Dimitri Van den Bergh derails Luke Humphries to win gripping UK Open final

By Sports Desk March 03, 2024

Dimitri Van den Bergh finally derailed the Luke Humphries juggernaut after beating him in a gripping final of the UK Open.

World number one Humphries came into the tournament at Minehead having won four of the last five major ranking tournaments, which included sealing glory at the World Championship at the start of 2024.

He was a heavy favourite to add the UK Open to his collection after a trouble-free run to the final at Butlin’s, but the Belgian won a deciding leg to claim an 11-10 victory and seal a second major title of his own.

It looked like he had blown his chance as he squandered a 7-2 lead and then missed six match darts, only to finally land his seventh after Humphries had missed chances of his own.

While Luke Littler – who was a beaten quarter-finalist at Butlin’s – has stolen the limelight since his emergence, Humphries was proving himself to be the best player around so this defeat will be a tonic to the rest of the pack.

And Van den Bergh, who excelled as youth player, will be hoping this can help kickstart his career, which showed early promise when he won the 2020 World Matchplay.

He said: “First of all, he showed again why is he the world champion. There was a moment when it was 10-8 and I was like ‘I’m one leg away, I can win this’, and I lost it. I lost my gut but all of a sudden, it turned around.

“My grandad died two years ago and this is my first major win since. This is gold and it’s for him.

“You win some, you lose some, you have got to dig deep and keep trying.”

Humphries said: “I have had a long five days on the road, I am absolutely shattered. I was very lucky to get two darts, I will obviously be gutted because I missed two darts.

“But I did my best with the way I was feeling. I give everything, I really didn’t play well. I am proud of the way I played.”

With Michael van Gerwen, Michael Smith and Gerwyn Price all crashing out in the early rounds, it seemed prime for another battle of the Lukes in the final, but teenager Littler was ousted in the last eight by Damon Heta.

 

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The 17-year-old has made waves in the first few months on the PDC Tour, having claimed the Bahrain Masters in his debut tournament in January and competed well in the Premier League, but leaves his first major empty handed.

He will have regrets about his defeat as, despite Heta’s incredible level, Littler rallied from 8-4 down and missed two darts at his favoured double 10 to send it to a decider.

Littler said on Instagram: “Disappointed to not make it past the quarters but was a great game. Enjoying my darts and just grateful for everything.”

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  • World Championship unlikely to leave ‘beloved venue’ Alexandra Palace World Championship unlikely to leave ‘beloved venue’ Alexandra Palace

    Professional Darts Corporation chief executive Matt Porter says it would take “something very special” to move the World Championship away from Alexandra Palace, despite the Luke Littler effect on the sport.

    The 17-year-old has thrust darts into the mainstream consciousness following his breakthrough run to the final at Ally Pally over Christmas.

    The PDC has reported a huge increase in viewing figures and engagement since Littler’s arrival on the scene and he is set to be the main attraction at the worlds later this year.

    But not everyone will get a ticket for the north London venue, which has hosted the tournament since 2008 and is considered the home of the sport, as they sell out in July before even hitting general sale.

    Despite the likely demand, the PDC is not considering moving to a bigger venue and are in talks to extend its stay at the 3,200-capacity Ally Pally beyond the 2024/25 edition.

    “Ally Pally is an iconic venue, it is a beloved venue,” Porter told the PA news agency.

    “The World Darts Championship at Ally Pally at Christmas, those three things go together in the same way Wimbledon, strawberries and cream and the summer fit together.

     

    View this post on Instagram

    A post shared by Luke TheNuke Littler (@lukethenukelittler)

     

    “There are certain aspects of major sporting events at venues, which just fit.

    “It is a fantastic venue for the event, we bring a lot of infrastructure with us, in terms of the fan village, and not every venue can do that, there is way more to the Ally Pally than the arena where the darts is played.

    “But you can never rule out anything going forward because the event is sold out in July even before it goes on general sale.

    “It is a phenomenon and it is up to us to maximise the opportunity and the revenue for the players.

    “You can’t rule it out but you don’t want to fix what is not broken.

    “It is something that is under constant review but it would take something very special for us to leave Ally Pally.”

    Littler has changed the landscape of the sport and is already a bigger celebrity than any other player past or present.

    He was a guest on the Jonathan Ross Show, featured on the cover of Forbes magazine, appeared on Comic Relief and visited Manchester United’s training ground as his popularity soared.

    But he is backing that up with his performances at the oche as he won debut titles in the World Series, Players Championship and European Tour while currently topping the Premier League table.

    “These are things that wouldn’t happen to normal 17-year-olds, so for him to be able to deal with them as well as playing in front of thousands of people is testament to his mental strength and maturity,” Porter added.

    “Luke has opened up doors to us to a new audience. There is an increase in younger fans, teenage-age and even younger who are now more interested in darts.

    “That’s through TikTok and Instagram, or on TV.

    “It’s quite refreshing, it is something we hadn’t expected but something we are reacting to quite well.”

  • Michael Van Gerwen ends Luke Littler’s Premier League winning run Michael Van Gerwen ends Luke Littler’s Premier League winning run

    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.

  • The next Luke Littler? Owen Bryceland wins back-to-backs tournaments aged 10 The next Luke Littler? Owen Bryceland wins back-to-backs tournaments aged 10

    Luke Littler has competition for the hottest young star in darts after 10-year-old Owen Bryceland enjoyed an astonishing weekend on the junior tour.

    Bryceland, who makes 17-year-old Littler look like a seasoned professional, won back-to-back tournaments on the Foundation Tour in Coventry.

    The Scot beat Mitchell Lawrie 5-1 in the Event 11 final and then Jack Howarth in the Event 12 showpiece to put himself in a strong position to qualify for the JDC Advanced Tour.

    Bryceland highlighted the incredible level he is already able to play at as he produced the Foundation Tour’s highest ever average of 104.86 in his last-16 win over Joshua Machin.

    As barometer for his standard, world number one Luke Humphries won the World Championship final against Littler with an average of 103.67.

    Littler, who has won back-to-back Junior World Championships in 2022 and 2023, has taken the darting world by storm since his breakthrough at Alexandra Palace over Christmas.

    He got to the final of the tournament on debut, won his debut events in the World Series, Player Championships and European Tour and currently sits on top of the Premier League table after back-to-back nightly wins in Belfast and Manchester.

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