Two Lukes Into Final Battle

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LITTLER & HUMPHRIES SET UP MOUTH-WATERING WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP FINAL

Luke Littler and Luke Humphries will collide in the 2023/24 Paddy Power World Darts Championship final on Wednesday, after producing sensational semi-final displays on a famous night at Alexandra Palace.

Teenage sensation Littler continued his fairy-tale run with a breathtaking 6-2 success against Rob Cross, averaging 106 to move one win away from completing one of the most incredible stories in sporting history.

Humphries, meanwhile, delivered a darting masterclass to whitewash Scott Williams in merciless fashion, averaging 108.74 and converting six ton-plus checkouts to become the new world number one.

Nevertheless, it was Littler who stole the headlines, dumping out 2018 champion Cross to move through to the biggest match on the darting calendar, less than three weeks shy of his 17th birthday.

Having also accounted for Dutch icon Raymond van Barneveld in the last 16, the World Youth Champion claimed another huge scalp in the capital to guarantee himself a minimum of £200,000 in prize money.

Littler had only dropped four sets in reaching the semi-finals, although he fell behind for the first time at this tournament after losing a high-quality opening set, which saw Cross average 108.

However, after surviving a set dart in the second, Littler hit back with legs of 13 and 14 darts to level, before landing a sensational 142 checkout on his way to establishing a 2-1 cushion.

The unflappable teenager continued his blitz with a majestic 149 checkout midway through set four, before extending his lead in stunning style, defying six perfect darts from Cross to wrap it up inside 11 darts.

The 2018 champion responded in a topsy-turvy fifth set to reduce the arrears, converting an unorthodox 138 checkout before capitalising on a rare error from Littler, who missed a dart at tops for a 4-1 lead.

That minor setback was dismissed by the 16-year-old sensation, who conjured up consecutive 13-darters on his way to a 4-2 lead, and he continued his relentless barrage in set seven to move a set away from glory.

Any prospect of finishing line nerves were dismissed by an inspired Littler, who kicked off set eight with a roof-raising 132 checkout, leaving Cross shaking his head in sheer disbelief.

The world number eight battled back from a four-set deficit to stun Chris Dobey in the quarter-finals on New Year’s Day, but there was to be no repeat, as Littler wrapped up a historic win with a two-dart 80 outshot.

“I’ve got no words,” admitted Littler, who averaged 106, crashed in 16 maximums and landed a trio of ton-topping checkouts to cap off a mesmerising display.

“It hasn’t sunk in yet. I’ve thrown big averages on the floor all year round, but I’m so happy to have brought that form up on to the biggest stage of them all.

“It would be unbelievable to win this title. I set myself the target to win one game and be back after Christmas, and I’m still here!

“I can’t even imagine lifting that trophy yet though. I’ve just got to stay focused, relax and be Luke Littler.”

Humphries backed up Littler’s heroics with a majestic performance of his own, dispatching Michael van Gerwen’s conqueror Williams in six straight sets to move one game away from fulfilling his darting destiny.

Having edged out Ricardo Pietreczko and Joe Cullen in deciding-set tussles, Humphries powered in a 103 average in his quarter-final demolition of Dave Chisnall, before upping the ante against a helpless Williams.

The 28-year-old kicked off the contest with a brilliant 11-darter, which set the tone for one of the greatest performances ever seen on the Alexandra Palace stage.

Humphries maintained his electric start with successive 121 and 136 checkouts in set two, and the big finishing continued in set three, as he followed up a magical 170 with a set-winning 126 combination to race 3-0 ahead.

Despite surviving a scare in set four, Humphries continued the procession with an outrageous fifth set display, producing his second 121 finish of the contest and averaging 122 to establish a seemingly unassailable cushion.

Williams kept battling away bravely, but he was unable to avoid the whitewash, as Humphries reeled off legs of 13, 16 and 16 darts in the closing stages to celebrate another personal milestone.

“This is a massive, massive moment for me,” admitted Humphries, who has scooped World Grand Prix, Grand Slam of Darts and Players Championship Finals titles since October.

“I think it’s probably one of the best performances I’ve ever produced on the big stage. I just hope it didn’t come one game too early!

“I needed to put in a statement performance because Luke was fantastic tonight. Every aspect of my game was as I wanted it to be, and it’s such a special moment.

“Becoming world number one is something you can only dream of as a kid, but tomorrow would stay with me forever if I become World Champion, so my mind is fully focused on that.”

Humphries is aiming to cap off a sensational 2023 campaign by becoming only the third player – alongside Phil Taylor and Michael van Gerwen – to win four Premier TV titles in the space of 12 months.

Meanwhile, after Dennis Priestley won the inaugural World Darts Championship in 1993/94, Littler is now bidding to follow in the footsteps of Van Barneveld and Cross, who both lifted the sport’s biggest title on debut.

2023/24 Paddy Power World Darts Championship
Tuesday January 2
Semi-Finals
Luke Littler 6-2 Rob Cross (2-3, 3-2, 3-1, 3-2, 2-3, 3-1, 3-1, 3-2)
Luke Humphries 6-0 Scott Williams (3-2, 3-0, 3-2, 3-2, 3-0, 3-1)

Wednesday January 3 (2000 GMT)
Final
Luke Littler v Luke Humphries
Best of 13 sets

—–ENDS—–

Images: Taylor Lanning / PDC







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