Humphries praises Littler ahead of Dutch Darts Masters clash

Luke Humphries (Kelly Decker/PDC)

World Champion Luke Humphries has paid tribute to teenage sensation Luke Littler ahead of their quarter-final clash at the TOTO Dutch Darts Masters on Saturday.

Humphries and Littler will lock horns in a repeat of their epic World Darts Championship final at De Maaspoort on Saturday, as the second staging of the World Series of Darts event concludes in Den Bosch.

Humphries saw his astonishing 20-match winning run come to an end at the hands of Gerwyn Price in Bahrain last week, as he suffered his first competitive defeat since October’s European Championship.

However, the world number one returned to winning ways with a six-leg blitz of Jermaine Wattimena in Friday’s opening round, dispatching the Dutchman in just over ten minutes.

“It can be a relief because you can reset the streak and go again,” reflected Humphries, who averaged 93.94 and landed six of his 12 attempts at double to whitewash Wattimena.

“That’s my goal now before I retire. I want to beat that 20-0 streak, but it does feel like a weight off my shoulders and I’m ready to go again now!”

Nevertheless, the 28-year-old faces a tough test against a rampant Littler, who began his bid for back-to-back World Series titles with a 6-2 victory against Dirk van Duijvenbode.

The 17-year-old has taken the darting world by storm over recent weeks, and Humphries was full of praise for his young rival.

“I think Luke deserves all the plaudits he’s getting,” insisted Humphries, who will also face Littler on the opening night of the 2024 Premier League in Cardiff on Thursday.

“He has achieved something that I don’t think we will ever see again. Luke is the star of the show at the moment, and I think we all accept that.

“I’m really looking forward to tonight, but I don’t think it will have any bearing on what happens in Cardiff.

“I’ve got the important one in my mind. I got the one that I really wanted to win and that was the World Championship title, but that’s in the past now, and I’m looking to the future.”

Littler also arrived in Den Bosch as a PDC title winner, having followed up a sensational nine-darter in Bahrain by defeating Michael van Gerwen to triumph on his World Series of Darts debut.

“It meant the world to me,” revealed the World Youth Champion, the youngest player to win a senior PDC title.

“In practice last night nothing was really going, but I thought I played well against Dirk, and I’m just happy to win again.

“Obviously I won in Bahrain at my first attempt, and now I’ve won my first game here, so I’m really happy.

“I just want to keep on doing what I do best, which is playing good darts and winning as many games as I can.

“It’s important for me to stay grounded. I know I’ve achieved a lot, but it’s a new year this year, so I’m just focusing on 2024.”

The other quarter-final tussle in the top half of the draw will see Gerwyn Price take on Kevin Doets for a place in the semi-finals.

Wales’ World Cup winner Price produced the performance of the first round to topple reigning champion Dimitri Van den Bergh, averaging 103 and defying a ton-plus average from the Belgian to prevail.

His reward is a last eight tie against Dutchman Doets, who crashed in six maximums and averaged 98 to demolish an out-of-sorts Peter Wright on his World Series of Darts debut.

Saturday January 27 (1900 local time, 1800 GMT)
Luke Littler v Luke Humphries
Gerwyn Price v Kevin Doets
Michael van Gerwen v Raymond van Barneveld
Gian van Veen v Danny Noppert
Best of 11 legs

Littler/Humphries v Price/Doets
Van Gerwen/Van Barneveld v Van Veen/Noppert
Best of 13 legs

Littler/Humphries/Price/Doets v Van Gerwen/Van Barneveld/Van Veen/Noppert
Best of 15 legs