SENSATIONAL HUMPHRIES DENIES LITTLER TO SEAL WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP GLORY
Luke Humphries produced a breathtaking display to deny teenage sensation Luke Littler 7-4 and be crowned the 2023/24 Paddy Power World Darts Champion on a sensational night at Alexandra Palace.
Humphries reeled off five consecutive sets from 4-2 down to topple 16-year-old Littler in an all-time classic, averaging 103 and crashing in 23 maximums to fulfil his darting destiny in the capital.
The 28-year-old opened up early 1-0 and 2-1 leads, but Littler – roared on by a capacity crowd – responded with a sequence of three straight sets as he threatened to produce the unthinkable.
However, an unflappable Humphries underlined his status as the new world number one with a mesmerising five-set burst to become the 12th player to be crowned PDC World Darts Champion.
“I honestly cannot put into words how great this feels,” admitted Humphries, who has now won four of the last five Premier televised events since October.
“I am really proud of my performance. I had to win this one tonight, because Luke [Littler] is going to win plenty, I’m sure.
“He is an incredible talent. Even when I was on the brink of winning there, he was relentless.
“That seventh set was a massive turning point. If I’m 5-2 down it becomes a real uphill task, but to reel off those last five sets was just incredible.
“My hand was shaking like mad going for that double eight, but fortunately it just fell in.”
Humphries’ Alexandra Palace success caps a remarkable journey for a man who feared for his future in the sport a few years ago, after opening up on his battle with anxiety.
“There was a time in my life where I was really depressed, and I thought that was going to be it for me,” added the former World Youth Champion.
“I couldn’t do it up on the big stage and I went through a lot of problems, so to go on to become World Champion and world number one – it makes it even more special for me.
“I have to thank my family. They are the people that make me who I am, and as much as I’ve gone up there and won it, without them, I wouldn’t have this trophy right now.”
Littler was unable to cap off a fairy-tale campaign with a historic victory at Alexandra Palace, but he revealed his pride at what he’s achieved during the last three weeks.
The 16-year-old has created global headlines with his record-breaking exploits, and he’s determined to build upon his success when he joins the professional circuit in 2024.
“It’s been unbelievable,” reflected Littler, who defeated former World Champions Raymond van Barneveld and Rob Cross on his way to claiming the £200,000 runner-up prize.
“Every game has been great. I lost too many legs on my own throw tonight, and I’m disappointed I missed those three darts to keep the game going, because that’s what the crowd wanted.
“Fair play to Luke, he deserves that title. I’m into the world’s top 32, runner-up on my debut. It’s been an unbelievable tournament, and now I just want to go on and win it.”
Humphries punished an edgy start from Littler to open his account in a quick-fire opening set, but the 16-year-old found his range in some style, converting back-to-back 142 and 120 finishes to level the tie.
The pair traded the next two sets as the topsy-turvy nature of the contest continued, before Littler wrapped up set five with a brilliant 11-darter to move into the lead for the first time.
The World Youth Champion was riding the crest of a wave as he stormed to set six without reply, producing a trio of 15-dart legs to establish a 4-2 cushion and make it nine legs from the last 11.
The turning point came in an extraordinary seventh set, as Humphries followed up a spectacular 170 checkout with a 13-darter to reduce the arrears, after Littler wired a dart at double two for a 5-2 lead.
The 28-year-old continued his revival to restore parity with a 114.17 average in set eight, before backing up consecutive 108 checkouts with a majestic 11-darter to regain the lead.
Littler conjured up a 170 outshot of his own in set ten, although Humphries refused to relent, reeling off legs of 14 and 12 darts to move to within a set of World Championship glory.
Nevertheless, following a run of four consecutive holds in set 11, Littler missed three darts at double to cut the gap to 6-5, and Humphries stepped in with a 14-darter via double eight to seal the World Championship title.
2023/24 Paddy Power World Darts Championship
Wednesday January 3
Luke Humphries 7-4 Luke Littler (3-1, 2-3, 3-2, 1-3, 1-3, 0-3, 3-2, 3-1, 3-2, 3-1, 3-2)