Bunting aiming for top 16 return in 2021

Stephen Bunting (Lawrence Lustig, PDC)

Stephen Bunting insists that he will head into the Ladbrokes Masters full of confidence following his run to the William Hill World Darts Championship semi-finals.

Bunting enjoyed his best run in the World Championship for six years over the festive period, defeating Andy Boulton, nine-dart star James Wade, Ryan Searle and Krzysztof Ratajski to reach the last four.

Gerwyn Price ended his dreams of adding the PDC World Championship title to his 2014 Lakeside Championship triumph, but Bunting left Alexandra Palace boosted by a strong end to a difficult season.

The St Helens ace, 35, had missed the World Grand Prix after recording a positive Covid-19 test, but is now aiming to move back towards the world's top 16.

He will take on Joe Cullen in the first round at The Masters on Friday January 29, with the winner set to then face Price in the last 16 in Milton Keynes.

"I can't wait - I've got a tough first round match in Joe Cullen to [go through to] play Gerwyn Price, which is going to be a blockbuster game," said Bunting, speaking to the Weekly Dartscast podcast.

"I'm happy to be in The Masters now and I need to be ready for that. I've got to keep doing what I'm doing; the form's great and my confidence is high.

"I've had some great results. I took a lot of confidence from the Wade game; I was 2-0 down and I dug deep to come back and get myself back into the game and eventually win it.

"James is a fantastic player and I was just so happy to get that win, and that gave me the stepping-stone to push on further in the tournament and end up in the semi-finals.

"Obviously I was disappointed to go out in the semi-finals, but I know I had chances in that match. It was a fantastic run that I had but I've got to keep that up now, keep that form up.

"That's probably the biggest achievement so far, reaching the semi-finals when you look at the players that are actually in that tournament and the few names that are on that trophy as well. 

Stephen Bunting (Lawrence Lustig, PDC)

"You know you need to play amazing darts to get to that stage. I was happy with my performances, a bit of nerves crept in in the semi-final but all in all I can take a million positives from that event.

"That was a great start to the year and I'm looking forward to kicking on now and pushing myself back into the top 16 in the world."

Bunting has spoken openly about visiting a sports psychologist in his bid to claim further PDC honours, and believes that he can now become a serious title contender once more.

"I'm loving the game again," he said. "I always pride myself on being a good TV player and a steady ProTour player but I think I've changed that around this last few months; I believe I'm playing better than ever.

"Even on the floor and I'm having a lot more 100+ averages and I feel part of being at the events and am looking forward to each and every event now.

"[The sports psychologist] changed my whole mindset around and just to be turning up feeling positive, I'm actually feeling like I can win again which is a massive part to any darts players' ammunition."

The 2021 Ladbrokes Masters will be held behind closed doors at the Marshall Arena from January 29-21.

Worldwide coverage will be led by host broadcaster ITV4 in the UK and Ireland, as well as through RTL7 in the Netherlands and DAZN in various global territories, as well as through the PDC's global broadcasters, for PDCTV Rest of the World Subscribers and through matchroom.live.