilling Semi-Final.

The pair could barely be separated as the tie went to a deciding leg, which Van Gerwen took with a 110 checkout, only to see Littler deny him the title.

“It has been a fantastic tournament – of course I am disappointed but that is how sports work; you win some, you lose some,” said Van Gerwen.

“It is never going to be a good week when Michael is not winning, simple as that. He has had a fantastic tournament as well – everyone says he is a new kid, but everyone knows what he is capable of.

“I couldn’t produce what I was doing in the early games [in the final]. You can only punish yourself for that. You have to make sure you get better for the next one.”

Newly-crowned World Champion Luke Humphries saw his 20-game winning streak ended with a Quarter-Final exit at the hands of Price.

Humphries had lifted the Grand Slam, Players Championship Finals and World Championship titles during his blistering unbeaten run, but was left to rue costly missed doubles as Price prevailed 6-4.

“You’re never going to be happy about losing but that was going to come and you can’t be perfect all the time,” admitted Humphries.

“I’m really disappointed because the way I played there wasn’t my best and I had so many opportunities to win the game.

“Gezzy took advantage of my misses and fair play to him – my scoring wasn’t at my best but this game is about millimetres and if you don’t take those chances, you won’t win.

“I’ve got a lot to look forward to this year so it won’t drag me down too much. I think the last time I lost was October 29th so it’s been an amazing run for me and it had to come to an end one day.”

Bahrain Darts Masters 2024 Day Two Results

Friday January 19

Quarter-Finals
Luke Humphries 4-6 Gerwyn Price
Michael Smith 6-1 Peter Wright
Nathan Aspinall 3-6 Luke Littler – *Littler hits a nine-darter*
Michael van Gerwen 6-4 Rob Cross

Semi-Finals
Luke Littler 7-3 Gerwyn Price
Michael van Gerwen 7-6 Michael Smith

Final
Luke Littler 8-5 Michael van Gerwen

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Luke Littler secures historic PDC Tour Card and World Darts Championship debut

Luke Littler has become the youngest player to secure a PDC Tour Card via the Development Tour and has also clinched a debut at the World Darts Championship.

At 16 years, six months and 28 days, Littler has made history by becoming the youngest player to earn a coveted PDC Tour Card and will join the circuit full-time in 2024.

The Cheshire sensation occupies second spot on the Development Tour Order of Merit with two events remaining but is guaranteed to finish inside the top three.

Gian van Veen currently leads the way at the top of the rankings but already holds a Tour Card and is set to seal his World Championship qualification via the ProTour Order of Merit, which ensures Littler will be part of the sport’s flagship event in December.

Littler, the reigning Junior Darts Corporation World Champion, has racked up four Development Tour titles this year and has affirmed himself as one of the sport’s most explosive emerging stars.

He has also claimed two Modus Super Series titles, scooping £50,000 in prize money in the process, adding to his £16,675 tally from the Development Tour.

Littler, who competed in last year’s WDF World Championship and became the youngest player to qualify for the UK Open earlier this year, will now head to Ally Pally to become only the fourth 16-year-old to feature in the sport’s show-piece event – joining Mitchell Clegg (2007), Max Hopp (2012) and Fabian Schmutzler (2021).

The 2023 Development Tour campaign draws to a close in Milton Keynes on Saturday, before the PDC World Youth Championship takes place on Sunday.

Wessel Nijman occupies third position in the Order of Merit and will join Littler in securing a Tour Card and World Championship spot unless Nathan Rafferty wins both events on Saturday.