Michael Van Gerwen ended Luke Littler’s Premier League winning run to claim victory on night 11 in Birmingham.

Littler had been targeting a third consecutive nightly victory following back-to-back successes in Belfast and Manchester, which put him top of the table.

The 17-year-old had looked to be building up another head of steam after earlier edging out Rob Cross in a last-leg decider and then holding off a stirring fightback from world champion Luke Humphries to win their latest epic tussle 6-5 – landing five maximums with a match-average of just over 107.

Dutchman Van Gerwen, though, capitalised on a low-key start to the final, before eventually breaking twice to close out a 6-3 win and rekindle his own play-off ambitions.

Van Gerwen, the defending Premier League champion, had avoided another early exit after coming from behind to beat Nathan Aspinall in his first match and then eased past Michael Smith 6-4.

Littler remains top of the table with 26 points, two clear of Humphries, while Van Gerwen sits third on 22 and Aspinall fourth.

Van Gerwen hopes he can now head into night 12 in Rotterdam with renewed confidence.

“I have made it hard for myself to be fair,” the Dutchman said on Sky Sports, “But more importantly it is about how you bounce back.

“I know the last few weeks have not been great for me, but to come back with a win tonight feels good for me.”

Van Gerwen added: “I had to go really deep tonight and at the end, Luke and I neither really played our A-game, but when you win nights like this, it is not always about who is playing well – sometimes it is who can handle it.

“I had a struggling few weeks, but to bounce back with a win like this gives me confidence of course.

“People will write you off when you off when you lose, that is how things go, but I believed in my own opportunities and you need to make sure you keep your mind focused.

“I know there is more to come – the fighting spirit in my body is still there. I need to make sure I am good for next week.”

In the night’s opening quarter-final at the Utilita Arena, Humphries – who enjoyed European Tour success at the recent German Darts Grand Prix in Munich – came from 4-1 down to claim five straight legs and beat Peter Wright, who remains cut adrift at the bottom of the table.

Littler had been trailing 3-1 and then survived a match dart as he eventually battled past Cross, before former world champion Smith put last week’s defeat by Gerwyn Price behind him with a 6-3 win over the Welshman.

Van Gerwen landed an impressive 152 checkout as he came from 4-2 behind to take control of his quarter-final against Aspinall, going on to close out a much-needed 6-4 win.

Luke Littler was inspired to win his Premier League homecoming by Manchester United’s late collapse at Chelsea.

Littler, a staunch United fan, came on to stage at the AO Arena in Manchester moments after watching his side conceded two goals in injury time to lose 4-3 at Stamford Bridge and claimed a second successive weekly Premier League win, beating Gerwyn Price 6-3 in the final.

The 17-year-old star, who enjoyed a maiden victory in Belfast last week, was happy to give United fans in attendance something to cheer about.

“We were watching backstage, we were winning 3-2 and we conceded a penalty and Cole Palmer scored and then he scored again,” Littler said.

“I was in a bad mood, I was like, ‘I’m winning this now’. It gave me motivation.

“There were a few Manchester United fans on the walkout so I was glad to win.”

Price had thrown an epic nine-dart finish against Michael Smith in the semi-final, but was not good enough to get past the teenager, who was imperious in the final.

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Victory sends him to the top of the Premier League table as his star continues to burn bright following his breakthrough at the World Championship over Christmas.

Having already won titles at the Bahrain Masters, PDC Players Championship and Belgian Open, he is now all-but certain to qualify for the play-offs at the O2 in London.

“I just try and live my life as I have done so far,” he said. “As a 17-year-old boy, I just know every week playing these guys I have looked up to, I just thrive off it.

“All I do is stay in my zone. I just do what I do.”

Price produced his best performance of this year’s competition and became the first man to throw a perfect set of darts since he did it twice in a night in Belfast in 2022.

And his run to the final raises his hopes of getting to the O2, though he has a lot of work to do in the final few weeks.

Littler’s night started well as he took a winning record in his rivalry with Michael van Gerwen.

It had been tied at 3-3 but Littler moved ahead with a 6-3 quarter-final win before beating Nathan Aspinall in the semi-final, thanks largely to 131, 90 and 136 checkouts.

Price was superb in beating Peter Wright in the quarter-final before a magnificent performance, capped by the nine-dart finish, sent him to the final.

Luke Littler saw off stablemate Nathan Aspinall to secure his first Premier League night win in Belfast.

Littler never looked back after edging out Luke Humphries in a last-leg decider of the opening quarter-final at the SSE Arena, which ended the world champion’s three-night winning Premier League run.

The 17-year-old – who has won titles at the Bahrain Masters, PDC Players Championship and Belgian Open in a breakout year – followed up with an impressive 6-3 win over Michael Van Gerwen, who had beaten him on night two in the Berlin final.

‘The Nuke’ landed a 136 checkout in first leg of the final, then just missed finishing off 170 in second before Aspinall broke throw as he built a 3-1 lead.

Littler, though, fought back to level with a showpiece bullseye-25-bullseye finish – which got a high-five from close-friend Aspinall – and then pushed on to within one leg of victory at 5-3.

Aspinall dug deep to break back in the next, but Littler eventually got the job done on double 10.

Overall victory on night nine moves Littler up to second in the table, four points behind Humphries, while Aspinall now sits in fourth, the last of the play-off places.

“I am just happy to win my first one,” Littler said on Sky Sports.

“People may have seen I have changed my throw to take that little bit of extra time then releasing the next two. I have put more practice in and it has paid off.

“I can’t wait for next week (in Manchester). I know I have got Michael (Van Gerwen) in the first round, but Nathan will obviously enjoy it also in his home town.”

Aspinall had reached his fourth final of this year’s Premier League campaign with a 6-2 win over Peter Wright, in which he produced 14 scores over 100.

Earlier in the other quarter-finals, Premier League title holder Van Gerwen came from 4-2 down against former world champion Michael Smith to win the last four legs, securing victory on a 150 checkout.

Aspinall had seen off Gerwyn Price, last year’s Belfast winner, in a last-leg decider to leave the Welshman further adrift of the play-offs, while Wright beat 2018 world champion Rob Cross 6-3.

Luke Littler edged out Luke Humphries in a last-leg decider to end the world champion’s winning Premier League run on night nine in Belfast.

Following successive wins in Brighton, Nottingham and Dublin, world number one Humphries had opened up a seven-point lead at the top of the table.

Littler, though, had already beaten Humphries in each of their last three meetings since the world final at Alexandra Palace.

The 17-year-old, who had dropped to fifth in the Premier League table, after last week’s quarter-final defeat to Michael Smith in Dublin, forced an early break to open up a 2-0 lead.

Humphries, however, soon recovered to level the opening quarter-final at the SSE Arena, and the match continued on throw through to the deciding leg.

The world champion sat on a 170 check-out, but missed the second treble 20 which allowed Littler the chance to take out 68 on double 10 and progress to the semi-finals.

Littler hit seven maximums with a match average of 102.02, and goes on to play the winner of Michael Smith against Michael Van Gerwen.

Luke Littler says his love of the game is the reason behind his incredible rise as his progress in the UK Open continued.

Littler burst onto the scene at Christmas with a debut run to the final of the World Championship and has become a star name since.

He remains on course to win his first major tournament as he moved through to the fifth round in Minehead with a 10-8 win over Martin Schindler.

Still only 17, darts remains just a game for Littler, who averaged 101.86 and battled back from 5-3 down against the German.

He said: “It’s what every darts player has got to do, if you are not enjoying it then surely you can’t play well.

“I always enjoy it, I love leading up to any competition. He played really well and hopefully I played as well, it felt like that. It was a very tough game to get over the line.”

With Michael van Gerwen and Gerwyn Price exiting on Friday night, the draw opened up even further for him when Michael Smith crashed out in the fifth round.

The former world champion was beaten 10-9 by Luke Woodhouse, who said: “Michael Smith is a Premier League player, he is one of the top players in the world so to win that I am chuffed.

“I tried my best to stick with him, I thought if I could take it to the wire then who knows and luckily I could do it.”

There are still some big names joining Littler in Saturday night’s last 16 with Gary Anderson and Rob Cross among those progressing.

Luke Littler says seeing Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp talk about him was just another day in his crazy life.

Klopp compared his young band of players, who helped win the Carabao Cup last week and then earn a quarter-final spot in the FA Cup, to the 17-year-old, who the German described as the “new darts sensation”.

Littler, who advanced to the last 32 of the UK Open on Friday night, burst onto the scene at the World Championship over Christmas.


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His historic run to the final saw him transcend the sport and become a global star, so seeing Klopp reference him was nothing out of the ordinary.

Littler, a staunch Manchester United fan, said: “I actually watched the final and the young lads are doing well, but if he wants to compares them to me then he can.

“I actually woke up and someone told me that he compared me to his young lads, so I went online and watched the video.

“I gave it a like and went on to the next video. That was literally another day in my life.”

Littler is gunning for his first major title since joining the main PDC Tour at the start of the year and he looked the part in his opening match at Butlin’s in Minehead.

He averaged over 100 and produced four 100-plus finishes, including a ‘Big Fish’, as he beat James Wade 10-7.

With Michael van Gerwen surprisingly crashing out, Littler is now the favourite to win.

“I have not even thought about it, but I know if my game is there every match then I don’t see why I can’t win it,” he said.

“I don’t mind who I play. It is what I dreamed of, playing in front of thousands every week, I just take it in my stride.”

Three-time champion Van Gerwen was below par as he was dumped out at the first hurdle by Mensur Suljovic.

The Austrian has been in the darting doldrums in recent years, but posted a standout win, outplaying Van Gerwen, who appeared to be nursing an elbow injury.

Suljovic said: “I beat Michael van Gerwen, the best player in the world. I am feeling good, I am practising every day, I am a different person.

“I had a big problem with my family, I came back and practice every day, and hope I can do well in the tournament.”

Andrew Gilding began the defence of his 2023 title with a 10-7 win over Josh Payne and intends to celebrate by eating a Pot Noodle.

‘Goldfinger’ was a surprise winner last year when he beat Van Gerwen in a thrilling final and finished so late he had nothing to eat except the instant snack.

“When I won it last year there were no takeaways open so I had to eat a Pot Noodle to celebrate,” he said. “So I actually brought a couple of Pot Noodles and I’ll eat one tonight out of tradition.

“I have got a chicken and mushroom or beef and tomato. Maybe I’ll have beef and tomato with a little bit of extra ketchup, I bring my own.”

Former world champion Michael Smith said he was unable to celebrate his 10-7 win over Josh Cullen in the same way because he had already eaten one for lunch.

“I had a Pot Noodle for lunch before I came here so that’s out of the window,” he said. “I have a standing order, I get some sent every month.”

Gerwyn Price was beaten 10-9 by Martin Schindler, but there were wins for world number one Luke Humphries, Gary Anderson and Nathan Aspinall.

Nathan Aspinall earned his first Premier League darts victory of the season after beating Rob Cross 6-2 on night five in Exeter.

The Asp reached back-to-back finals with wins against Peter Wright and Luke Humphries before beating Voltage to move into fourth in the table.

His victory ended Michael van Gerwen’s run of three successive Premier League darts victories, with Humphries knocking the Dutchman out in their quarter-final clash.

Aspinall was beaten 6-4 in last week’s final in Newcastle and admits he has had a slow start to this year’s campaign.

He told Sky Sports: “It was a slow start to the season, last week was massive for myself and I made the decision tonight to forget about double 16 because I’ve missed it so many times and I went for tops.

“I’m very happy, the last two weeks I’ve really dug deep. Everyone knows I’m a fighter and I’ve been down the first three weeks, but a final and then a win the last two weeks, I’m over the moon.”

Aspinall took the early advantage in the final, winning the first three legs and after a series of missed attempts on the outer ring, he eventually hit double four to take the fourth leg.

Cross struggled on the doubles and missed a double eight, allowing Aspinall to snatch the fifth leg with a 160 checkout.

Voltage pulled two legs back to give his opponent a scare, but missed double 10 in the eighth leg before the Asp swooped in, hitting double 20 to secure the win.

“I like proving people wrong, that was my plan, didn’t start off like that. I’ve been down in the dumps but I think I’ve shown my fighting spirit the last two weeks,” Aspinall added.

“Granted, I’ve not performed at the level that I know I’m capable of but by God do I dig and I’ve dug deep tonight, last week was the same. That win against Michael Smith last week first game, scrappy game but that’s kickstarted my season.”

It was a disappointing evening for Cross, who stormed into the semi-finals with a dominant 6-1 victory over Gerwyn Price, throwing a 109.69 average during that game.

Voltage then met Luke Littler in the final four following Littler’s victory over Michael Smith in the quarter-finals.

He took a 2-0 lead before Littler found momentum and the game was tied at 3-3, but after missing six match darts Cross eventually reached the final hitting double two.

Michael van Gerwen is seeking further glory after earning his third successive Premier League Darts victory with a 6-4 win over Nathan Aspinall.

The Dutchman beat Gerwyn Price and teenager Luke Littler to secure a spot in the final, where the seven-time Premier League champion came from behind to beat Aspinall.

Aspinall started brightly, winning two successive legs but was left to rue missed doubles which had troubled him throughout the evening as Van Gerwen hit a 10-dart break on his way to leading 5-2.

Although Van Gerwen needed one leg to win, Aspinall clawed his way back and nearly took him to a decider in the 10th leg, but missed double 16.

The Dutchman made no mistake finding double 18 to wrap up victory and hopes to put himself in a comfortable position in the upcoming weeks.

He told a post-match press conference: “I think it was really big of course to win another Premier League night it’s match three, it’s hard.

“I think I had a tough draw tonight this night, to win the first game against Gezzy then Luke Littler then of course Nathan Aspinall in the final, it wasn’t easy, but of course you still have to do it. Then to make it actually happen is always a great feeling.

“Of course you want to make yourself as comfortable as possible but I think with this win I can look forward next week but that’s what I want to do.

“I want to make sure I put myself in a comfortable position, make sure I do the damage again and make sure I get more points, that’s the only thing I can do.”

After beating Price in the quarter-finals, Van Gerwen edged to the final with a 6-5 victory against Littler in the final four.

The teenager beat Peter Wright 6-5 in the quarter-finals in a close encounter that went the distance to set up a final-four clash against the world number two, where Littler piled on the pressure.

Van Gerwen missed six match darts allowing “the Nuke” to take it to a decider, but the Dutchman kept his composure in the final leg, hitting a 90 finish to win.

He now leads the standings by eight points and believes he has a different mindset in his approach this year.

“When you play the best players you have to play the best game, you have to perform and have to win,” he added.

“Of course over so many weeks you’re going to have bad days, you’re going to have good days, but overall you need to make sure you keep your momentum going and that’s what I’m doing at the moment.

“I think I have a different mindset now, I’m going to look week-by-week, don’t put myself in the same position last year.

“Last year was another week, I wasn’t really there mentally and I’ve changed that this year.”

Thursday was Aspinall’s first Premier League final of the season following victory over Rob Cross in the semi-finals.

After narrowly beating Michael Smith 6-5 in the quarter-finals, the Asp faced a tough test against Cross, where missed doubles allowed “Voltage” to get his foot back into the game.

His struggles on the outer ring saw him miss three match darts before Cross missed double 16 and Aspinall made no mistake to wrap the game up with the following dart.

Michael van Gerwenadmitted he was not at his best despite winning night three at the 2024 BetMGM Premier League at Glasgow’s OVO Hydro with a 6-5 final win over Luke Humphries.

The Dutchman won in Berlin last week and on a night when teenager Luke Littler disappointed a supportive crowd by checking out in the quarter-finals, he again showed his mettle in a last-leg decider against the world champion

Van Gerwen, who is three points clear of Michael Smith at the top of the table, said: “Even without my best performance I think I  did a great job and sometimes that is really important.

“Double six let me down tonight but outside that my finishing and the way I played the game was a good standard.

“Of course my score could have been a lot better but sometimes that is darts. Another win, it is good.

“I always believe in my ability and I think I did the right things at the right moments.

“I have put so much pressure on myself. No targets. I’d say I’m at 90 per cent of my game.”

Humphries led 1-0 and 4-2 and perhaps should have made it 5-2 but the Dutchman came back to 4-4 and a 180 in the ninth leg helped him forge ahead 5-4 only to see Humphries respond to level and take it into the final leg when another 180 gave Van Gerwen the advantage and he clinched victory with double top.

In his first season in the competition Humphries said: “It was important to play well.

“I was proud of the way I played and I am where I want to be, in the top four.

“It is my first year in it and I am going to enjoy it.”

Littler made an early exit after a thrilling battle with Gerwyn Price.

The 17-year-old was given a great reception by the crowd but the Welshman stood strong.

The 2021 world champion  just missed double 12 for a nine darter at 3-2 down – Nathan Aspinall also came agonisingly close to a perfect nine-dart leg during his defeat by Humphries –  but came back to level at 3-3.

Littler went 4-3 up but again Price came back to win the next two legs before the young Englishman levelled at 5-5 but Price triumphed 6-5 in a tense last-leg decider.

Peter Wright was left frustrated after coming up well short against Van Gerwen.

Wright was cheered to the rafters when he returned to home soil with a highly-anticipated quarter-final clash but was sent packing with a 6-2 defeat.

The Scotsman said: “I was just thinking Michael is not even on it and I couldn’t even punish him. It is one of those games. Annoying.

“You see them on TV and you see the players and think, ‘oh he’s playing rubbish’ and you step up but it couldn’t find anything. It wouldn’t go in.

“I don’t know, maybe I have too much respect for Michael, I don’t know.

“But the crowd was fantastic. It was nice to see a full house and I really appreciate that and I hope they enjoy the rest of the night.

“I was gutted I let them down.

“Even at 5-1 down I was thinking, Michael is not on it, still I could win this game.

“I know what my game is and I was ready but Michael probably would have stepped up if I started hitting something.”

Luke Littler lost in a dramatic showdown to Michael Van Gerwen in the BetMGM Premier League.

The 17-year-old suffered a 6-5 defeat in the final of the second night in Berlin on Thursday.

“It’s good. I hope we can keep it that way as well,” Littler told Sky Sports.

“In this format, in the Premier League, you have to be good week after week. It’s non-stop and I think that was good for me.

“I was always putting energy into my game and that helps me in the long run.

“It is only week two. Everyone was saying ‘last week you lost in the first round’. Don’t worry, it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon.”

Littler moved 2-0 ahead before Van Gerwen hit back to move 3-2 legs in front but the pair could not be separated with the current PDC World Youth Champion close to a 145 checkout before levelling at 4-4.

They went into the final leg locked at 5-5 and both hit 180s but Van Gerwen missed the bull for victory before Littler failed to convert two darts at double 10 to allow his rival to hit double four to win.

Littler had beaten Luke Humphries and Rob Cross on the way to the final with Van Gerwen dispatching Michael Smith and Nathan Aspinall.

Stephen Bunting delivered the performance of his lifetime to end his Michael van Gerwen hoodoo and finally claim a first major PDC televised title with victory at the Cazoo Masters.

The 38-year-old Englishman, who was a former BDO world champion, has been on the PDC scene for much of the past decade but had never got past a semi-final on the big stage and has endured a particularly torrid time against Van Gerwen.

A fourth-round defeat at the recent World Championship was his 22nd loss in 26 matches against the Dutchman and Van Gerwen boasted that he had Bunting’s number.

Bunting put that right in style in Milton Keynes, securing an 11-7 victory in a career-high moment.

He had laid a marker down with a stunning 11-1 win over Nathan Aspinall in the semi-final and returned to boss a pulsating final, landing eight 180s and averaging 102.5.

“It means a lot, I have been in the PDC for a lot of years now, I promised myself I wasn’t going to cry again on telly, this means an awful lot, the practice is paying off,” he said. “I am lost for words.

“To eventually get over the line in a major tournament is surreal. I’ll wake up tomorrow and think it’s a dream. I have put a lot of hard work in over the years.


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“Everything I have been doing behind the scenes has paid off. You have always got to dream and believe, even in the darkest days.

“Michael had won so many games against me, he smashed me in the worlds. It shows now that the belief is there and I have a never give up attitude.”

Van Gerwen had been hoping to issue a reminder of his status as top dog on the darting scene as he chased a sixth Masters title.

The Dutchman, who demolished Dimitri Van den Bergh in the semi-final, has been overshadowed by Luke Littler since the teenager’s emergence on the scene.

But with Littler not playing in Milton Keynes, Van Gerwen had a chance to grab the limelight, only to came up against an inspired opponent.

“Stephen is the form guy. I thought I was playing a bit better but I couldn’t make the difference,” Van Gerwen said. “He put me under a lot of pressure. Fair play to him he played really well through the whole tournament.”

Luke Littler’s bid to win back-to-back World Series titles was dashed by Michael van Gerwen in the final of the Dutch Darts Masters in Den Bosch.

Littler was beaten 8-6 by the three-time world champion, who had fallen to the 17-year-old in the final in Bahrain last weekend.

With nothing to split the pair after the first 12 legs, Littler missed two darts at double eight to break van Gerwen’s throw and leave him one leg from another title.

Instead van Gerwen nudged one leg away, and needed a single chance to take out an 85 finish and bring Littler’s winning run to an end.

Littler had started his campaign on Saturday by gaining revenge over Luke Humphries, who denied him in the world final at Alexandra Palace last month.

Littler trailed 4-2, but hit back to claim a dramatic 6-5 victory with an 88 checkout on the bull.

The Warrington man then beat Gerwyn Price – who had missed double 12 for a nine-dart finish in his last-eight win over Kevin Doets – 7-4 to book his return to a World Masters final.

In contrast, van Gerwen had looked below-par in back-to-back victories over Raymond van Barneveld and Gian van Veen – but stepped up when it mattered.

Van Gerwen told ITVX: “This is what people like to watch – he put me under so much pressure.

“Luke Littler is going to have a bright future, we all know that, but you still have to do the right thing against him. His scoring power is immense and you have to keep fighting.”

Teenage sensation Luke Littler powered his way past three-times world champion Michael Van Gerwen to claim his first senior PDC title on a perfect day at the Bahrain Masters.

The 16-year-old, who lost to Luke Humphries in the World Darts Championship final earlier this month after a thrilling run which catapulted him into the limelight, beat the world number two to seal an 8-5 victory after earlier producing a nine-dart finish and a maximum 170 check-out.

Asked afterwards what he had just achieved, the teenager who beat Nathan Aspinall in the last eight and Gerwyn Price to reach the final, told ITV4: “You tell me. I don’t know. I’m happy to win.”

Luke Littler will aim to move a step closer to World Darts Championship glory on Tuesday night and his path became clearer after tournament favourite Michael van Gerwen crashed out.

The 16-year-old has taken Alexandra Palace by storm and became the youngest semi-finalist ever after he beat Brendan Dolan 5-1 in the quarter-final.

A semi-final against 2018 winner Rob Cross is next up, but he will no longer have to meet Van Gerwen in the final after the three-time champion suffered one of the biggest shocks in recent times, going out 5-3 to unseeded Scott Williams.

It was a new year, but the same old brilliance from the precocious Littler, who is on the cusp of producing one of the greatest sporting stories of all time.

And the teenager believes it is going to “take a lot” to stop his juggernaut.

“It feels unbelievable. I would never have thought I would have got to the semis on my debut year,” he said. “Brendan was just another opponent in my way and I have brushed him aside and now I am into the semi-final.

“It’s going to take a lot to stop me, based on my performances so far. But it is about whatever Luke Littler turns up.

“I have got the ability to go all the way, if it’s not to be tomorrow night, it’s not to be.

“I know I have got a good chance and I have got a good feeling I could go all the way tomorrow.”

Cross has enjoyed watching Littler’s emergence, but says there will be no room for sentiment.

“Everyone loves an underdog story,” he said. “As the public and people looking at the game, everyone loves an underdog story.

“I am not being rude, I am on Luke’s side, I love an underdog story.

“It took a bit of pressure off me winning it first time as well.

“He’s fantastic and he deserves all the luck in the world, he is a nice, young boy. Tomorrow we play darts, though, and I have to go down to business.”

It has been quite a tournament for Williams, who had to apologise for insensitive comments about the war after beating Germany’s Martin Schindler earlier in the tournament, but he let his darts do the talking in a career-best performance, outscoring his illustrious opponent.

He will now meet pre-tournament favourite Luke Humphries, who breezed past Dave Chisnall in the other quarter-final.

Michael Van Gerwen wants to be the name on everyone’s lips as he continued his search for a fourth World Championship crown.

The Dutchman, who has not won at the Alexandra Palace since 2019, eased through to the fourth round with a 4-0 win over Richard Veenstra.

But for once, Van Gerwen had not been the one people had been talking about as 16-year-old Luke Littler stole the headlines after taking the tournament by storm with a sensational performance to destroy Matt Campbell 4-1 in the last 32.

And he was keen for some of the limelight.

“I wish everyone gives me attention because when you get attention it is a pleasure, it is something good,” he said.

“When they talk about you it is a good sign, it means you still mean something to the sport.”

He eased past his compatriot Veenstra and said there was more to come.

“I think there is more to get, I feel comfortable and I feel good and I am looking forward,” he added.

“I was pleased, with the way I played it gave me confidence, that is the way you want to do things. I did what I had to do.”

Defending champion Michael Smith had to work much harder to beat Madars Razma.

‘Bully Boy’ is not performing anywhere near the standard that saw him win a maiden title last year but he did enough to get past Razma 4-1.

“It wasn’t the best performance but I managed to battle on and get over the line in the end,” Smith said.

Scott Williams earlier courted controversy after joking about England winning “two World Wars and one World Cup” following his third-round win over German Martin Schindler.

Williams won a final-set decider to advance 4-3 before making the heavy-handed remark in his post-match interview on Sky Sports.

The match was played in a raucous atmosphere at Alexandra Palace where Williams had most of the support from a partisan crowd, though there was also a German contingent.

Speaking to Sky Sports after his win, Williams said: “What a game! I’m so happy to get to the other side as the winner as well.

“Martin brought the fight and I wasn’t expecting to go all the way to sudden death as well. I’m knackered, I’m absolutely knackered.

“I’ve never had the crowd on my side like that. I know we won two World Wars and one World Cup. The German fans here were huge as well.”

Meanwhile, Rob Cross showed he could be a contender for a second crown after battling into the last 16.

Cross has struggled to hit the heights since his memorable title win on debut in 2018, but enjoyed his best season in 2023 coming into the Alexandra Palace tournament.

He was made to work hard for a 4-2 victory over Jeffrey De Graaf, with the former electrician sparking into life in the final set with an average of 116.

Dave Chisnall’s victory over Gabriel Clemens was more straightforward, as he won 4-1.

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