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Luke Littler hits nine-darter and marches to title as scorching rise continues

Teenage sensation Luke Littler produced a stunning display to win the opening Players Championship event on his debut in the competition.

After hitting a nine-dart finish in one of the earlier rounds, 17-year-old Littler dug deep to beat fellow Englishman Ryan Searle in a thrilling final.

Littler took it 8-7, capturing the £15,000 winner's purse and a first ranking title after continuing his rich vein of form. He averaged 110 and notched seven 180s.

Littler became a household name during a shock run to the final of the World Championship at the turn of the year.

'The Nuke' then went on to beat Michael van Gerwen to win the Bahrain Masters in January, becoming the youngest player to hit a televised nine-darter in his quarter-final victory over Nathan Aspinall.

Littler's strong form continued as he was beaten by home favourite Van Gerwen in the final of the Dutch Masters the following week.

His nine-dart finish at the Players Championship event in Wigan came as he wrapped up a 6-1 win against Michele Turetta, then he accounted for quarter-final opponent James Hurrell 6-3 before edging out Alan Soutar 7-6.

"I know my game is there, I know I can beat anyone, and I'm really happy to have won," Littler told the Professional Darts Corporation [PDC] website.

"Me and my manager know what I have to do to qualify for the World Matchplay and the World Grand Prix.

"I want to try and qualify for everything, and I've just got to play my game. I'm taking it in my stride. It takes huge pressure off me, and now hopefully I can settle and enjoy it."

Former world champion Gerwyn Price [pictured above], meanwhile, withdrew halfway through his third round match after what he claimed were "absolutely pathetic conditions".

Price was trailing 4-2 on legs