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World Darts Championship: Can 16-year-old Luke Littler make shock title bid after stunning debut win?

Wayne Mardle and Mark Webster believe it is not out of the question that "incredible" Luke Littler could be in the mix to win the title after a stunning debut match win; Teenager straight back in action on Thursday against Andrew Gilding live from 7pm on Sky Sports Darts

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Luke Littler showed skills and composure far beyond his years as he demolished Christian Kist and looks a genuine contender to win the World Darts Championship

Sky Sports' Wayne Mardle has hailed teenage sensation Luke Littler as "probably the most naturally gifted player I have ever seen in my life" and believes the 16-year-old could go all the way and win his debut World Darts Championship.

Littler, the reigning world youth champion, announced himself on the biggest stage in darts in the most extraordinary fashion at Alexandra Palace on Wednesday night.

The third-youngest player to appear at the tournament, Littler stunned 37-year-old Dutchman Christian Kist, the 2012 BDO champion, with a stunning 3-0 victory which featured seven 180s and a blistering three-dart average of 106.12.

Image: Littler fired a 106 average and posted seven 180s during his impressive win

Having excelled at youth level and secured his PDC Tour Card for 2024-25, Littler's debut on the senior stage had been highly anticipated. The emphatic nature of his maiden success is only likely to heighten the hype around the teenager from Warrington, who now faces 53-year-old compatriot Andrew Gilding in Round Two on Thursday evening.

"I can't remember a better [debut] than that," declared an impressed Mardle on Sky Sports Darts.

"I can't remember someone going up there with such a swagger and just banging in 180s and hitting 11 and 12-darters like they are going out of fashion.

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A look back the best of the action from day six of the World Darts Championship at Alexandra Palace

"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.

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"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."

Mardle, the 2001 World Championship semi-finalist, then added: "I think he's probably the most naturally gifted player I have ever seen in my life.

"I have seen Adrian Lewis in full swing, Gary Anderson, Michael van Gerwen, I have seen them all.

"I don't think I have ever seen the like."

'Why can't he win it?' Webster and Mardle agree Littler in title contention

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Wayne Mardle is convinced 16 year-old Luke Littler is going to the very top and says everyone talks about his age apart from him

Darts' new young star will be back on the Ally Pally stage as early as Thursday night when he takes on No 23 seed Gilding, this year's UK Open champion, as part of an evening session which starts at 7pm live on Sky Sports Darts.

So how deep into this tournament can Littler now possibly go? Sky Sports' Mark Webster believes repeats of his "incredible" opening-match form could conceivably take him all the way to the January 3 final in a side of the draw that has unexpectedly been opened up by the surprise early exits of seeds Peter Wright and James Wade.

"That isn't just a statement performance, that's title-winning form, and he's a serious threat in this competition now," said Webster, the 2008 BDO champion and two-time PDC World Championship semi-finalist.

Asked how far he thought the teenager could go in this tournament, Webster then replied: "I'm going to get carried away with it: I think he can win the whole thing!

"You play like that on your debut, there's no nerves. Look, there's going to be a lot more coming at him, particularly in the next round. Andrew Gilding will make it difficult.

"Christian played okay but he wasn't allowed to play and if he [Littler] does that to Gilding, that'll send out another message. Then it's the possibility of Matt Campbell next...if you play like that, you can win the title."

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Luke Littler was loving the Ally Pally crowd’s chant of ‘you’ve got school in the morning’ during his incredible debut in the World Darts Championship

Fellow pundit Mardle agreed.

"I loved what Mark Webster said [while] sitting here that he can win it.

"Why can't he win it? Why can't he win the world championship? Who has been better in their first game?

"He was pushed for a set and a bit there, he dismantled a very, very good player.

"I am just so excited because it's the way he plays the game, it's how good he is, it's the fact that he shows you how good he is. He wants the crowd to be involved. There is absolutely nothing to dislike about the way [he plays]. He's just such a natural."

Littler on debut win: 'That's for you, Phil'

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16-year old Luke Littler was over the moon with his dominant win on his debut at the World Darts Championship and dedicated the victory to Phil Taylor, who he knew was watching

The man of the moment, meanwhile, had a message for 16-time world champion Phil Taylor after delivering arguably the performance of the tournament so far at the very first attempt.

"My debut, my first game, and I can't believe how quickly I settled into the game," a delighted Littler told Sky Sports.

"When I was walking on I felt a bit nervous but as soon as I found the rhythm, I was in."

Asked where the win ranked in his short career so far, the 16-year-old replied: "[Tonight has] got to be at the top. I've been playing since I was 18 months old, obviously looking up to Phil Taylor. I know he's watching - that's for you, Phil!

"Absolutely over the moon."

Littler celebrates in style (for a 16-year-old!)

Given that Littler is unable to drink alcohol or partake in many of the legal pleasures that grown adults can, a journalist asked him how he would celebrate his memorable victory at Alexandra Palace.

"Probably just treat myself to a kebab," said the affable youngster. "Get myself some bottles of coke and bottles of Fanta."

And Littler lived up to his word, as a picture of him eating a kebab did the rounds on social media afterwards.

Now to see if he can live up to his promise on the big stage.

Watch the World Darts Championship all the way until the final on January 3, 2024 - live on Sky Sports Darts. NOW Sports Month Membership: £21 a month for 6 months

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