Certainly not the desired result for Stephen against Michael van Gerwen in their round two Grand Prix clash, however, the loveable Liverpudlian can take enormous heart from a fighting performance over the mighty Dutch-man.
Prior to that, the Bullet saw off the threat from Brendan Dolan in his open-ing tie of the tournament. It’s been almost a decade since the Irishman made Grand Prix history with that historic 9-darter proving that he is always a dangerous opponent, especially in this format.
Fortunately for Stephen, it was the confident and solid display required to progress. A last leg shoot-out decided set one before the former Lakeside World Champion wrapped up victory in the next.
Bunting enjoyed his best run in this event last year, reaching the semi-final stage before being halted by Gerwyn Price.
To repeat that success, he would have to get past a resurgent Michael van Gerwen – a quest that began superbly.
The opening set of the match went Buntings way before the Green Ma-chine raced back, dominating the next two to go ahead.
But back came Bunting, winning an epic fourth set with a colossal 99.17 average to take the match all the way to the wire.
Eventually though, it was the Dutchman who put his foot firmly on the gas and won an exhilarating contest.
Afterwards, a reflective Bunting gave his views, saying: “Yes, it was dis-appointing as I began so well against Michael [van Gerwen], coming back strongly to level things up 2-2 in sets.
“But I pushed him all the way and when you do that against a player of his calibre, you know you’ve played well.
“I’ll take the positives from this tournament as I know I put in a good showing. Things get busy from here on in until the end of the year and I feel if I continue to play like I have been doing, then I can certainly do a lot of damage in the remaining tournaments.”
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