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Heroic Humphries impresses as he reaches semi-finals of World Matchplay in Blackpool

Luke Humphries will have to wait a little longer for his first major title after he suffered a heartbreaking 17-15 defeat to Jonny Clayton in the semi-final of the Betfred World Matchplay at the Winter Gardens in Blackpool.

Humphries, who was born and grew up in West Berkshire, hammered Jose de Souza 10-2, survived a match dart to beat Dirk van Duijvenbode 14-12 and donned an England cricket hat as he edged past Australian Damon Heta 16-13.

Cool Hand Luke then met Welsh World Cup winner Jonny Clayton in the last four, racing into a 10-7 lead before losing three legs in a row as Clayton – who averaged just under 99 and finished the match with a 61 per cent checkout success rate – booked his spot in the final against eventual winner Nathan Aspinall.

Luke Humphries impressed again as he reached the semi-final of the World Matchplay in Blackpool. Picture by Taylor Lanning/PDC
Luke Humphries impressed again as he reached the semi-final of the World Matchplay in Blackpool. Picture by Taylor Lanning/PDC

“I think dramatic is the best way to describe it,” Humphries said.

“I’m really proud to have reached the semi-final.

“I just made a few mistakes at key moments, otherwise I could’ve been in the final.

“I think I managed to give the fans and the people at home a lot of drama and hopefully some entertainment.

“It was a great achievement, the Matchplay is the second biggest tournament in the world, it’s one of the competitions you dream about growing up.

“Of course, I’d have loved to have made it to the final but to have made it to the semi-finals feels like a big deal.

“The media and support ratchets up and it’s a big occasion that’s great to be part of.

“I enjoyed the whole week and to be part of some epic games made it that bit more special.

“It’s a tournament I’ll remember for a long time.

“It’s a shame it wasn’t my time to make the final but I’ll look back on it with a lot of pride.”

World number six Humphries, who became a father for the first time in October, defended his European Matchplay title in the Netherlands last month, won a Players Championship event in Leicester two weeks ago and has reached another four finals this year.

The 28-year-old won four European titles in 2022 and rose up the world rankings, just missing out on a spot in the much-vaunted Premier League.

And Humphries feels his game is in a better shape now than ever following his heroics on the big stage in Blackpool.

He said: “Even though I was picking up a lot of titles last year, I feel like this year my game is definitely better and I’m much more consistent.

“I feel like I can make the latter stages of every tournament I play.

“I’ve still got a lot to learn to go on and do better on the TV stage but I hope I can only continue to grow.”

Despite being the highest ranked, Humphries was the only one of Saturday’s four semi-finalists never to have won a major TV title.

However with his fine form and increasing experience, he feels that elusive next step isn’t too far away.

“I think it’s important to be patient,” he said.

“I’m getting closer, I’ve made the semi-finals in three of the last five major tournaments.

“You can’t rush it or want it too badly because there’s the risk of putting too much pressure on your shoulders.

“If I keep playing like this, I’m confident it’ll happen.”

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