16-year-old Luke Littler makes history and Luke Humphries clinches Ally Pally classic

Littler is the youngest player to reach the quarter-finals of the World Darts Championship.

Jonathan Veal
Sunday 31 December 2023 00:16 GMT
Luke Littler celebrates victory over Raymond van Barneveld (Zac Goodwin/PA)
Luke Littler celebrates victory over Raymond van Barneveld (Zac Goodwin/PA) (PA Wire)

Teenage sensation Luke Littler continued his historic World Darts Championship journey by downing hero Raymond van Barneveld to reach the quarter-finals.

The 16-year-old has set the Alexandra Palace tournament alight on debut and is the youngest player ever to reach the last eight after a stunning 4-1 win.

He showed maturity and talent way beyond his tender years to get past the five-time world champion, who he used to imitate in front of the television as a three-year-old.

He peppered the treble 20 nine times and finished with an emphatic average of 105.01.

Littler, who has made the world sit up and take notice, will come back on New Year’s Day for a winnable quarter-final tie against Brendan Dolan and will be dreaming of going all the way.

Life has changed immeasurably since ‘The Nuke’ came into the tournament on the back of winning the World Youth Championship last month.

He is now a recognisable name and has enjoyed celebrity status after bursting on to the scenes with wins over Christian Kist, Andrew Gilding and Matt Campbell.

He has catapulted himself into the mainstream and whatever happens between now and Wednesday’s final, it will be Littler’s journey that is the talking point of the tournament.

He was not even born when Van Barneveld won the last of his five titles.

Video footage has emerged of a three-year-old Littler copying ‘Barney’s’ celebration and has admitted it was a dream to play him on the Ally Pally stage.

Teenager Luke Littler made history by defeating Raymond van Barneveld
Teenager Luke Littler made history by defeating Raymond van Barneveld (PA)

Littler enjoyed Van Barneveld’s famous walk-on as much as the raucous crowd, but soon got down to business, throwing a maximum on just his second visit and raced to the first set after an 11-dart leg.

He continued to dominate and went 3-0 up before moving one leg from dreamland.

Van Barneveld made him work hard for it by winning the next leg, but nothing was going to stop the teenager in the next set as the apprentice beat the master in style.

Next up for Littler is Brendan Dolan, who beat his second former world champion in three days when he ousted Gary Anderson 4-3.

It looked like the Northern Irishman, who dumped out Gerwyn Price in the third round, was heading out as Anderson rallied from 2-0 down to lead 3-2.

But Dolan composed himself and won the final two sets to reach the last eight.

“I’m over the moon,” he said. “I just think so much of Gary and how brilliant he is. It is not a bad couple of days. There has certain things that have happened that maybe make me think it’s meant to be.”

Luke Humphries clinched a thriller against Joe Cullen to reach the last eight
Luke Humphries clinched a thriller against Joe Cullen to reach the last eight (Getty Images)

The final match of the night saw Luke Humphries and Joe Cullen play out an Alexandra Palace classic that will be featured on the highlights reels for years to come.

Cullen took the opening two sets before Humphries found his rhythm and orchestrated a fight back. He missed a dart to go ahead 3-2 and Cullen pounced. Humphries then swept the sixth set in straight legs to force a decider which fluctuated back-and-forth.

The darts were with Cullen and he looked to have secured the win with an early break to go 2-0 up. That wasn’t to be as a Humphries nailed two three figure finishes to stay in touch.

At four legs apiece, Humphries nudged in front but Cullen came back to take the match to a sudden death shootout. Cullen missed his 121 checkout, Humphries landed his 100.

The World No. 3 goes through to the quarter-finals and will have his sights set on the title.

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