Luke Littler insists he is “just a lad doing what he does best” after Nathan Aspinall called him a celebrity rather than a darts player.

Littler has transcended the sport following his explosion onto the scene at the World Championship over Christmas.

The 17-year-old has been a guest on the Jonathan Ross Show, Comic Relief and appeared on a podcast with social media stars The Sidemen.

However, that has not been a distraction as he has proved himself to be already one of the best players in the world, having won titles at the Bahrain Masters, PDC Players Championship, Belgian Open and making it back-to-back nightly Premier League wins at his Manchester homecoming on Thursday.

“Maybe look at my following, I might be classed as a celebrity,” he said. “But I’m just a lad doing what he does best.

“Am I? I don’t know. I’m just a dart player. I just get on with it, whatever comes my way.

“I just have to get on with it. Whether I say things and don’t back it up. But at the minute I’m saying things and do back it up.”

Asked what his favourite celebrity booking has been so far, he said: “Probably meeting up with The Sidemen. I’ve been watching them since the opening packs on Fifa 13 and 14.

“Just to chat with them and chill out when I’ve got a day off.

“It’s always good just to step away from the darting world, even if it’s just a day at home.

“At the minute everything is going well. I’ve not been planning to win anything, just let my darts do the talking.”

Littler beat his stablemate and friend Aspinall on the way to glory at the AO Arena on Thursday night.

It was Aspinall, who has been mentoring Littler on the mental side of the game, who said that Littler is more than a just a darts player.


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But ‘The Asp’ says Littler still has plenty to learn from those who do not claim the spotlight in the same way.

“He is a fantastic talent. What he’s done for the sport. Forget about his darts ability because it’s not about his darts,” he said.

“He’s not a darts player, he’s a celebrity. I’m a darts player, he’s a celebrity. That’s the difference.

“But what’s he doing, because he’s a celebrity, he’s projecting darts to a whole new level.

“I did a day of media on Tuesday at the BBC, BBC have never cared about darts. All of a sudden me and Luke Littler are in there for five hours doing media, they want us.

“That isn’t because of me or (Michael) Van Gerwen, that’s because of Luke Littler. So you’ve got to give credit where credit is due.

“He is helping us boys out as much as himself. But darts-wise, he’s great but he hasn’t got what we’ve got at the moment.

“He’s got to learn from us. I don’t learn from him, he learns from me.”

Four-time world champion Mark Selby threatened to quit snooker after losing in the Tour Championship to Gary Wilson, who also described his winning performance as “embarrassing”.

Wilson sealed a 10-8 victory with a clearance of 105, but both players were scathing about their performance in Manchester.

“I mean I was pathetic really, from start to finish,” Selby told ITV4. “Probably one of the worst games I’ve played as a professional. Definitely up there for sure.

“If I carry on playing like that, then yeah, I won’t be enjoying it and I will be choosing a different career for sure.

“Neither of us played great in the second session, Gary played well on Monday and deserved his 5-3 lead. Today neither of us played great. I was like that all match. I deserved to lose.

“I will give the World Championship a go, but if I keep playing like that, I’m not going to carry on.”

Wilson believes he will have to improve ahead of his quarter-final against Zhang Anda, telling ITV4: “I don’t know how I won to be honest. I’m just thankful Mark didn’t play very well because I was embarrassing.

“The cue action wasn’t even there yesterday – it may have looked a bit better but I just felt deep down all along, I was struggling. I was hitting everything really quick and snatchy and just tried to keep plugging away.”

Reminded that he had made breaks of 95, 98, 78 and 101 in taking a 5-3 lead from Monday’s opening session and must therefore have been cueing well, Wilson replied: “Incorrect.

“I was not cueing very well at all but I can score when I’m not cueing well. That was feeling really bad and it was feeling even worse today and that’s why I missed so many easy balls, gave him so many chances and lifelines.

“Really, if I’d been playing decent and Mark had played as bad as he did there, I should have won that 10-3, 10-4. It was that bad it became really close and I’m just thankful he didn’t play very well either.

“I’m not enjoying it but we go again on Thursday and I’m just hoping I can find something between now and then.”

Ali Carter will face bitter rival Ronnie O’Sullivan in the quarter-finals after holding off a spirited fightback from Barry Hawkins.

Carter raced into a 7-1 lead after Hawkins had won the opening frame, but the left-hander won seven of the first nine frames in the evening session, including taking the 17th frame on a respotted black after needing two snookers.

However, Carter held his nerve to win the next and seal a 10-8 victory which sets up a showdown with O’Sullivan, 11 weeks after the pair were involved in a war of words following the Masters final won by O’Sullivan.

“I relish the challenge now because he’s the best player ever to pick up a cue,” Carter told ITV4. “To play him in another quarter-final, I’ve played him in a final this year, I’m in the right place.”

Mark Williams produced a superb clearance of 66 in the deciding frame to edge out Tom Ford 10-9 and set up a quarter-final with Judd Trump.

“I was dead on my feet for the last hour and three quarters, I was absolutely shattered,” said Williams, who has just returned from a trip to China.

“I thought it was all over. Where that clearance in the last frame came from I do not know. It was probably one of the best clearances I’ve done.”

Great Britain will play Canada, Finland and Argentina in the group stage of the Davis Cup Finals in Manchester in September.

Leon Smith’s side will hope for a less nail-biting conclusion than in the same city last year, when Dan Evans and Neal Skupski saved match points to beat France in the deciding match in front of a jubilant record crowd, and the draw appears to have been relatively kind.

Canada, led by Felix Auger-Aliassime and Denis Shapovalov, were champions in 2022 but lack strength in depth.

Finland were last year’s surprise package, making it through to the semi-finals for the first time, while Argentina boast three top-30 players, but indoor hard courts should favour Britain.

The ties will take place at the AO Arena from September 10 to 15, with the top two teams progressing to November’s Final Eight event.

Having beaten France, Australia and Switzerland last year, Britain fell at the first hurdle in Malaga, losing out to Novak Djokovic’s Serbia.

Defending champions Italy will host a group in Bologna also featuring the Netherlands, Belgium and Brazil, while Australia, Czech Republic, France and Spain will contest a heavyweight Group B in Valencia.

The final group, containing Germany, USA, Slovakia and Chile, will take place in the Chinese city of Zhuhai.

Nathan Heaney has eyed a middleweight world title fight against Janibek Alimkhanuly after his majority decision victory over Denzel Bentley in Manchester.

The 18-0-0 Heaney became British middleweight champion on Saturday after an expert performance against London’s Bentley.

The Stoke supporter believes last week’s victory makes a future fight at bet365 Stadium more of a reality and set his sights on Alimkhanuly’s WBO and IBF belts.

“Frank (Warren) said the winner (Bentley or Heaney) fights for a world title and I think there’s no reason why I can’t fight Janibek (Alimkhanuly) and do my best,” Heaney told the PA news agency.

“Bentley did a very good job against Alimkhanuly himself (unanimous points defeat).

“Styles make fights and that could be a very exciting thing to happen.

“I want any of the world titles. Janibek has two world titles and so he’d be the best one to fight because you can get two birds with one stone there providing I can beat him.

“It lays the foundation to fulfil my dream which is to fight at Stoke City’s football ground.”

Bentley struggled to deal with the elusive Heaney, who showed signs of brilliance.

The undefeated Stoke fighter claimed he “played” with Bentley for 12 rounds and said the victory was emotional.

“Watching the fight back at times I was playing with one of the most dangerous middleweights in the division,” he added.

“He laid out his last title defence in 45 seconds but I’m in there with my hands on my thighs and I’m doing a little shoulder shimmy.

“Steve (Woodvine) told me exactly how to beat Denzel Bentley.

“In the first round I was moving my feet and I thought ‘he can’t close me down’. The plan Steve had set out for me was absolutely perfect.

“It must have been disheartening for him (Bentley) to be told before he’s going to knock me out and then not be able to land a shot on me.

“It was full of emotion. Some fighters online after I boxed behind closed doors said I’ll never get beyond area level.”

Heaney insisted the win was no surprise to him and that it was the best performance of his career.

He said: “It definitely didn’t surprise me (winning) but it did everyone else. It made the win even better because no-one expected it from me.

“Everything was flowing because I was enjoying it so much.

“It’s probably my best performance in terms of how I applied myself and the level of opposition.

“But there’s still lots of areas I could have improved on.

“When they announced me as the new British middleweight champion it gave me validation that I am a good fighter.”

Tommy Fury admits he “could not live with himself” if he did not fight for a world title at some point in his career – but acknowledges Saturday’s bout with YouTuber KSI is a long way from that.

Fury said he could “be down the pub all day” and still beat the social media star-turned fighter in their X Series encounter in Manchester.

But he has loftier aspirations to follow in the footsteps of his famous brother Tyson.

“The plan is to get though these YouTube fights, do what I need to do in this sort of scene and I believe I am good enough to win a world title belt,” he told the PA news agency.

“I don’t know when or what weight division but when the time is right I’ll go out and I will challenge for a world title because I could not live with myself if I didn’t box for one.

“I believe I can do it, I have the right set-up around me so why not give myself a best shot?”

While Fury, who sprung to huge fame in 2019 reality show Love Island, comes from a fighting family KSI made his name on YouTube and, as part of the showbiz nature of the event, will wear a £40,000 gumshield.

The Manchester-born Fury has dismissed his opponent’s credentials.

“These guys don’t really call for me to step up to world title ability. I’m levels above these guys,” added the 24-year-old.

“I could beat KSI after 15 pints of beer. I could literally go down the pub all day, fight him at night-time and still beat him. If we fight 100 times I beat him 100 times.”

On KSI’s expensive mouthguard, he added: “He’s going to need £200 grand around his mouth by the time I have finished with him.

“It will be a lucky night for someone when they catch it in the crowd.”

American MMA fighter Dillon Danis, making his boxing debut, has refused to back down in his online vendetta against opponent Logan Paul’s fiancee, which has resulted in Nina Agdal lodging a lawsuit against him.

“It is years of me and the Pauls going back and forth. I don’t take anything personal, it’s just business. I don’t care about the guy or his w***e fiancee,” said Danis, who has sparred with one of MMA’s biggest names Conor McGregor and did not rule out the Irishman being ringside at the weekend.

Leon Smith hailed a “very good day” for Great Britain after wins for debutant Jack Draper and Dan Evans in Manchester secured victory over Australia.

Draper’s run to the fourth round of the US Open earned him not just a second Great Britain call-up but a first appearance, with Smith picking him ahead of his top-ranked player Cameron Norrie and former world number one Andy Murray for the opening tie of the group stage.

The 21-year-old fully justified his captain’s faith, thrilling a 9,000-strong crowd at the AO Arena by breaking Kokkinakis when he served for the match then coming from 4-2 down in the deciding tie-break to win 6-7 (6) 6-3 7-6 (4) after two hours and 52 minutes.

Evans then took to the court against world number 12 Alex De Minaur, the highest-ranked player in the four-team group.

Evans has struggled for long periods this season but found his form on the North American hard courts with a title in Washington and a strong performance against Carlos Alcaraz at the US Open.

And he extended his tour-level winning record against De Minaur to 3-0 with a 6-1 2-6 6-4 victory, staying strong after the Australian fought back from 4-1 in the decider.

That gave Britain an unassailable lead, with a top-two spot in the group needed to secure progress to the quarter-finals and matches against Switzerland and France still to come this week.

“It’s a really good day for us,” said Smith. “Extremely difficult Aussie team but we’re difficult too. Jack showed again what he’s capable of, both in quality but also the heart and competitiveness he’s got. To steal it at the end when Kokkinakis served for it shows a lot of character. It’s a really good win for him.

“I said to Dan I think it’s one of the best matches I’ve seen him play, I thought he was absolutely brilliant against one of the in-form players on the tour. I just think Dan was amazing but it doesn’t surprise me.”

Australia avoided a clean sweep, with former Wimbledon champions Matt Ebden and Max Purcell defeating Evans and Neal Skupski 7-6 (5) 6-4 in the doubles rubber to make the final score 2-1.

For most of his long tenure, Smith’s team, based around Murray, virtually picked itself. Greater options have left him with more difficult decisions and he was criticised for his selection at the same stage last year, when Britain made an early exit.

There will have been great satisfaction for the Scot, therefore, in the performance of Draper, who has been kept off court for much of the season by a string of frustrating injuries but carried the confidence of his run in New York into this clash against another 6ft 4in heavyweight in Kokkinakis.

It was a match of a few crucial moments, with Draper missing a set point at 4-5 in the opening set and then unable to take advantage of momentum at the start of the decider. He looked in big trouble when he dropped serve at 4-4 before staging a rousing comeback.

Of his selection, Draper said: “Leon told me a couple of days ago. He said he wanted me to be out there and that he believed in me.

“I knew I’d played some tough matches at the US Open and I felt really good about my tennis. That helped the nerves a lot. I haven’t played too many great matches this season but I think that was one of them.

Evans admitted to nerves, too, but was proud of his performance, saying: “It means a lot. I played good tennis, I executed what we spoke about and I did it to pretty much as good as I’ve got. It was still a battle, no part of the match was easy, and that was for me the impressive thing that I pulled through.”

Australia, who made the final of the competition last year, must bounce back quickly for a must-win clash against France on Thursday, when the crowd is likely to be a fraction of what it was for this tie.

Captain and former world number one Lleyton Hewitt is a long-standing critic of the move away from the traditional home-and-away format, and he said: “We’ve just taken the great things away from what made this competition so special. It doesn’t feel the same.”

Jack Draper justified the faith shown in him by Great Britain captain Leon Smith by coming from behind to defeat Australia’s Thanasi Kokkinakis in a dramatic opening rubber in Manchester.

Draper’s run to the fourth round of the US Open earned him not just a second Great Britain call-up but a first appearance, with Smith picking him ahead of his top-ranked player Cameron Norrie and former world number one Andy Murray.

The Lawn Tennis Association reported ticket sales of more than 9,000 for the tie at the AO Arena and the crowd were treated to an exciting clash, with Draper breaking Kokkinakis when he served for the match before coming through a deciding tie-break to win 6-7 (6) 6-3 7-6 (4).

They were on their feet when Draper drilled a final backhand winner down the line after two hours and 52 minutes to give Britain the perfect start against last year’s finalists.

Speaking on court, Draper said: “There’s nothing better. It was a real battle, massive crowd in here. It’s amazing to play my first Davis Cup tie in the UK in this sort of arena. I’m just so happy to be here and grateful Leon trusted me and put me out here today.”

Like Draper, 27-year-old Kokkinakis knows all too well how much physical frailty can stymie a career but he is a player with big weapons who has had some standout victories.

He won the Australian Open doubles title last year with his good friend Nick Kyrgios, while in Melbourne this year he and Murray contested a near six-hour duel ending after 4am.

It took a few games for the two 6ft 4in powerhouses to find their rhythm, with Draper forced to save two break points in his second service game.

He settled well thereafter, particularly on serve, and he had a set point on the Kokkinakis serve at 4-5 only for a backhand down the line to catch the top of the tape and drop wide.

The tie-break was as tight as the 12 games that preceded it but, after saving one set point with a big serve, Draper was unable to prevent Kokkinakis taking the second.

The set had taken more than an hour so it was a blow to Draper to lose it but he responded in the perfect fashion, taking advantage of a loose game from his opponent to claim the first break at the start of the second.

The 21-year-old was virtually untouchable on serve now while his heavy forehand was mopping up the ones that did come back.

He broke again to take the set and had all the momentum at the start of the decider but Kokkinakis dug in and looked to have made the crucial move at 4-4, taking advantage of an untimely dip from Draper to break.

However, closing out matches has never been the Australian’s strong point and back came Draper, a huge roar greeting the re-break.

The young British player produced the shot of the match in the next game, channelling Carlos Alcaraz by chasing to retrieve a lob and sending the ball back at full stretch past a bewildered Kokkinakis.

Draper looked in trouble when he trailed 4-2 in the tie-break but he roared back with five points in a row.

Bunny Shaw’s goal-scoring exploits have reached record-breaking levels for Manchester City Women this season after she scored twice on Sunday to lead her side to a 2-1 victory over Brighton.

Shaw scored in the 21st minute and 89th minute after Elizabeth Terland had pulled Brighton level in the 33rd minute. These were Shaw’s 25th and 26th goals in 22 games this season surpassing the previous 24 goals in the 2018/2019 season by Nikita Parris.

In 2023 alone, the Jamaican striker has scored two hat-tricks, while also striking four times in an 8-1 FA Cup win over Bristol City in February. Since joining Manchester City from Bordeaux in the 2021/2022 season, Shaw has scored 45 goals in 51 appearances, at an average of 0.88 per game.

Following Sunday’s record-breaking performance, team manager Gareth Taylor expressed his pride at Shaw’s achievements.

“I’m super proud of Bunny and all the players are. She understands the support and help she gets here to allow her to be herself,” Taylor said.

“I think what she’s done is remarkable, really - to go from the first game of the season scoring and not really have a dry spell at all, maybe a couple of games. She’s continued to score goals. She’s certainly a proven goal scorer, but it’s the types of goals she’s getting now and everything else she brings to us in the games.

“I think that’s nine in three games now, which is crazy.”

Deandra Dottin produced a match-winning all-round performance in the Women’s 100 competition in England to lead Manchester Originals Women to an 11-run victory over Welsh Fire Women on Tuesday.

Dottin’s unbeaten 37-ball 67 propelled Manchester Originals’ to 156-2 from their 100 balls.

Dottin, who recently retired from international cricket and Sophie Ecclestone, who made an unbeaten 36, were mainly responsible for MO’s winning total after they lost opener, Emma Lamb, for 35 and Lizelle Lee for just three.

Alex Hartley had the best figures for Welsh Fire with 1-17 from 20 balls while Annabel Sutherland took 1-33 from her 20-ball allotment.

Needing 157, Welsh Fire made a fist of it, scoring 145-3, thanks mainly to the efforts of openers Tammy Beaumont who scored 45 from 42 balls with five fours and Hayley Matthews, who smashed 69 from 41 balls, blazing 12 fours along the way.

Dottin dismissed Racheal Haynes for 11 and Sutherland for 0 as the Welsh Fire chase fizzled, to return figures of 2-21 from 15 balls.

Ecclestone who took the prized wicket of Matthews had figures of 1-27 from her 20 balls.


Reggae Girl Khadija 'Bunny' Shaw was one of two Manchester City players who have been shortlisted for April's FA Women’s Super League Player of the Month Award.

Jamaica-born Manchester City forward Raheem Sterling has signed a multi-year boot deal with New Balance that includes support for disadvantaged children in the country of his birth and other communities in the United Kingdom.

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