Littler enjoys dream Madison Square Garden debut

Luke Littler (Ed Mulholland/PDC)

Luke Littler enjoyed a dream debut on the opening night of the 2024 bet365 US Darts Masters, as Jeff Smith continued his New York love-affair with victory over former champion Michael Smith.

Day One of the World Series of Darts event saw Littler take centre stage at Madison Square Garden, as the teenage sensation powered past Canadian number one Matt Campbell with a 103.66 average.

Littler was roared on by a partisan American crowd after using Cody Rhodes’ entrance music, having received a message from the undisputed WWE Champion on Thursday.

“I couldn’t wait to get on that stage tonight,” revealed Littler, making his first competitive appearance since his incredible Premier League triumph at London’s O2.

“I felt really comfortable and everything just went well. I can’t wait to play tomorrow now.

“With the amount of top athletes that have performed here, it would mean the world to lift this trophy, and hopefully I can go all the way.”

Friday’s opening night saw eight first-round ties take place in The Theater, with last year’s runner-up Smith the solitary North American representative to topple a PDC superstar.

The reigning North American champion punished a below-par display from 2023 World Champion Smith to celebrate a 6-1 success, pinning six of his nine attempts at double to prevail.

“I absolutely love New York. This city has pretty adopted me,” reflected Smith, who will take on Littler for a place in the semi-finals.

“I’m Jeff Smith, I’m not worried about Luke Littler. He’s a generational talent, there’s no doubt about that, but I just have to worry about what I do.

“I’m here with a point to prove, and that’s it. Me reaching the final wasn’t a fluke last year, and I want to come back and compete again.”

Fresh from celebrating his engagement to his fiancée Kayley on Thursday, World Champion Luke Humphries whitewashed Canadian veteran David Cameron to continue his memorable week in the Big Apple.

“I felt a little bit nervous tonight because I wanted to put on a show and entertain the crowd,” admitted Humphries, who now faces Nathan Aspinall in a blockbuster last eight tussle.

“I’m expecting a tough game tomorrow, as I always expect from Nathan. He’s one of the best players in the world, and if we’re both at our best it will be a fantastic game.

“This is always going to be a special time for me, regardless of what happens tomorrow, but I’m here to win a tournament now, and that would top off what’s been a great week.”

Reigning champion Michael van Gerwen began his defence of the title with a 6-1 win over Danny Lauby, reeling off six straight legs to continue his bid for a record-extending third US Darts Masters crown.

“The performance wasn’t really there tonight, but tomorrow we’re going to battle with the big boys,” declared Van Gerwen, who also won the tournament’s inaugural staging in Las Vegas in 2017.

“Rob is a fantastic dart player. He’s probably one of the most underestimated players on the tour, but tomorrow is a different day.

“It would be nice to win the title for a second year running, but I can’t afford to make any mistakes, because they can be made very quickly.”

Elsewhere, Peter Wright won through an edgy last-leg shoot-out against CDC Cross Border Challenge winner Alex Spellman, producing a 14-dart hold in the decider to book his place in the quarter-finals.

Spellman followed up a 150 checkout in leg five with a spectacular 167 skin-saver on his way to forcing a decider, although Wright fended off the American with a nerveless two-dart 100 finish to progress.

Wright’s reward is a quarter-final showdown against Gerwyn Price, who defied 18 missed darts at double to overcome Jules van Dongen, crashing in six 180s to complete a 6-3 victory.

2019 champion Nathan Aspinall impressed in his 6-2 drubbing of Grand Slam quarter-finalist Stowe Buntz, while Rob Cross eased to a comprehensive 6-1 victory against big stage debutant Adam Sevada.

The US Darts Masters will conclude on Saturday evening, as the quarter-finals, semi-finals and final take place in a bumper session at Madison Square Garden.

Saturday's afternoon session will feature the bet365 North American Championship, as the eight US and Canadian stars battle for the coveted title and places in the World Darts Championship and Grand Slam of Darts.

The bet365 US Darts Masters will be broadcast live through DAZN in the US and Canada, as well as in various other worldwide territories and exclusively in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

Other live global coverage will be broadcast through Viaplay in various territories including the Netherlands, as well as via PDCTV in all countries outside Germany, Austria and Switzerland, and ITVX in the UK.

Delayed ITV coverage in the UK will be as follows:
1700-2100 BST Saturday on ITV4 - showing First Round

Click here for match stats & results.

2024 bet365 US Darts Masters
Friday May 31
First Round

Rob Cross 6-1 Adam Sevada
Nathan Aspinall 6-2 Stowe Buntz
Peter Wright 6-5 Alex Spellman
Gerwyn Price 6-3 Jules van Dongen
Michael van Gerwen 6-1 Danny Lauby
Luke Humphries 6-0 David Cameron
Luke Littler 6-0 Matt Campbell
Jeff Smith 6-1 Michael Smith

Saturday June 1 (1300 EST)
2024 bet365 North American Darts Championship
Schedule of Play

Matt Campbell v Jeff Smith
Alex Spellman v David Cameron
Danny Lauby v Adam Sevada
Jules van Dongen v Stowe Buntz

Campbell/Smith v Spellman/Cameron
Lauby/Sevada v Van Dongen/Buntz

All games - best of 11 legs

bet365 US Darts Masters (1900 EST)
Michael van Gerwen v Rob Cross
Luke Humphries v Nathan Aspinall
Luke Littler v Jeff Smith
Gerwyn Price v Peter Wright
Best of 11 legs

Van Gerwen/Cross v Humphries/Aspinall
Littler/J Smith v Price/Wright
Best of 13 legs

Best of 15 legs