Litter’s Graz Glory

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SENSATIONAL EFFORT AS LUKE DEFEATS CULLEN FOR NEO.bet AUSTRIAN DARTS OPEN TITLE

Luke Littler’s incredible debut year on the PDC circuit continued as the teenager claimed a second European Tour title with glory in the NEO.bet Austrian Darts Open final on Sunday night, seeing off Joe Cullen 8-4 to scoop the title.

The 17-year-old won the Belgian Darts Open in March on his European Tour debut and scooped another £30,000 title in brilliant fashion in Graz.

Littler – who won a third Premier League of the year on Thursday in Liverpool to return to the top of the table – had begun his challenge at the Steiermarkhalle with wins over Zoran Lerchbacher and Damon Heta to reach Finals Day.

He then battled past Krzysztof Ratajski and Danny Noppert on Sunday to reach the semi-finals, where he again averaged over 105 for a second time in the event as he swept past Ross Smith by a 7-2 margin.

Littler then produced a thrilling showing in a quick-fire final against Cullen, who had shone throughout the event in his bid to claim a fourth European Tour success.

The first six legs were shared in a high-quality opening where all legs were recorded in 15 darts or less.

Littler then posted his third successive 14-darter – which followed a 13-dart opening leg – as he moved 4-3 up, before breaking with a 65 checkout.

Cullen responded to punish seven misses from the World Championship finalist in leg nine, but Littler added another 14-darter against the throw to regain his cushion.

He then took out 66 to lead 7-4 before wrapping up the title final style with a 12-darter which ended on the bullseye.

“I’m just happy to get over the line again,” said Littler, who was awarded the traditional green jacket alongside the winner’s trophy after averaging almost 103 in the final.

“It didn’t happen in Sindelfingen but I’ve come here and I’ve put myself right and won another one.

“We started off really well but I think I stuck at it and Joe started to fall off, and I got over the line.

“This weekend has been good, my darts have been good and these guys [the crowd] have helped me so much.”

Cullen had averaged 102 or more in his 6-3 wins over Darius Labanauskas, Dave Chisnall and Gian van Veen, before edging out Stephen Bunting 7-5 in the semi-finals.

Despite hitting four doubles from as many attempts in the final, the Bradford ace found himself 17 points behind Littler in the averages in defeat, and he admitted: “I’m disappointed but congratulations to Luke.

“I was not very good – I’m disappointed with the way I played in the final but if you’d have offered me a final before the week started I’d have taken it.

“He played better than me and did what he had to do at the right times. He’s a fantastic talent, I think he’s a generational talent.

“He’s been fantastic all weekend and he’s great for the game.”

Smith had been the runner-up in last weekend’s International Darts Open, and he enjoyed a second successive win over Michael van Gerwen on his way to the semi-finals in Graz.

Bunting’s wins over Daryl Gurney and Martin Schindler on Sunday saw him reach the last four for the second time in three events.

Recent International Darts Open winner Schindler was unable to repeat his success in Riesa as he lost out in a deciding leg to Bunting in the quarter-finals, where the Dutch trio of Van Gerwen, Noppert and Gian van Veen also exited.

The PDC European Tour continues next month with the NEO.bet Baltic Sea Darts Open in Kiel from May 10-12, ahead of the Dutch Darts Championship in Rosmalen from May 24-26.

The European Tour is being broadcast live on Viaplay, DAZN and PDCTV (excluding Germany, Austria and Switzerland) and through bookmakers’ websites worldwide.

NEO.bet Austrian Darts Open

Sunday April 28

Afternoon Session

Third Round

Joe Cullen 6-3 Dave Chisnall

Gian van Veen 6-4 Ritchie Edhouse

Stephen Bunting 6-3 Daryl Gurney

Martin Schindler 6-3 Jonny Clayton

Luke Littler 6-3 Krzysztof Ratajski

Danny Noppert 6-3 Josh Rock

Ross Smith 6-2 Daniel Klose

Michael van Gerwen 6-4 Peter Wright

Evening Session

Quarter-Finals

Joe Cullen 6-3 Gian van Veen

Stephen Bunting 6-5 Martin Schindler

Luke Littler 6-5 Danny Noppert

Ross Smith 6-1 Michael van Gerwen

Semi-Finals

Joe Cullen 7-5 Stephen Bunting

Luke Littler 7-2 Ross Smith

Final

Luke Littler 8-4 Joe Cullen

——-ENDS——

Images: Jonas Hunold / PDC Europe

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