Darts is in a brilliant place going into the 2024 Premier League and we could be seeing the emergence of a new rivalry between two generational talents in Luke Littler and Michael van Gerwen; watch the Premier League Darts for the next 17 Thursday nights live on Sky Sports
Luke Littler stuns Nathan Aspinall in the opening leg of the quarter-finals of the Bahrain Darts Masters by hitting a nine-darter.
Two darts finals, two matches between Luke Littler and Michael van Gerwen. Next up is the Premier League Darts where the pair could meet again this Thursday in Cardiff – live on Sky Sports.
Just two weeks on from his agonising defeat to Luke Humphries in the World Championship final, Littler only went and made a nine-darter against Nathan Aspinall in the first leg of his quarter-final at the Bahrain Darts Masters.
The day only got better as Littler reached the final and beat Van Gerwen 8-5 to win his first senior PDC title. Remember that day – January 19, 2024. That was when the start of a new rivalry in darts began.
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Van Gerwen vowed he would make sure he was better for the next time the pair met and would “get” Littler. He did exactly that just a week later on home soil at the Dutch Darts Masters.
Immediate revenge for Van Gerwen
The three-time world champion was far from his best during the event, with a comeback win over Raymond van Barneveld and didn’t show too much quality against Gian van Veen in the semi-finals.
However, like all great sportspeople do, when it mattered most Van Gerwen delivered as he went head to head with Littler in the final.
Image: Luke Littler and Michael van Gerwen both burst onto the darts scene as teenagers
The pair were going punch for punch and there was nothing to separate them until the very last leg when Van Gerwen punished a missed 170 from Littler to win 8-6.
“Luke put me under so much pressure,” said Van Gerwen, who won his 16th World Series of Darts crown.
“Luke has a very bright future ahead of him. We all know that, but you still want to stop him, and you have to do the right things against him, which is what I did tonight.
“His scoring power is immense so you have to keep on fighting, but I am glad that I was able to.
“I’ve had some really tough matches in finals over the last year. I underperformed a lot of times, but it’s important to keep your fighting spirit and never give up.”
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Littler and Van Gerwen’s parallels
Before Littler was born, Van Gerwen was making his own darts breakthrough with incredible wins over Raymond van Barneveld and Phil Taylor, who were the sport’s biggest names after their memorable 2007 World Championship final.
Van Gerwen was just 17 years old and also made a televised nine-darter in his first campaign on the PDC tour. At the end of that year, in his first PDC World Championship match, Van Gerwen memorably missed a match dart to defeat Taylor in the opening round. Who knows what would have happened if that went in?
Check out 10-year-old Luke Littler doing his best John Cena impression as WWE invited the World Darts runner-up to an event.
As for Littler, he continues to rip up the record books with several junior triumphs and won his first senior title at the Irish Open in 2021 as a 14-year-old.
Remarkably, Littler goes into the Premier League Darts as the reigning World Youth champion and Sky Sports Darts’ Wayne Mardle was in awe of the teenager when he began to make headlines at the World Championship last month.
“I’m a darts fan first and foremost, I was watching it and I had goosebumps watching him. I love people achieving and that was a boy achieving something on the world stage,” said Mardle.
“We may never see the like again. We saw it with Phil Taylor and then we saw it with Michael van Gerwen. This may be the third coming of that. I don’t know, but I’m a little bit carried away.”
Take a look back at the breathtaking debut from Luke Littler as the teenager made history at the World Darts Championship.
Sky Sports Darts’ Glen Durrant, a Premier League winner on his debut, says the rise of Littler is “scary”.
“We are witnessing something very, very special. We have to enjoy it. I promise myself not to talk about his age because we are just seeing something very generational,” he added.
A rivalry with plenty of respect
If we ignore Littler’s youth for a moment, he is simply one of the best players in darts right now along with Humphries and Van Gerwen.
It’s possible that Humphries will have his say in the years to come about who is the player to beat, and we shouldn’t forget about him, but Van Gerwen for the best part of a decade has been THAT player.
World Darts Champion Luke Humphries describes his emotions after his final win against Luke Littler and says he expects many more battles against his opponent in the years to come.
He held the world No 1 spot for seven years between 2014 and 2021 but his punchy personality and those iconic adrenaline rushes he gets on stage just make him so watchable.
On the other hand, Littler is just so composed on and off the oche. He told Sky Sports during the World Championship that it’s something he’s always had since growing up in Warrington.
Littler, who will play Humphries in a repeat of the Alexandra Palace final this Thursday in the Premier League, really is just a normal teenager who has a very special talent to play darts.
Sky Sports’ Megan Wellens says teenage sensation Luke Litter is inspiring the next generation and creating a ‘new era’ in the sport.
“For Christmas I got stuff for my Xbox, a controller, gift cards and got two tickets for the Manchester United stadium tour so I will go to that after the Worlds,” he said back in December 2023.
You feel, at least for now, that Van Gerwen and the other top darts players are enjoying the challenge of Littler. It’s added another layer to the PDC Tour and Littler is doing his talking on the dart board.
It won’t be like Van Gerwen vs Taylor for example, where you could feel a bit of aggro between the players. Instead, Littler will only make everyone else even better and the quality is already at a very high level.
Glen Durrant says we are witnessing a special talent in Luke Littler and believes he could win the Premier League in his debut year.
More Littler and Van Gerwen matches to come
The best thing is, the Premier League Darts is not too far away and we’re going to see this rivalry of Littler vs Van Gerwen blossom.
Should Littler beat Humphries and Van Gerwen overcome Michael Smith in their opening matches on Night 1, they will meet in the semi-finals.
You can watch every arrow from the Premier League for the next 17 Thursday nights live on Sky Sports as Humphries, Van Gerwen, Smith, Aspinall, Gerwyn Price, Rob Cross, Peter Wright and Littler treat us to some spectacular darts.
What a place the sport is in right now.
Premier League Darts returns to Sky Sports on Thursday, February 1 as Cardiff kicks off the 17-week extravaganza all the way through to the Play-Offs on Thursday, May 23. Stream darts and more on Sky Sports without a contract through NOW.