Trailblazer Littler one game away from darting immortality

Luke Littler (Taylor Lanning/PDC)

Teenage trailblazer Luke Littler is aiming to cap off his unprecedented success by lifting the Paddy Power World Darts Championship title at Alexandra Palace tonight.

The 16-year sensation has generated global headlines with his exploits over the last three weeks, shattering a host of records to underline his status as the sport’s most exciting talent.

Littler is now one game away from completing one of the greatest triumphs in sporting history, as he takes on newly crowned world number one Luke Humphries for the coveted Sid Waddell Trophy.

“I’ve got no words. It’s mind-blowing,” admitted Littler, the youngest player to ever feature in a World Championship final.

“I can’t believe I’m still here. It’s crazy to think I’m in a World Championship final.

“I’ve watched so many World Championship finals on TV, and now I’m in one myself. It’s unbelievable.”

Littler is the fourth-youngest player to have ever featured in the sport’s flagship event, and he’s accounted for some of the biggest names in the game throughout his ground-breaking run.

The Warrington youngster kicked off his campaign with a straight-sets demolition of former Lakeside Champion Christian Kist, averaging 106 to cap off a dream debut.

He then overcame UK Open champion Andrew Gilding and Canada’s number one Matt Campbell to progress to a last 16 showdown against his darting idol Raymond van Barneveld.

Littler wasn’t even born when Van Barneveld lifted the sport’s holy grail in 2007, but he came of age to topple the Dutch legend, averaging 105 on his way to a stunning 4-1 success.

The World Youth Champion then swept aside Northern Ireland’s Brendan Dolan in the last eight, before producing an inspired display to dispatch 2018 champion Rob Cross in the semi-finals.

Littler recovered from losing the opening set to record a remarkable 6-2 victory, averaging 106, hitting 16 maximums and converting a trio of ton-plus checkouts to continue his fairy-tale run.

“It hasn’t sunk in yet,” conceded Littler, who has now registered more 105+ averages on the Alexandra Palace stage than the likes of Michael Smith and Peter Wright.

“I remember after the Christian Kist game, I was trending on social media in front of [Kylian] Mbappe. It’s crazy!

“I’ve thrown big averages on the floor all year round, but I’m so happy to have brought that form up on to the biggest stage of them all.

“It would be unbelievable to win this title. I set myself the target to win one game and be back after Christmas, and now I could go all the way.

“I can’t even imagine lifting that trophy yet though. I’ve just got to stay focused, relax and be Luke Littler.”

Littler, who was crowned Winmau World Youth Champion last month, is the first unseeded player to progress to a World Championship final since Simon Whitlock in 2010.

The teenager has already broken into the world’s top 32 after scooping a minimum of £200,000 in prize money, and victory tonight would see him rise to world number nine.

“It’s crazy to think I’m alongside those big names,” admitted Littler, a winner of five Development Tour titles in 2023.

“I’m so happy to be in the world’s top 32, and I could go even higher.

“I’ve just got to stay focused throughout the game.

“I learnt that when I played Andrew Gilding. When I went 2-0 up I let all my emotions out, and I came back after the break and lost the set 3-0.

“So from now on, if I do go two or three sets clear, I will just compose myself, because that’s not the finish line.”

Littler has conceded six sets in as many matches to progress to the biggest match on the darting calendar, but he now faces high-flying Humphries for the right to be crowned World Darts Champion.

The 28-year-old produced a merciless display to whitewash Scott Williams in their last four clash, averaging 108.74 and conjuring up six ton-plus finishes.

The Berkshire-born superstar also averaged 103 in his quarter-final demolition of Dave Chisnall, and his win over Williams confirmed his status as the new world number one – irrespective of the outcome tonight.

However, having already dumped out Van Barneveld and Cross – who also ironically lifted the sport’s biggest prize on debut – Littler is relishing the challenge.

“I met Luke four years ago at the Hayland Island darts festival,” recalled Littler, who boasts a tournament average of 101.82 across his six matches.

“I was only 12 at the time, so I could only play in the under-12 and under-15 category.

“It’s amazing to look at Luke there and see the changes he’s made, the major titles he’s won and the winning streak he’s one.

“He’s on an 18-match winning streak, but I’ve beaten three former World Champions to get here, so I think I will perform once again.”

2023/24 Paddy Power World Darts Championship
Wednesday January 3 (2000 GMT)

Luke Littler v Luke Humphries
Best of 13 sets