In a whirlwind few months which has seen Luke Littler pocket £220,000 and skyrocket into the nation’s attention at the tender age of just 16, the youngster himself appears to be living so much in the frantic moment that he doesn’t know who Emma Raducanu is… that is despite the British tennis icon having offered him some crucial advice.
Littler, who reached the World Darts Championship final on his Alexandra Palace debut and backed it up with his first senior title in Bahrain, has seen his life turned upside down since December. He has gone from playing in junior tournaments to defeating Michael van Gerwen and practising with the Manchester United squad, becoming a household name in the process.
His run bore a strong resemblance to Raducanu’s sole Grand Slam victory at Flushing Meadows. At 18, Raducanu won the US Open as a qualifier, becoming the first person ever to do so, becoming an overnight sensation though has since gone through peaks and troughs in the following years.
“I didn’t watch the darts,” Raducanu admitted earlier this month. “My friend just sent me a picture of the boy who was like 16, who lost in the final. She was like, ‘I can’t believe this guy’s only 16 years old’.”
Raducanu then offered the following advice: “I would just say: ‘Keep your circle close, take time to actually enjoy it and don’t rush into the next thing straightaway.’”
It was the same advice that Ronnie O’Sullivan had offered Littler, but with a World Championship to focus on and the subsequent media circus that came with it, Raducanu’s wisdom may have been lost in the herd and the teenager admitted that he is not even aware of who the tennis star is.
In a wide-ranging interview with the Irish Times, a puzzled Littler replied “no” when asked if he knew much about Raducanu, who was then explained to the darts sensation. The PDC’s head of media said: “She is tennis’ equivalent of you, mate,” before Littler’s girlfriend Eloise Milburn asked: “Didn’t she reach out to you?”
Littler remained perplexed and was then informed of the advice that Raducanu had given him, before the now-17-year-old explained that he applied it to his relationship with Millburn, which had come under the spotlight during Littler’s Ally Pally run.
“That’s what I knew from the very start,” Littler said. “We knew people would find out [about their relationship] but it started off very bad. As the weeks go on [the abuse of Milburn on social media] has been almost forgotten. We’ve been talking for a few months now.
“I’ve brung her along to the worlds, got to the final and whatever people say, they can say it. It’s not going to affect me or my mental strength. I’ve got guys doing my Instagram now and they delete it before I see it.”
Raducanu can at least take some solace that her advice is being acted on by Littler, even though he is unaware of the tennis icon and her similar tale of stardom.