Christopher Toonders and Dylan Slevin claimed their maiden PDC titles on a thrilling day of Winmau Development Tour action in Milton Keynes, as the 2023 season began in sensational style on Friday.
This year’s Development Tour will see players aged 16-24 compete across five weekends in 2023, and Toonders and Slevin were victorious on a stunning opening day at the Marshall Arena.
Dortmund youngster Toonders made his Development Tour bow in 2022, making three appearances in the last 16 to showcase his ability amongst the sport’s brightest talents.
However, the 21-year-old came of age to triumph in Event One, reeling off three consecutive legs to defeat his compatriot Marvin Kraft 5-2 in an all-German final.
Toonders breezed through to the last 16 with four straight whitewash wins, before coming through a deciding-leg tie against 16-year-old Thomas Banks, who reached round four at the recent UK Open.
In the last eight, the German overcame another teenage sensation in the shape of Luke Littler, which he followed with victory over the returning Dutchman Wessel Nijman in the semi-finals.
Kraft, meanwhile, defeated emerging Dutchman Owen Roelofs and last year’s Development Tour Order of Merit winner Nathan Rafferty in the latter stages of his memorable run.
Rafferty enjoyed a strong start to his 2023 campaign, averaging 103 to whitewash Luke Van der Kwast and seeing off Keane Barry to book his place in the Event One semi-finals.
Nijman also impressed in reaching the same stage, clinching a quarter-final victory over former World Youth Champion Bradley Brooks, who averaged 120.24 in his second round rout of Sem Devoght.
Event Two saw Irish star Slevin edge out Littler in a thrilling final, surviving two-match darts to deny the 16-year-old in a dramatic nine-leg clash.
Slevin claimed a PDC Tour Card at UK Qualifying School in January, and he made a superb start to life on the professional circuit, reaching the semi-finals in his first ProTour event back in February.
The 20-year-old was beaten 4-2 by Littler in Event One, but he avenged that defeat to scoop the £2,500 top prize, fending off four 180s from the Warrington thrower to triumph with a 97 average.
Slevin averaged over 90 in seven of his eight matches in Event Two, defying a ton-plus average from Daniel Perry in a high-quality last 32 tussle.
He continued his progress by dumping out Danny Jansen and Rusty-Jake Rodriguez, and his win over Littler sees him top the embryonic Development Tour Order of Merit following Event Two.
However, Littler – who only became eligible for the Development Tour after turning 16 in January – underlined his credentials with a series of magnificent performances at the Marshall Arena.
The reigning JDC World Champion followed up his quarter-final showing in Event One by dropping a solitary leg in reaching the last 16.
Littler averaged 111 in his fourth round demolition of Stefan Dees, before accounting for two further Dutchmen Jarno Bottenberg and Roelofs in last-leg deciders.
The teenager then recorded a 5-3 semi-final win over Tavis Dudeney, who whitewashed UK Open semi-finalist Adam Gawlas and dispatched Cam Crabtree in his run to the last four.
Austrian ace Rodriguez also bowed out in the Event Two semi-finals, despite averaging over 106 to topple Damian Vetjens.
Slevin tops the Order of Merit ahead of Toonders and Littler following Friday’s opening day, with Roelofs in fourth spot following back-to-back quarter-final appearances.
This weekend’s Winmau Development Tour action will continue with Events Three and Four on Saturday – play will begin at approximately 1030 BST.
The top two players from the 2023 Development Tour Order of Merit will win a PDC Tour Card for 2024-25 and a place in the 2023/24 Cazoo World Darts Championship.
The event draws and results are listed in the Match Centre.
Click here for match stats and results.
2023 Winmau Development Tour
Friday March 31
Marshall Arena, Milton Keynes
Marvin Kraft 5-3 Owen Roelofs
Nathan Rafferty 5-2 Byron Garner
Christopher Toonders 5-3 Luke Littler
Wessel Nijman 5-3 Bradley Brooks
Marvin Kraft 5-1 Nathan Rafferty
Christopher Toonders 5-3 Wessel Nijman
Christopher Toonders 5-2 Marvin Kraft
Luke Littler 5-4 Owen Roelofs
Tavis Dudeney 5-1 Cam Crabtree
Rusty-Jake Rodriguez 5-2 Reece Colley
Dylan Slevin 5-0 Harry Gregory
Luke Littler 5-3 Tavis Dudeney
Dylan Slevin 5-3 Rusty-Jake Rodriguez
Dylan Slevin 5-4 Luke Littler