Luke Littler’s bid for back-to-back World Series titles got under way with a straightforward 6-2 win over a tetchy Dirk van Duijvenbode at the Dutch Masters.
Having followed up a remarkable run to the PDC World Championship final with victory at last week’s Bahrain Masters, Littler, who turned 17 on Sunday, was relatively untested by his Dutch opponent.
The teenager was far from his best, averaging 90.85, although a stunning 150 checkout saw him set up a mouthwatering quarter-final against Luke Humphries on Saturday in a repeat of their World Championship final.
WHAT A WAY TO WIN IT! 🔥
Another moment of magic from Luke Littler!
The teenage sensation wraps up a 6-2 success against Dirk van Duijvenbode with a SUBLIME 150 finish! 💥
— PDC Darts (@OfficialPDC) January 26, 2024
There was a minor flash point when Van Duijvenbode seemed to gesture towards Littler, who composed himself by briefly stepping away from the oche to take a sip of water at the Maaspoort Den Bosch.
Whether Van Duijvenbode was irritated at his performance, his rival or the crowd was unclear but the incident did not disrupt Littler and the pair shared a friendly handshake at the end of the contest.
Littler is growing accustomed to the cheers of the crowd but was greeted by a smattering of boos during his walk-on, making light of the situation by cupping his hands to his ears.
He settled immediately with a 180 and seven days after his nine-dart first leg in Bahrain, hopes were fleetingly raised of a repeat performance in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, which were soon extinguished.
Littler won the opening leg, accidentally finding double 20 then double 10 to take out 60 before thudding into tops more conventionally to go 2-0 ahead.
Van Duijvenbode pulled one back but seemed to be distracted and, on more than one occasion aimlessly threw a third dart, at one point motioning at Littler, who looked on bemused at what was happening.
An unflustered Littler moved 4-1 ahead and while the pair then traded legs, the youngster sealed a quarter-final spot with a fantastic checkout, taking out two treble 19s and finishing with double 18.
Littler was beaten 7-4 in the World Championship final earlier this month but can gain a measure of revenge over Humphries, who booked his spot in the last eight with a 6-0 win over Jermaine Wattimena.