Resilient Humphries digging deep in his bid for World Matchplay glory

Luke Humphries (Taylor Lanning/PDC)

Luke Humphries believes his growing resilience can inspire him to Betfred World Matchplay glory ahead of his quarter-final showdown against Damon Heta on Friday night.

Humphries battled back from 10-7 adrift to win through an epic second round tie-break against Dirk van Duijvenbode on Wednesday, surviving a match dart on his way to a dramatic 14-12 victory.

The 28-year-old endured a nightmare on the outer ring in the opening exchanges, before launching a spirited fightback to preserve his hopes of lifting a first senior televised title on Sunday.

“I felt really flat, but I dug deep, and that’s what champions do,” insisted Humphries, who defied nine 180s from the Dutchman to move through to his first quarter-final at the Winter Gardens.

“I’m not saying I am a champion, but sometimes you have to get through these really tough games when you’re not at your best.

“Two years ago I would have lost that game 11-5 or 11-6, but I dug in, I gave everything I had and I’m very proud of myself for that.”

Humphries’ next assignment will see him take on Australian number one Heta, who followed up his opening round win over Josh Rock with an 11-1 drubbing of Brendan Dolan in the last 16.

Heta has embraced the role of pantomime villain with his Ashes-themed walk-ons at the Empress Ballroom, but Humphries is hoping to leave his opponent in a spin on Friday night.

“I’m thinking about doing something on the walk-on to get the crowd on my side,” teased Humphries, who has won all three of his meetings against Heta in 2023.

“If I was in the crowd I would be really enjoying his banter with the cricket, but I’m hoping over the next few days England have pulled something back and we’re looking good in the Test Series.

“Me and Damon get on really well. He’s a fantastic guy, but I’m going to come out all guns blazing to try and put him away.”

Humphries has made tremendous strides over the last 18 months, scooping five European Tour titles and reaching back-to-back televised semi-finals in November to continue his ascent up the darting pyramid.

The former UK Open runner-up is yet to lift a televised ranking title, but he’s now the favourite to claim one of the sport’s most coveted prizes following an extraordinary sequence of upsets in Blackpool.

World number six Humphries is the highest-ranked player left standing at the Winter Gardens, after the world’s top five were all knocked out before the quarter-final stage.

As a result, this is the first televised event that won’t include one of Michael van Gerwen, Peter Wright, Gerwyn Price or Michael Smith in the last eight since the 2014 Players Championship Finals.

However, Humphries is refusing to get carried away by any potential title talk, and insists the remaining six players will all believe they can lift the Phil Taylor Trophy on Sunday night.

“When you think it’s your biggest opportunity to win the second biggest major on the calendar, if you don’t pull through there could be some heartbreak for sure,” Humphries conceded.

“Having said that, I don’t think there’s a favourite. It is such an open field. This game is evolving to the point now where nobody is unbeatable.

“When I’m on my game, I can beat anybody, but every other player left in the competition can also beat me as well.

“I think every player is going to be looking at it thinking: ‘This is a great opportunity for us all,’ and that makes it so exciting for the fans.”

Friday’s other quarter-final tie will see Ryan Searle and Jonny Clayton locking horns, after the pair dumped out former champions Peter Wright and Dimitri Van den Bergh to reach the last eight.

Searle produced the performance of the first round to demolish Dutch legend Raymond van Barneveld, before claiming another major scalp to topple 2021 winner Wright in the last 16.

Clayton, meanwhile, delivered a finishing masterclass in his 11-6 success against Van den Bergh, converting 126, 156 and 170 checkouts to progress with an average of almost 102.

2023 Betfred World Matchplay
Thursday July 20
2x Quarter-Finals

Joe Cullen 16-11 Daryl Gurney
Nathan Aspinall 16-12 Chris Dobey

Friday July 21 (2000 BST)
2x Quarter-Finals

Ryan Searle v Jonny Clayton
Damon Heta v Luke Humphries
Best of 31 legs