Darts-Humphries ends teenager Littler's dream run to win world title

By Martyn Herman

LONDON, Jan 3 (Reuters) - England's Luke Humphries fought back to end the fairytale run of 16-year-old Luke Littler and become PDC World Darts champion for the first time at a raucous Alexandra Palace on Wednesday.

Littler, whose run to the final captured the imagination of the British public and delighted the hordes of fancy-dress clad fans that descended on the citadel of darts for three weeks, looked poised to become the youngest world champion as he built a healthy lead in the best-of-13 set final.

But 28-year-old world number one Humphries lived up to the Cool Hand Luke nickname emblazoned on the back of his shirt and stormed back with relentless precision to reel off five successive sets and claim a 7-4 victory.

Humphries rattled in an incredible 23 maximums and averaged 103 and sealed victory with a nerveless double eight to claim the title and the 500,000 pounds ($633,100) winners' cheque.

He was overcome with emotion at the end as he fell to his knees on the oche before embracing Littler.

"I could not put into words how great this feels," Humphries, who has dominated the sport in recent months with a flurry of major titles, said on stage.

"Honestly I was thinking in the back of my mind, 'get this one now' because he's going to dominate world darts soon! He's going to win plenty I'm sure. He's an incredible player.

"He missed one dart for a 5-2 lead and if that had gone in it would have been a real uphill battle."

For Littler, ranked 164th in the world at the start of the tournament and the youngest ever finalist, he could not quite sustain the magic that had seen him storm into the final with a series of incredible victories, including a 4-1 defeat of five-time world champion Raymond van Barneveld.

A rare miscalculation left him needing a double two in the seventh set for a 5-2 lead but he could not find the target and it was to prove his undoing as Humphries made a 121 checkout with a bull and then found another level.

"It's been incredible but I lost too many legs from my throw," Littler, who has celebrated his wins with kebabs, said.

"I got to the final and might not get to another for the next five or 10 years. I can say I'm runner-up but I just want to go and win it."

Littler, who had won 25 of the 31 sets he played on his way to the final, was the youngest ever finalist, breaking the previous record set by 21-year-old Kirk Shepherd in 2008.

And while he failed to go one better than Shepherd, it seems only a matter of time before he wins the title.

"You will never see a 16-year-old kid as down to earth as him -- he's just something else. He is one of the best players in the world, no doubt about that," Humphries said.

($1 = 0.7898 pounds)

(Reporting by Martyn Herman Editing by Toby Davis)

((martyn.herman@thomsonreuters.com; +442075427933; Reuters Messaging: martyn.herman@thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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