Nathan Aspinall is taking confidence from being touted as one of the front-runners in TV events ahead of his Ladbrokes Masters debut this weekend.

Aspinall continued his meteoric rise by reaching the World Championship semi-finals for a second consecutive year in December, having won the UK Open and US Darts Masters in a memorable 2019.

The 28-year-old's success over the last 18 months has seen him fly up to eighth place on the PDC Order of Merit, and Aspinall is out to further cement his place among the sport's elite this year.

"I'm going into this tournament as one of the favourites to win it so you have to take confidence from that," said Aspinall, who also reached the quarter-finals of the World Grand Prix on debut.

"All year I've been going into tournaments as quite a high seed so I take confidence from that and believe in myself so I'll be looking to prove why I'm world number eight.

"I was really happy with how the World Championship went, I came through some really tight games.

"I was a bit disappointed with my performance against Michael [van Gerwen], I think he was there for the taking that night but maybe nerves got the better of me and that's something I'm trying to put right.

"I proved to any doubters out there that I do belong among the elite players and last year wasn't a one-off."

Nathan Aspinall (Lawrence Lustig, PDC)

Having enjoyed some downtime with family in Lanzarote, Aspinall revealed he has been practicing hard for the last ten days ahead of his return to the big stage.

Awaiting the Stockport man in round one on Friday will be 2014 Masters winner James Wade, one of two players to drop out of the Premier League at the expense of Aspinall and Glen Durrant.

"The last three weeks seem to have taken forever so I'm itching to get back into it now," Aspinall admitted.

"I've played James many times, he's beaten me and I've beaten him but I don't think I've played him in over a year.

"He's probably ahead of me on the head-to-head stats but I'm a different animal now to what I was 12 months ago.

"It's a game I'm looking forward to playing and hopefully I get 2020 off to a winning start."

The 2020 Ladbrokes Masters will be held from January 31-February 2 at the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes with the new-look top 16 following the World Championship returning to the big stage.

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The tournament will be broadcast live on ITV4 in the UK, on PDCTV for Rest of the World Subscribers and through the PDC's worldwide broadcast partners including DAZN and RTL7.