From Alexandra Palace to Bahrain via Old Trafford and some words of wisdom from Sir Alex Ferguson.
The life of Luke Littler shows few signs of returning to normality following his run to the World Championship final but, 15 days on from starring in the most watched darts match in history, the 16-year-old is back to what he does best.
Playing live on ITVX in the invitational World Series of Darts, Littler overcame a stuttering start, which included seven missed throws at doubles in the first leg, to eventually sweep to a 6-3 first round win on Thursday against Hong Kong’s Man-Lok Leung.
With an average of 98, despite missing 17 out of 23 shots at a double, Littler’s devastating scoring power was again evident at the critical moments and he will now face the world No 4 Nathan Aspinall in Friday’s quarter-finals.
— ITV Sport (@ITVSport) January 18, 2024
Accompanied in Bahrain by his dad Anthony, Littler had arrived in the Middle East fresh from a week’s family holiday and then tickets to watch Manchester United’s 2-2 draw against Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday.
“It’s been crazy,” said Littler, who is a huge United fan. “Warrington Wolves invited me down and I went to the United game and met Sir Alex Ferguson.
“To meet him was amazing and he said some lovely things to me about staying dedicated and believing in myself. My life’s changed and my family’s life has changed so much, and I’m grateful for the opportunities I’m getting.
“But now it’s back to business for me. Was there a little bit of rust? Yeah. I’ve not had a proper game, a professional game, since the World Championship final. I’m happy to get over the line.
“The schedule is crazy - I’m just looking forward to playing my darts. I like playing all the time.”
The Bahrain Masters, which comes with a £20,00 first prize, is being played over only two days and is made up of eight of the Professional Darts Corporation’s leading players alongside eight of the best players from Asia.
Leung had earned his place after reaching the second round of the World Championship on the Ally Pally stage last month and, having taken the opening two legs against Littler, briefly threatened an upset.
Littler, though, was able to shift up a gear when it mattered to hit a maximum 180, a 77 checkout to snatch the third leg and then another maximum 180 in three consecutive visits. It was the catalyst he needed and, from 2-0 down, the world youth champion suddenly surged into a 5-2 lead before closing out the match in the ninth leg.
Other star players also progressed into the quarter-finals, with new world champion Luke Humphries beating Abdulla Saeed 6-0 and both Aspinall and Peter Wright surviving final leg shoot-outs before prevailing. Also through is the three-times former world champion Michael van Gerwen. The tournament will be played to a finish in Bahrain on Friday when the quarter-finals, semi-finals and finals will all take place.
Littler, who will turn 17 on Sunday, has also been selected to play in the Premier League darts competition that takes place across 17 different dates at major venues across Europe every Thursday from the start of February until the final’s night at London’s O2 on May 23.