Luke Littler fired a nine-darter on his way to winning a Players Championship event on debut in Wigan.
Littler beat Ryan Searle 8-7 in the final with an average of 110, after hitting the stunning nine-darter against Italian Michele Turetta in the last 32.
He nearly fired his second nine-darter of the night in the last 16 against Cameron Menzies, but came agonisingly short of the feat.
How Littler won in Wigan
Littler fired an average of over 105 during a 6-1 victory over Jim Williams in the opening round, then saw off Luke Woodhouse 6-3 to set up a last-32 meeting with Michele Turetta.
The 17-year-old broke his opponent in the third leg and raced into a 5-1 lead, before signing off victory in style with a nine-darter to book his place in the next round.
Littler nearly made another nine-darter in the last 16, missing the D12 for the perfect leg in the fifth leg of his 6-2 victory over Menzies, where he averaged nearly 109 and won legs in 10 and 11 darts.
He continued his run by beating James Hurrell 6-3 in the quarter-finals, then came through a thrilling final-leg decider against Scotland’s Alan Soutar.
Soutar missed five darts to move into a 6-4 advantage and Littler edged ahead with a 150 checkout, then responded to losing the next by finding a 78 finish in the final leg to reach the final where he beat Searle in a deciding leg.
It is the second nine-darter of the season for Littler, who also produced a perfect leg against Nathan Aspinall in the opening round of his Bahrain Darts Masters victory last month.
Littler was beaten in the final of the Dutch Darts Masters by Michael van Gerwen the following week and has also impressed in the Premier League, reaching the semi-finals of night one in Cardiff before losing the final to Van Gerwen in Berlin.
The World Series and Premier League events do not count towards the world rankings, meaning the Players Championship events over the next two days are the first chance for Littler to earn points since his sensational run to the World Championship final.
Littler eyes qualification for World Matchplay and Grand Prix
After his win in Wigan on his Players Championship debut, Littler spoke of his eagerness to qualify for this year’s World Matchplay and World Grand Prix events.
The two tournaments see the top 16 players on the PDC Order of Merit qualify as seeds, with the top 16 players on the ProTour Order of Merit, not to have already qualified, making up the 32 unseeded.
« Me and my manager know what I have to do to qualify for the World Matchplay and the World Grand Prix so, after [winning] the first event, I’m not far off, » Littler said.
« I know I’ve got about 13 or 14 ProTour [events] before the matchplay, but it’s always good to get off to a good start. I want to try and qualify for everything. »
He added: « I know my game is there and I can beat anyone. I know I can win one of these, which I have done at my first event.
« It takes huge pressure off because I don’t want to be going into the last few [events] before the matchplay having to win one or two of them. This has helped me even more now. »
What else happened in Players Championship 01?
Littler’s nine-dart leg was the third of the opening day of the Pro Tour season at the Robin Park Tennis Centre, with teenager Leighton Bennett making one against Lukas Wenig and Mickey Mansell repeating the feat in his second-round tie against Krzysztof Ratajski.
Peter Wright continued his poor form with a first-round loss to Dutchman Maik Kuivenhoven, while Turetta – beaten by Littler later in the day – dumped out top seed Dave Chisnall in the last 128. World champion Luke Humphries was beaten in straight legs by Ian White in the second round.
Gerwyn Price came through a final-leg decider against Karel Sedlacek and saw off Matthew Dennant to reach the last 32, only for him to withdraw mid-match against Brendan Dolan and then criticise the event on social media.
Price, who was 4-2 down at the time, said on his Instagram story: « Absolutely pathetic conditions, travel all the way to Wigan to play in a professional game and we have to play in less than amateur conditions.
« Never have I ever given a game up. Well that’s me out to tomorrow as well, gutted because my game was really good today and I rely on these events so much. »
Live Premier League Darts
Thursday 15th February 7:00pm
What is next for Littler?
There is another Players Championship event on Tuesday, before Littler is back in action on Thursday when the Premier League Darts heads to the OVO Hydro in Glasgow for Night Three.
Littler faces Price and Nathan Aspinall takes on Humphries, while Rob Cross plays Michael Smith and Van Gerwen takes Wright. Watch the Premier League live on Thursday from 7pm on Sky Sports Action. Stream Sky Sports Darts without a contract through NOW.
There’s plenty more for Littler to look forward to – see his potential 2024 schedule.