Luke Littler beats three of world’s top five to win first senior title at Bahrain Masters

Luke Littler celebrates his nine-darter at the Bahrain Masters
Luke Littler celebrates his nine-darter at the Bahrain Masters - ITV4

A perfect nine-dart finish, a maximum checkout of 170 and victory on his World Series debut; Luke Littler’s fairy-tale start to his professional darts career goes on.

In the space of three extraordinary hours in Bahrain, Littler followed up his World Championship final by beating three of the world’s top five players to become not just the youngest player to win a senior professional title but also the youngest to make a nine-darter live on television.

Michael van Gerwen, one of Littler’s heroes, was his opponent in the Bahrain Masters final but the 16-year-old showed few nerves in clinically toppling the three-times former world champion 8-5.

“No one probably believes it but I’ve not thrown a dart since the world final,” said Littler, who collected a £20,000 first prize ahead of his 17th birthday on Sunday to add to the £200,000 he won in reaching the world final. “Michael is one of the very best,” he added. “It’s been unbelievable and I’m just happy to come out as the winner on my debut.”

Further wins on Friday evening against Nathan Aspinall, the world No 4, and Gerwyn Price, the world No 5, had set up a mouth-watering final against Van Gerwen, one of the sport’s all-time greats and the dominant force in darts over the past decade.

Van Gerwen had claimed last month that he was more talented that Littler at the same age but that claim was hardly substantiated in this first match of what will surely become one of darts’ great rivalries.

The Dutch world No 2 has previously won 15 World Series events as well as more than 100 titles in the Professional Darts Corporation but was instantly on the back foot against Littler’s power scoring.

A crucial break of throw arrived in leg eight and, while both men did then miss chances, Littler was assured in holding throw when the title was in reach by checking out with his first attempt at double 20.

“He had a fantastic tournament - of course I’m disappointed ... I’ll get him, don’t worry,” said Van Gerwen, before urging caution: “Let him grow, don’t push him, give him his time and everything will come, no problem.”

Littler had earlier begun his quarter-final against Aspinall with consecutive 180s before nonchalantly going treble 20, treble 19 and double 12 for a 141 checkout to complete his nine-dart finish.

He looked genuinely ecstatic, celebrating the feat with an on-stage jig and fist pump before regaining his focus to complete a 6-3 win. A towering 104.5 average also confirmed no dip in the extraordinary form that he displayed this month in reaching the World Championship final at Alexandra Palace.

Littler has achieved the nine-dart feat previously in junior competition but this was a competitive first by any player in 2024. It also makes him an instant member of the illustrious list to have produced a perfect leg on live television that began with John Lowe some 40 years ago.

In Littler, there can be no doubt that darts has a superstar with the potential to not just join the all-time greats but bring the sport to an entirely new audience.

“It’s good to get one on TV,” said Littler following his nine-darter. “Hopefully I hit a few more. I just take it game by game.”

Littler then faced Price, the 2021 world champion, in the semi-finals after the Welshman had earlier knocked out Luke Humphries, the tournament favourite. Littler was memorably beaten by Humphries in the World Championship final 16 days earlier and Price’s victory over the world No 1 ended a run of 20 straight wins that stretches back some two months.

It ensured no rematch of the most-watched darts match in history and, after the opening five legs had all been won by the player throwing first, the semi-final turned on a moment of Littler magic in leg six. Needing 350 to finish, Littler stepped in with consecutive visits of 180 and then a 170 checkout – the highest possible on a dartboard with two treble 20s and a bullseye – to break Price’s throw. He then streaked into a 6-2 lead before completing a 7-3 victory to set up a final against Van Gerwen, who had earlier beaten former world champions Rob Cross and Michael Smith.

The Bahrain Masters, which was played over only two days, was made up of eight of the PDCs leading players alongside eight of the best players from Asia.

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 at London’s O2 on May 23.

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 when he received words of advice from Sir Alex Ferguson.

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