Saturday, June 22, 2024

Q&A: Luke Littler’s astonishing rise to stardom catapults darts to new heights

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Luke Littler’s incredible rise continued as he became the youngest-ever major champion by winning the Premier League on Thursday.

The 17-year-old threw a nine-darter on his way to an 11-7 victory over world champion Luke Humphries at the O2 Arena.

Here, the PA news agency takes a look at some of the key questions surrounding Littler.

What has Littler achieved so far?

Littler burst onto the scene with his record-breaking debut run to the final of the World Championship over Christmas and the first few months of life on the PDC Tour have proved that he is on a one-way track to stardom. He won titles on his debut in the World Series, Pro Tour and European Tour but it is his performance in the Premier League which showed he is already the real deal. He topped the 16-week league phase, with four nightly wins, before disposing of Michael Smith and Humphries at the O2 to claim the second biggest prize in the sport.

What is next?

A date at Wembley on Saturday calls as Littler has tickets to see his beloved Manchester United in the FA Cup final. He then heads to New York next week for a World Series event where he hopes to build his profile in the United States. Then all roads lead to Blackpool for the World Matchplay, widely regarded as the third-most important tournament after the World Championships and Premier League. Other major events to come later in the year include the Grand Prix and the Grand Slam of Darts before he returns to Ally Pally hoping to go one better.

How good can he be?

Littler has the potential to be one of the most successful darts players ever (Zac Goodwin/PA)

Given Littler will not be old enough to vote in the forthcoming general election, there is still plenty of time for his game to get even better, which is a frightening prospect. His weight of scoring – he broke the record for the most 180s in a Premier League campaign – already puts him among the best and he has proven he has the mental strength to succeed as well. Winning his first major title on such a big stage will only help him going forward and perhaps Humphries was only half-joking when he said people will get bored of him winning everything over the next decade or so.

What has his impact been on the sport?

Littler has almost single-handedly taken darts to a new level, where it is now heading towards the mainstream. His fame has seen him appear on the Jonathan Ross Show, Comic Relief as well as popular podcasts while he also presented a Brit Award. Viewing figures are increasing, with only Premier League football attracting more viewers to Sky Sports. Fans have also been flocking to the arenas to see Littler in action as there were sell-outs across the 16 weeks of the Premier League, while the 14,000 in attendance at the O2 on Thursday is a record for a PDC event in this country.

What do the other players make of his success?

BetMGM Premier League 2024 – Play Offs – The O2
Michael Smith is one of the players who has taken Littler under his wing (Zac Goodwin/PA)

It is accurate to say that Littler’s emergence has ruffled a few feathers. While the likes of Humphries, Nathan Aspinall and Smith have taken him under their wing, others have not been so welcoming. Smith has spoken about how lower-ranked players are bitter about the opportunities he is getting that his ranking would not ordinarily afford him. James Wade has also revealed that some of the players at the top of the game are “very, very, very jealous” of Littler’s fame.

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