Newly crowned world number one Luke Humphries will take on 16-year-old sensation Luke Littler tonight, as the pair battle to lift the Paddy Power World Darts Championship for the first time.
Humphries whitewashed unseeded Scott Williams – who dumped out three-time World Champion Michael van Gerwen – in the semi-finals, registering a tournament-best 108.74 average with an incredible 14 maximums.
“It’s really special to make the World Championship final," claimed the 28-year-old, who had made a trio of quarter-finals at Alexandra Palace prior to this year.
"It's something I never really dreamed of happening so early on in my career.
“The game against Scott was probably one of the best performances I’ve ever produced on the stage; I just hope it isn’t one game too early!
“I needed to put in a statement performance because Luke [Littler] was fantastic tonight, and if I put in an edgy performance then everybody would’ve probably thought it was a one-sided final.”
“You would think he [Littler] will feel pressure tomorrow but I don’t think he will with the way he handled himself against Rob. I don’t think there’s any nerves coming from him.
“With the way I played against Scott, I don’t think there’s any nerves coming from me [either], but in those really close edgy moments no one knows what’s going to happen.
“For one of us, our lives will change forever, so there’s a lot on the line, and I feel like when you’re in those career-defining moments, who knows what will happen?”
The Berkshire-born superstar first played a 12-year-old Littler four years ago, and admitted he was wary of the special talent the Warrington youngster possessed, even at such a young age.
“The first time I played him I think he was 12 and he was scarily good then," revealed Humphries, a winner of the World Grand Prix, Grand Slam of Darts and Players Championship Finals in 2023.
“It was in a local competition, and he missed a 164 to go two all and I think I took out a 64 in three – it says a lot that I remembered what happened.
“He’s showed that he’s the real deal and regardless of what happens [in the final], he’s got a massive, massive future.”
"Hopefully I can win tomorrow, then he can go on and win loads afterwards!”
Humphries has justified his pre-tournament favourite tag but faces a tough assignment in Littler, who boasts the highest tournament average - standing at 101.82 - out of any of the 96 participants.
The teenage sensation trailed for the first time in the entire tournament when he dropped the opening set against 2018 champion Rob Cross, but showed his mental strength to take the next three on the spin.
“I just pointed to my family and my friends that it’s only one set,” reflected Littler, who averaged 106.05, posted 16 180s and landed 132, 142 and 149 checkouts.
“Rob missed 86 to go 2-0 up; maybe that would’ve changed things, but I dug deep and won that set and also won the game.
"I’ve already beaten three former World Champions, so I’ve just got to beat whoever’s in front of me. I know Luke is on an 18-game winning streak, so it will be tough!"
If the youngster can achieve the greatest triumph the sport has ever seen by lifting the Sid Waddell Trophy, he will become the youngster winner of a PDC Premier event, shattering Van Gerwen’s record who lifted the World Grand Prix in 2012 aged 23.
2023/24 Paddy Power World Darts Championship
Wednesday January 3 (2000 GMT)
Luke Littler v Luke Humphries
Best of 13 sets