Littler, 16, loses World Darts Championship final to end stunning run
Luke Littler’s history-making run at the World Darts Championship ended Wednesday when the 16-year-old sensation was beaten 7-4 in the final by Luke Humphries.
The unseeded Littler was on debut at the tournament and would have become the youngest-ever winner of darts’ biggest prize, but lost an epic match at the Alexandra Palace in London.
At one point the teenager had the chance to take a 5-2 lead, only for world No. 1 Humphries to come back to win five straight sets, his first world title and 500,000 pounds ($630,000) in prize money.
“Honestly, I was thinking in the back of my mind, ‘Get this one now’ because he’s going to dominate world darts soon," Humphries said after lifting the trophy. ”He’s an incredible talent. I had to win this one tonight, but he’s going to win plenty, I’m sure.”
As runner-up, Littler won 200,000 pounds ($250,000) in prize money and looks likely to contend for major titles for years to come after making history by becoming youngest finalist.
Littler's run has seen his fame rise as he’s made front-page headlines. He also moved up to 32 in the world ranking after taking the tournament by storm.
“I’m happy, top 32, runner-up on my debut. Unbelievable,” he said.
Littler dispatched Canadian Matt (Ginja Ninja) Campbell 4-1 in the third round.
Campbell, a native of Hamilton who had lost his four previous matches at the world championships prior to this year, defeated Lourence Ilagan of the Philippines in the first round before upsetting 13th-seeded James (The Machine) Wade of England.
Littler won the world youth title last year and was already earning a big reputation within the sport before this championship. But his performances took many by surprise after knocking out two former world champions in Raymond van Barneveld and Rob Cross to reach the final.
While his showmanship on the stage proved popular with rowdy crowds at the tournament, his easy-going nature off it has added to his charm.
Speaking ahead of the final, he said he would stick to his pre-match routine of eating a ham-and-cheese omelette, and then later a pizza.
“You will never see a 16-year-old kid as down to earth as him — he’s just something else," Humphries said. "He is one of the best players in the world, no doubt about that.”
Humphries proved a challenge too far for Littler. The No. 3 seed had gone into the tournament on the back of winning three major titles in the space of two months and blasted his way to the final with a 6-0 win against Scott Williams to extend an 18-game winning run.
But there were still moments when Littler looked capable of completing one of the unlikeliest triumphs in sport. After an uneasy start, he twice came back from a set down to level the match at 2-2 before racing to a 4-2 lead.
He missed a double to win a fifth set and Humphries took charge from then on.
Multiple champion Michael van Gerwen remains the youngest player to win the World Darts Championship after his victory in 2014 when he was 24.
Jelle Klaasen was 21 when he won the now defunct British Darts Organisation world title in 2006.
Littler, from Runcorn in northwest England, turns 17 later this month and still has time on his side to set a new record.
James Robson is at https://twitter.com/jamesalanrobson
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