Stephen Bunting returns to the Grand Slam of Darts this weekend after an absence of two years. The Bullet qualified for this major event at the last minute as he came through the qualifier last week.
During the qualifying tournament Bunting beat Adam Hunt (5-4), Andy Boulton (5-4) and Steve Brown (5-3) to book his place in the Grand Slam of Darts.
Obviously every player wants to play in the Grand Slam. I think with winning a Pro Tour that should give you a good chance to get in, unfortunately it was not good enough and I had to get through the qualifier. I’m happy I came through”, the 36-year-old said in an interview with Dartsnews.com.
The Grand Slam of Darts is the only ranking tournament in the season where the tournament starts in a round-robin format. ”It’s different”, admitted Bunting. ”If you lose the first match, you still got a chance to get out of the group. My approach is that I want to win every single game I play. I want to win my group and get the bonus (Â£3,500 for winning the group). That’s the aim, going into the event. My form is good, so there’s no reason why I can’t progress in my group.”
The draw put Bunting in a group with Chris Dobey, Ryan Joyce and Rowby-John Rodriguez. A draw with perspective, but he doesn’t want to take it too easy.
”It’s a tough group, but a group I believe I can win. Chris (Dobey has been playing very well, Ryan Joyce played well to get through the qualifier and Rowby-John (Rodriguez) became runner-up in the pairs (with Mensur Suljovic at the World Cup of Darts). It’s always going to be difficult, but if I play my game I have a very good chance.”
The Grand Slam of Darts is a good chance for Bunting to take a step towards the top 10 of the world rankings. The Bullet is currently ranked 15th, but he has no prize money to defend and two players above him (Nathan Aspinall and Dave Chisnall) have not qualified for the tournament in Wolverhampton.
”It’s always nice to improve on the rankings. I know it won’t come easy and I need to put in a lot of work behind the scene to produce the form I need to get into the top 10. I’m playing definitely the best darts I have ever played, so why not aim high?”
With a semi-final at the World Darts Championship earlier this year, a Pro Tour title in July and, most recently, a semi-final at the World Grand Prix, Bunting may be cautiously dreaming of a return to the Premier League Darts.
”I was there as a contender last year and played (the full season) once in 2015. I would love to be back in the Premier League. Obviously the Premier League comes with really good performances and runs in the major events. I have to keep doing what I’m doing. If I can win a TV event I will be in probably. I don’t want to think too much about the Premier League. If it happens I will be grateful, but if not it wont get me down”, Bunting concluded.