NINE-DART LITTLER CLAIMS BAHRAIN DARTS MASTERS GLORY
Nine-dart hero Luke Littler claimed glory on his World Series of Darts debut with a stunning Bahrain Darts Masters triumph against Michael van Gerwen on Friday.
The World Youth Champion and World Championship finalist has stepped onto the global stage this week for the PDC's second visit to Bahrain - and he made history in memorable style.
Following Thursday's first round win over Man Lok Leung, Littler made an incredible start to Friday's final stages with a nine-darter in the opening leg of his quarter-final against Nathan Aspinall.
The 16-year-old went on to win that game 6-3 with an average of 104.50, before landing a majestic 170 checkout during his clinical 7-3 semi-final win over Gerwyn Price.
He then defeated world number two Michael van Gerwen 8-5 in the final with another brilliant performance to delight the crowd inside The Dome at the Bahrain International Circuit.
After the final's opening six legs went with throw, Littler followed an 11-darter with a break of throw to move 5-3 up, 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, who turns 17 on Sunday. "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 superb darts himself during his run to the final, before eventually being denied a 21st World Series of Darts title.
The Dutchman had been the stand-out performer in Thursday's first round as he whitewashed Bahrain's Hasan Haji, and continued his strong return to action on day two.
He finished six doubles from seven attempts and averaged 106 in his 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."
Price and Smith were denied in the semi-finals, while new World Champion Luke Humphries saw his 20-game winning streak ended with a quarter-final exit.
Humphries had taken victory the Grand Slam of Darts, Players Championship Finals and World Darts Championship during his run, before going down 6-4 to Price.
"You're never going to be happy about losing but that was going to come and you can't be perfect all the time," said 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."
Following the PDC's successful second visit to Bahrain, the World Series of Darts now heads to the Netherlands for the TOTO Dutch Darts Masters in Den Bosch on January 26-27.
2024 Bahrain Darts Masters
Friday January 19
Gerwyn Price 6-4 Luke Humphries
Michael Smith 6-1 Peter Wright
Luke Littler 6-3 Nathan Aspinall - Luke Littler hits nine-dart finish
Michael van Gerwen 6-4 Rob Cross
Luke Littler 7-3 Gerwyn Price
Michael van Gerwen 7-6 Michael Smith
Luke Littler 8-5 Michael van Gerwen