Sixteen-year-old darts sensation Luke Littler’s dreams of clinching the world title were dashed on Wednesday when Luke Humphries took five sets in a row from 4-2 down to triumph 7-4 in the final.
World youth champion Littler had stunned the tournament by his magical run on his tournament debut to the championship finale, having arrived in London ranked a lowly 164 in the world.
The teenager, after a nervy start, found his form and had a dart to lead 5-2 as he tried to become the sport’s youngest world champion
But Littler missed a tough double two, paving the way for a Humphries fight back in front of a packed crowd at Alexandra Palace as the 28-year-old world number one defeated his fellow Englishman to win a maiden world title.
“It has been unbelievable,” said Littler, a newly wealthy young man after pocketing a runners-up cheque worth £200,000 (231,958 euros).
“The one negative was I lost too many legs with my throw so Luke could break me.”
He added: “Every game has been good but that one has just really annoyed me. Fair play to Luke, he deserves it.”
The final atmosphere reflected the boisterous, good-natured mood of the event with hundreds of spectators donning fancy dress—from Super Mario characters to Oompa Loompas.
Victory extended Humphries’ winning streak to a remarkable 19 matches and meant he’d triumphed in four of the last five major tournaments.
“I’ll draw a lot from this and this will be a moment that will never be forgotten,” said Humphries, who also paid tribute to Littler.
“He’s an incredible talent. I had to win this one tonight and he’s going to win plenty I’m sure.
“He said go on and celebrate. You will never see a 16-year-old kid like him…He’s one of the best players in the world, there is no doubt about that.”
Littler’s defeat was not the fairytale finish many darts fans, and those drawn to the sport by the rising social media star stunning progress, had hoped to see.
But Littler’s run to the final did include a 4-1 hammering of five-time world champion Raymond van Barneveld along the way.
Humphries won five successive legs early in the final and had darts for a 2-0 lead in sets.
But he missed and Littler responded with 142 and 120 checkouts to level at 1-1.
After ‘Cool Hand’, the nickname for Humphries, went 2-1 up, Littler hit back by taking three straight sets to lead 4-2
The tide turned, however, in the seventh set as Humphries took his chance after Littler’s missed double and he then levelled the match at 4-4 after a 121 checkout.
There was no stopping Humphries now.
He hit two bulls when he wanted a bull and a 25 for the title.
But he returned to the board after Littler’s misses, taking the match with a double eight and sinking to his knees in joy.
A tearful Littler was consoled by the match referee before congratulating Humphries, now £500,000 better off, on his victory.
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