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Luke Humphries overcomes doubts to claim Players Championship 20 crown

Luke Humphries admits being out of action since July had a few doubts running through his head on his way to winning Players Championship 20 in Barnsley.

Humphries claimed his third PDC ranking title of 2023 after overcoming Dutchman Kevin Doets.

He becomes the fourth player to win multiple Players Championship titles in 2023, defeating an impressive Doets 8-6 in Monday’s showpiece to scoop the £12,000 top prize.

Prior to this week, Humphries had not featured competitively since reaching July’s World Matchplay semi-finals, although he returned to winning ways in sensational style at the Barnsley Metrodome.

The former UK Open runner-up kicked off his campaign with a nine-dart finish in his opening round win over Andy Boulton, which set the tone for a day of darting domination.

“It is strange but you doubt yourself. You think: ‘You haven’t played for a long time, can you still do it?” admitted Humphries, who now boasts nine PDC ranking titles on his growing résumé.

“I didn’t really practice much in the last six or seven weeks. I felt like Gary Anderson!

“I’ve learnt a few things with my time off though. I think at times I get too annoyed with myself. I just want to let my talent shine and see what happens.

“If I get to number one in the world one day, so be it. If I lose my Tour Card in five to ten years, it is what it is, but my greatest achievement is my family, and that is what matters.

“I still have targets though. The next target for me is to win a TV title; it’s the next thing I have to tick off the list.

“I still want to be involved in the Premier League too. I really want to play against the best, just be a part of it and the exposure that comes with it.”

Humphries averaged above 99 in each of his first six matches, following up his nine-dart exploits against Boulton with consecutive 6-4 wins against Jim Williams and Scott Williams respectively.

The 28-year-old averaged 102 to record a third straight 6-4 victory at the expense of Ryan Searle, before running out an emphatic 6-2 winner against world number one Michael Smith in the last eight.

The Newbury ace then saved his best performance for the semi-finals, averaging over 107 to thrash Sunday’s champion Callan Rydz 7-1, aided by two 180s and a 116 checkout.

Humphries continued from where he left off to race into a 3-0 lead against Doets, only for the Dutchman to level with three straight legs of his own – including a 120 checkout in leg six.

World number six Humphries restored his buffer with a 13-dart break to lead 5-3, but Doets again responded, following up a 115 kill in leg nine with a superb 12-darter to restore parity at six apiece.

However, Humphries then converted a brilliant tops-tops 100 finish to move a leg away from victory at 7-6, before wrapping up his second Players Championship title of 2023 with a timely 13-darter.

Doets fell agonisingly short in Monday’s decider, but his run to a maiden PDC final began with victories over Nathan Rafferty and Lee Evans, followed by a routine 6-2 win against Mervyn King.

The Dutchman then edged out European Champion Ross Smith to reach the last eight, before backing up a 6-1 demolition of Gabriel Clemens with a spirited 7-5 victory against Mike De Decker.

De Decker impressed in his run to Monday’s semi-finals, averaging 102 in his win over Josh Payne, while dumping out Dutch duo Danny Noppert and Jermaine Wattimena later in the afternoon.

Sunday’s Players Championship 19 winner Rydz had seen his 12-match winning run curtailed by Humphries in the semi-finals, despite a series of accomplished displays.

The Bedlington thrower whitewashed emerging Dutchman Gian van Veen in round two, and also posted a ton-topping average to dispatch second seed Damon Heta to progress to the last 16.

Rydz later defied a 104 average from Rob Cross to win through a compelling quarter-final tussle, in a major boost to his hopes of World Grand Prix qualification.

Cross, meanwhile, posted three ton-plus averages in reaching the last eight, where he was joined by World Champion Smith, German number one Clemens and Wattimena.

Elsewhere, Michael van Gerwen suffered a shock opening round defeat to Graham Usher, with Peter Wright, Jonny Clayton and top seed Dave Chisnall among the other players to crash out at the same stage.

Van Veen delivered the performance of the day, averaging 111.33 in his six-leg blitz of Damian Mol, with Cameron Menzies averaging almost 108 in a high-quality clash against Cam Crabtree.

This week’s PDC ProTour treble-header concludes on Tuesday, as Players Championship 21 takes place in Barnsley.

Play will commence at 1300 BST, with coverage broadcast on PDCTV, featuring four streams simultaneously.

The PDC's Twitter feed will be updated throughout the day with details of which matches are coming up on each streaming board.

2023 Players Championship 20

Round of 16

  • Kevin Doets 6-5 Ross Smith
  • Gabriel Clemens 6-5 Cameron Menzies
  • Jermaine Wattimena 6-0 Jules van Dongen
  • Mike De Decker 6-4 Danny Noppert
  • Callan Rydz 6-3 Florian Hempel
  • Rob Cross 6-5 Stephen Bunting
  • Luke Humphries 6-4 Ryan Searle
  • Michael Smith 6-3 Josh Rock

Quarter-Finals

  • Kevin Doets 6-1 Gabriel Clemens
  • Mike De Decker 6-3 Jermaine Wattimena
  • Callan Rydz 6-5 Rob Cross
  • Luke Humphries 6-2 Michael Smith

Semi-Finals

  • Kevin Doets 7-5 Mike De Decker
  • Luke Humphries 7-1 Callan Rydz

Final

  • Luke Humphries 8-6 Kevin Doets

READ MORE: Callan Rydz edges Dave Chisnall to end title drought and claim Players Championship 19 crown

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